The One with Carbon Monoxide

I sat down on an airplane heading home from a few days on a girls trip that was a blur. Not really the blur in a good way but in a “i’m trying to block it all out for a few days” kinda way. No sweat to the incredible women on the trip but ya girl was not in the mental headspace for a girls trip with a bunch of coworkers.

I know there’s different types of people on airplanes. I mean I’ve been on airplanes more times in my life than I can count. My running joke is that I flew before I walked and had a passport before i had a birth certificate. Pretty true- although the birth certificate is because if you are born in a foreign country the wording on the birth certificate is a little different when its issued at the embassy post birth. So I can make that part true on a technicality…

But yah, on airplanes you have your readers- the real ones with their bent back paper back books; the talkers – usually incredibly lovable grandmas who want to hear all about your boyfriends and future babies and tell you about their adorable grand-babies and what life was like 72 years ago when they were falling in love. There’s the struggling parents who take turns shuffling the baby across the aisle while quieting a toddler and a grumpy older child while trying to retain a little bit of their sanity underneath the scrutiny of the many judgy eyes and ears that turn immediately as soon as the juggled little one who doesn’t yet have words to express their confusion and discomfort screams again. You have the teens and twenties who are glancing at each other in the airport or across the aisles thinking that maybe just maybe they might have a love at first sight kinda moment or at least a moment worth a good tiktok to go viral. There’s the sleepers that are likely to man spread, or if you are really lucky might slump over and drool on your shoulder a little bit.

And then there’s me. I feel sometimes like I can hardly sit still for the whole flight. Not because my body is restless but because my mind is. I’m an expert googler and and always reading something or looking something up somewhere. I freaking love to learn and love to always understand the world around me better. So a couple hours away from my ability to look up something actually makes me a little crazy. And like any good millennial living through 9-11, worldwide pandemic, and a variety of other adventures of our lovely world, I’ve become very effective at coping mechanisms- the healthy and the unhealthy. So I’m the one who drowns it all with a pair of headphones while boarding, a movie during the flight, maybe a glass of wine, and definitely some bad ass marching music in my headphones as my parade off the plane and out of the airport to my awaiting Uber.

Basically all of that is just me being me- a writer. Taking 20 sentences to tell you what I absolutely could have told you in one. I boarded a plane in San Diego and watched “The Luckiest Girl Alive” – the new Mila Kunis movie on Netflix. But thanks for being four paragraphs into my story telling. Its what I do and what I love.

On this girls trip (which is the much fancier version of a pizza party that my company likes to throw for employees periodically to stimulate community and culture) someone asked me a question that I sat with as I watched my movie. We do a girls trip every year (with a pandemic exception kinda) and its a time of shared laughter, incredible air bnb’s, finding out about the snoring and after work habits and behaviors of about 15 incredible women and probably your CEO’s wife while dancing the night away, shopping, and asking sobering and deeply intimate questions at 11PM in the hot tub after dinner and drinks. As a recovering over-sharer it was the absolute highlight of my year when I was first hired at the company. My opportunity to gain deep friendships with the people that I talked to all day every day for minimum 9 hours a day- not including nights and weekends lol.

So the question that was asked innocently of me across the hot tub at 3PM on a Tuesday is why I wasn’t writing. A question I’ve actually asked myself so many freaking times over the last several months. A year ago I was starting to write my first book and now even as I write this I’ve sat down so many times to write only to find myself staring back at the one sentence it takes to encapsulate what I mentally felt capable of saying. Even in my journaling, which i’ve always been a journal-er- shocking I know. But writing is my therapy. It has been even before I could afford therapy. When I knew no one anywhere to talk to about my pain, I would write. When I felt alone and isolated, I would write. When I felt too ashamed to tell anyone, I would write.

So why the hell could I not write

Flash back again to me sitting on the airplane and watching a movie that – trigger warning- is about sexual assault, school shootings, and the ways that we cope and find out sense of self and safety in a very unsafe world. Some topics of which have little to do with my writing and others that have everything to do with my writing- i’ll let you guess which ones are which.

A couple of moments in the film stood out to me. The first was in the moment when the main character confronts one of her rapists and tells him,

Do you know the difference between me and someone like you? I was angry too, so f*%#$ing angry you wouldn’t believe it. But my anger is like carbon monoxide. Its odorless, tasteless, and completely toxic. But only to me.

Now I’m not the kind to cry on an airplane. And I didn’t. But that stuck with me so much

The other moment that stuck with me was in a conversation she had with her boss- she was an editor at a paper getting ready to head to the New York Times and made a first attempt at writing the story of her gang rape and the survival of a school shooting. And her boss said, “an approximation of honesty doesn’t make the cut at the paper of record. So take another swing at it. Write it like no one will ever read it…. That is how you write something worth reading”.

Ooph. An approximation of honesty.

I have been living in an approximation of honesty. And truly I hope in a way that no one ever reads the words I am writing today but at the same time I recognize that that is the answer. When a girl sat across from me and asked me why I’m not writing? Because I’m f*&^$%# angry. And everytime I sit down to write I am so afraid of how anger is going to seep into everything I write down and thereby polute the fun, goofy writing that a girl writes about the ridiculousness that is dating and navigating the online dating world.

When I was working towards becoming a therapist one of the most profound things that I’d heard was the idea of sitting with your emotions long enough. If you sit with anger long enough you may hear anger tell you her name is hurt. And if you sit with hurt long enough she may tell you her name is shame.

So if you ask me how i’m doing and what is going on in my life right now you will probably get a really lovely answer- because most haven’t earned the space to hear my processing and my pain. But where I’m at is sitting in my anger.

The last three years have brought me alot of pain. Not things I’m even ready to hurt about. But hell am I ready to be angry about them. I’m ready to be angry at the betrayal of friends breaking confidences or using me or refusing to be there for me. I’m ready to be angry at the betrayal and wounding of the person who birthed me. I’m ready to be angry at pastors who lied about me and to me. I’m ready to be angry at people who were supposed to have my back and tore me down a piece at a time in the name of culture.

The anger I feel is not my end. I know if I sit with my anger she’ll tell me her name. But for today, I will write like no one is reading it. For today, I acknowledge the carbon monoxide I’ve been breathing in. For today, I am going to sit with my anger.

So why am I not writing? I am now.

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