Hey readers, I fell off a bit on the thoughtful posts. I've intended to write this one all week but have been procrastinating – maybe because some of this stuff is hard to say/think about? I tend to avoid hard things, like budgeting money or researching a large purchase. Or "feelings" things....
Anyway, I had a week of firsts and the theme of these "firsts" is personal growth and being alone. Whoohoo, my favorite themes! Last Monday night ended up being a big step towards healing for me. I went to an Atmosphere concert at the Fillmore, BY MYSELF.
This is huge for two reasons:
One, if you read my blog, you know how much I hate being alone. I fucking HATE it. Whenever I'm doing a solo activity, I'm hyper aware of the people around me and somewhat anxious to get back to the safety of my apartment. This is magnified at concerts where you are standing elbow to elbow with strangers who are most often not alone. Also, idiots abound and shenanigans are prevalent when you're embedded in an audience. I almost always end up next to a stumbling drunk dude (it happened last Monday), a group of dramatic individuals, or behind the token Tall Guy. I've gone to two concerts by myself and the first one I left early since I couldn't take the vibe of the audience any longer. This time, I watched Atmosphere until the end...starting out in the front and migrating towards the far back corner. I like to to have an easy way out and I don't usually bother with encores so that back corner has always been my friend. The second, and arguably larger reason is Atmosphere has strong-as-steel mental ties to my ex-boyfriend and I've been avoiding their music since we broke up. If "Sunshine" or any other song crossed my consciousness, I'm taken back to the good times we had when we were together so many years ago, and I get very sad and nostalgic. Music has a way of taking you back to a precise moment – it's unlike anything else. For me, going to this concert felt like a machine gun assault of sadness and emotion. I have a very hard time with these things...they've always been considered "weak" because I grew up around that mindset. You didn't feel things, you keep them inside. You never directly confront the issue, you shit talk around it...so on and so forth. As soon as Atmosphere came out on stage, I started crying and eventually moved to the back where the tears continued. They played all the songs that hurt my heart – Sunshine, Fuck You Lucy, Always Coming Back Home to You, and even a new song, Won't Look Back, which really resonated with me. I sipped on my $10 Yellowtail Sauvignon Blanc and hoped no one could see the tears. As embarrassed as I was about being seen by a bunch of strangers, it felt oddly empowering to cry it out. I felt like I earned a piece of myself back. The first time my ex and I hung out was an Atmosphere show at the Vic, back in May 2006. It's fitting that I took this big step at the same concert, 11 years later.
As hard as that concert was, I feel slightly stronger now. I can listen to Atmosphere again.
From "Won't Look Back:"
And when you feel like enough was felt, if you ain't trying to eat another helping of hell, that's when you tell farewell to that well you fell down, fall out the frame, take care of yourself now.
That was Monday. Fast forward to the weekend.
I turned 32 on Sunday, hooray! But it was the first time in my entire life that I didn't have anything big planned. Every birthday has always consisted of some sort of friends party, or a celebration with my immediate family, or dinner with the guy I'm dating. This year, no such thing – I had some plans (thanks SP!) but was looking at a lot of alone time for most of my weekend.
I was slightly concerned since I'm a weekend worrier and a birthday weekend worrier had to be much worse, right? I braced myself for the actual worst...for the alone time moments in which I'd have nothing going on, the moments I'd become anxious and pace around my apartment or worse, veg out on Teen Mom 2. But the worst never came. For starters, I got taken out to an AMAZING lunch by one of my very best friends to a really cute Portuguese restaurant, Uma Casa. I had the most delightful sangria coupled with a much-needed catch up session. From there, we made our way to a local nail salon for pedicures. She also gifted me two of the most wonderful pairs of earrings (both tasseled) that definitely fit in with my new, colorful vibe. And we've been friends for 5 years now, so it feels like I'm with family when we hang out and this time was no different. I got home and felt full both literally and emotionally.
Once home and plan-less, I decided to use the Lush bath bomb that I'd been sitting on, a gift from Seth many months ago. In the middle of that, I got impromptu texts for drinks down in the Mission with a few friends. Where I'd normally say "no, sorry, I'm in for the night" I decided to say, fuck it! Time to get some birthday drinks! I'm glad this urge came over me because I got to go to 2 bars that I'd been meaning to check out in the Mission – ABV and Wildhawk. The power went out at ABV though, so we had to migrate elsewhere and serendipitously passed Wildhawk. One could say it was meant to be.
Moving on to Sunday, my actual birthday. I started with a Thai massage, followed by a trip to Philz for an extra large Mint Mojito. If you haven't had this and you live in the Bay area, go get one. I made my way back home where I took a 2 hour nap, talked on the phone to a few good friends and family, and got the most beautiful flowers delivered from my guy! By now, it's 6pm and I'd normally be real anxious and freaking out about my lack of evening plans. But, I felt so full of love after hearing from everyone on Facebook, text and call that the anxiety never came. In fact, I was feeling confident enough to end the night at the Kabuki Baths in Japantown, a place I'd been meaning to go for months.
The Kabuki Baths is a traditional Japanese bath house about ten minutes from my house. They have both a dry and steam sauna, cold 55 degree pool and a warm 105 degree pool. You rotate throughout these stations as many times as you like and they also provide water, cucumbers, chilled towels, bath scrub and tea for you to use at no cost. And here's the kicker - nearly everyone is naked.
Sunday is women only but I brought a swimsuit just in case I got stage fright. I've never been naked in front of a group of strangers! Once I got there though, I could sense a vibe of acceptance and decided to go for it. The initial walk out was tense but soon my fears subsided and I embraced the experience and it was very freeing! Walking around naked, filling up my tea at the tea stand and sweating out my stress in the steam room was pure bliss. The cold dip was the hardest part of the rotation – it's the temperature of Lake Michigan. Dipping in cold after immediately coming from hot does something to your brain after a few rounds...you go into a zen state. I was able to simply "be" in a room full of naked women for two entire hours. For my anxious self, this is a big deal.
And that's a wrap, my week of firsts. Atmosphere, alone time and public nakedness. I feel like I took another little step forward in my personal journey by going way out of my comfort zone. Little victories like this show me that yes, I can do this thing called life and yes, I can get to know myself (for real). One week at a time.