"Hey Siri, how do you tell the Internet you got engaged?"

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Hi again. I’m trying to actually do this thing. Write down what is going on in my life and my reflections on them. I’m struggling to find the right words. Here, take a look at my drafts. On Saturday, September 28th, Eli asked me to marry him. No, that’s not quite right. On Saturday, September 28th, I got engaged. Mm, feels off somehow. On Saturday, September 28th, Eli and I got engaged. That’s not it either. Should it just be ‘we got engaged?’

On Saturday, September 28th, Eli and I went for a long walk on a familiar fall trail because it was a beautiful day and he was feeling sad and we had already watched the new episode of The Good Place and didn’t really know what else to do. We walked for a very long time, until I got tired and we wanted to turn around.  (My Health app says I walked 3.5 miles that day.) Most of our hike was an uphill climb, but the way back was gentle, sloping, breezy and gorgeous. In front of us, leaves were literally flying off the trees, and raining down on us like they had on one of our first walking dates back in 2015. We paused in this clearing at the bottom of the hill for what I felt was entirely too long to be normal. In my head, I thought, “Hm. We seem to be standing here for a really long time.” 

When he wobbily knelt down to the ground, leaves crunching beneath him, I think I blacked out from sheer joy. I said “Oh my gosh” about ten thousand times, and to be honest I have no idea if he asked me to marry him, or if I even said yes? I think I said of course. Now that I think about it, I have a vague memory of him saying in the cutest, sweetest voice on Earth, “Will you maaaaaarrrrrry me?” 

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Afterwards, we stood there for probably 35 minutes just talking and laughing and kissing, and for that reason I am so beyond happy that we were alone in the woods, able to take that time for ourselves and each other. Able to talk about every anxiety, wonder and worry that flooded in moments after we got engaged. 

When we finally made it back home, we looked at each other and said, “what do we do now?” (I called my mom, and then we got tacos, naturally.) For the next 48 hours, we walked through life in a state of complete shock, unsure how to complete basic human functions. 

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I’ve wanted to be engaged all year. Every month, I wondered to myself, will it happen this month? Will it happen this weekend? Is this it? Is this the moment? I’m feeling especially grateful to have realized that, after all that, I really did want it. We both did. And I don’t want to shy away from telling you that, despite the taboo around it all. We realized this week that we have been shifting and growing all year. We’ve felt uncomfortable, like a hermit crabs in too-small shells, not because we’ve outgrown each other, but because we’ve outgrown our old label. I never thought much of the title “boyfriend.” I just thought- this is the only person I want to be with -and that was it. I didn’t consider it until now, but we’ve been outgrowing that label all year. It doesn’t fit us anymore, and all that we are. We are so much more, so much bigger. It feels good to have a new one that fits better. It feels like we just bought a whole new wardrobe, and now we can stop cramming our toes into shoes that give us blisters. We can breathe again.

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On the podcast this week, we discussed my engagement, and the nitty gritty feelings that tag along to positive events when you have a mental illness. (Episode coming in mid-late October.) I can’t wait for you to hear that episode, because I think it’s important that we talk not only about the good, the bad, and the ugly in our lives, but the places where those feelings can unexpectedly overlap. I am beyond excited, beyond happy to be engaged to Eli. It was the easiest decision of my life, because I’ve made it every day for the last four years. But I would be lying if I didn’t also say that there is anxiety, not about the work we have in front of us, but in simply feeling that since this is a good thing, something bad will soon follow.

I have a hard time receiving good things in my life, but I also have a very hard time believing what my brain is telling me. I know it lies to me, so I find it difficult to trust good feelings because I’ve trained myself to be skeptical of the bad. So in a way, my treatment of my mental illness has also bitten me in the ass. 

I think when you have a mental illness, you can sometimes start to see yourself as other. And I have done that for so long that I have begun to internalize it. In fact, I’ve made it my superpower. I’ve come to believe, “well I’m not like everyone else!” And that applies to everything in my life. So when I get engaged, just like everyone else, my brain tries to suggest that it’s somehow wrong because 1) I’m NOT like everyone else and 2) since that is the case it is going to go away. 

PTSD is an asshole that way. But I am fighting it by talking about it, because I truly believe that by putting words to something you take away some of its power. My PSTD may not be going anywhere right now, but neither are we.

Thank you for reading, and sharing in this exciting moment with me. God knows I’m terrible at it. But I’m trying to allow more people to share in my joy, even if I have to ask Siri how to do that.

Take care,

Fran

September, Again

They say the veil is thin at the end of October, but I think that’s truest for me in September. In September, it feels as though no time has passed at all. I close my eyes and feel the sun on my face and I think I could very well be a time traveler, because I feel 18 rather than 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. When I open my eyes, it’s almost disappointing to realize that time *has passed. How can it possibly be 6 years later, when it still feels, in September, so right now?

Some of you might think I talk about my car accident too much. Hell, I think that a lot, because mean-thought Fran likes to do that when I’m already feeling insecure. But the thing is, it’s my touchstone. It’s the point in the year that always draws me back, and forces me (head in the toilet, swirly style) to reflect on my shit. Am I further now than I was last year? Than I was two years ago on this day? Than I was when I was 18? September 24th, 2013 is the day, my brain tells me, that my life changed forever. But even as I type this, I know that’s not true. Because my fingers tried to type 2015. The day I started dating Eli. They could’ve also typed August 1st, 2019, the day an agent asked to see my full manuscript. Or any number of dates, past and future, that have impacted me as a human being. It doesn’t help that the date of my car accident is also the date of my relationship anniversary. Or that my birthday is four days before. For 5 days from September 20- September 24th, I am just facedown in the toilet in my shit. Asking myself, are we farther yet? Some small part of me thinking that if I can put distance between myself then and myself now, then nothing bad will happen again. That I can forget. That I can shake off the PTSD and anxiety and be normal again. But the thing is, September 24th, 2013 is not the day my life changed forever. I have been growing, changing, and becoming entirely not normal my entire life. That’s just the day I failed at slamming on the breaks and crashed into the reality of my life. I was meant to go on a different path. I simply had to experience some pain in order to get there. 

This is all to say, I’m so much more now than 18 year old, depressed and traumatized me could ever have imagined herself becoming. I just bought a new car, I’m paying for my own damn car insurance, I finally have this full-time job thing under control, and I’m writing again. I’m MAKING SHIT AGAIN. I figured out how to balance it and start making myself a priority again. So many of the things my anxiety made me think I’d never be able to do are coming true. I thought I could never have a real relationship because I’m too anxious and depressed and they wouldn’t want to deal with it. Well, now I’m with someone who, when I am extremely depressed and unresponsive, expertly offers me Chinese food and Gilmore Girls

I’m a different person every September. This year, I’ve been someone who is so afraid to say what she thinks, what she really thinks, for fear of being seen as too vulnerable, real, emotional. But I miss the effervescent person I used to be. The one who was a little bit cringe. I feel like I’ve lost that part of me, and as result have become somewhat boring. I would so much rather be cringe-y than boring. God, I want to have something to say. 

So this is a return to that. A return to the cringe-y, overly honest, dare I say authentic words of old. Somewhere along the line I started to think that everything was cringe-y, and have wondered how to say anything at all as a result. (Thus why I haven’t written on this blog in over three months…) I’ve become sparing with my words, and found that I’m a lot funnier in-person than I am in Instagram captions. I don’t think that is entirely bad, but I am a writer after all. I’d like to improve that. 

My birthday was three days ago, and I turned 24. Want to hear something extremely honest and a little bit sad? I’ve started to dread my birthday more than the 24th. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe it’s because the 24th has shifted to become so much more about Eli and I then my singular trauma. Maybe it’s because I think, in my infinite wisdom, that if I have a really lovely birthday, I’ll forget about the 24th, and actually— my car accident won’t have happened at all!!!! I mean, it happened 6 years ago and I am not a time traveler. It definitely happened. The pain has lessened over time. But that’s what I’m afraid of— feeling that much pain again. The paradox of it is that by being so preoccupied with it, I bring the pain to the present again. But putting pressure on the present or future does’t change the past. 

So here we are. In the present. I have today and tomorrow off. I’m getting lunch with a friend today, an attempt at drawing myself back into the world. I’m not dreading tomorrow, I’m actually looking forward to it. Eli and I are going to a fancy dinner for our anniversary. We’ve officially been dating for four years, and I’m nothing but grateful. Thank you for being here, if you still are. 

Talk soon, I promise. 

Fran

2019 is not 2014


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Lately, I’ve been thinking that right now and 2014 look a lot alike. In both, I’ve graduated a year ago, don’t really know where I’m going, and none of the work I’m doing feels like enough. I’ve worried a lot lately that I’ve lost some part of myself in the past few years. Isn’t that always the fear? That we grow up and our heart dies? If we’re being honest, that’s a huge part of this blog post. In some way, I’m feeling like 2014 Fran has the answer to a 2019 problem. But she doesn’t. 

I’ve been thinking, in hindsight of course, that 2014 Fran was so great, a better writer, blah blah blah, but she wasn’t. 2019 Fran is much better. 2019 Fran has an amazing partner, a much better relationship with her family, a relationship with her older brother. She has two web series, multiple short films, a thriving blog, a podcast she loves, a finished book and another one on the way. She has a yoga practice, meditates semi-regularly, has a lot more fun and a lot less existentialism.

Maybe 2014 Fran was a better writer. Maybe she does have something to teach me. But in the meantime, I am 2019 Fran, and I can’t change that. All I can do is continue becoming, take the old parts of myself I would like to continue to cultivate, and move forward.

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2019 is not 2014. The light and sound are different here. My life is nowhere near the same. I’m 75% less lost, 200% less alone. Sure, I still have no idea where I’m going. But the solutions then, the attitudes then, they can’t be the same as now, because I am not the same. This is an entirely new scenario. I have new things I’m working on, new things I’m looking forward to. Sure, the existential pain feels the same sometimes, but it isn’t. I have learned so much in the last 5 years that is directing me towards where I really want to be.

This week I made progress toward my dream career. It might involve copy editing or staff writing or groups of creatives at storytelling agencies in Washington state. I don’t know how I’m going to get there yet. A part of me, a very big part of me, wonders (and worries) that if I don’t make it happen now I never will. In truth, the reason my life has sped up so much since my car accident is because I’m operating as though it will be taken from me at any moment. I often feel like I’m living life on borrowed time. 


What I don’t want to fail to mention though, is how much less cinematic and romantic it feels to be lost at 23. It’s much more normal to be so at 18. That’s what all the movies are about. When I told Eli this, he said, “Lost is what a 19 or 20 year old in college feels, when they have no idea what they like or what they want to spend their time on. You know what you want to do, you know that the job you want exists. And sure you don’t have it yet, but if you did you’d be set for the next 40 years. You’d be locked in. And you’d hate that.”

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Last night, my therapist told me, “Being lost is a sign that you’re growing and changing. If everything was the same, you wouldn’t be lost.” I really don’t know if I’m lost or not. But if I’m not, what the fuck am I? Changing, probably. Growing, definitely. I feel like May was an extreme growth spurt. Awake all night with growing pains, too much moving and simultaneously feeling like you’re going nowhere— growth spurt. In my meditation yesterday, the strongest message I’ve received in a while came through. “You picked presence as your word of the year because you wanted to GROW.” Touché, meditation self. Touché.

I’ve been dreaming of pregnancy most nights lately. According to the internet, it can mean, “an aspect of yourself or some aspect of your personal life is growing or developing.” This week I dreamed that I looked down and noticed with a start that I was pregnant. My belly was larger and squishy, and the second I realized it I was excited. I like the above interpretation, because I wasn’t scared, or figuring out how to navigate this new aspect of myself. I just looked down and realized this new piece of me had been there all along. I realized I was already different, and was excited for this new version of myself to emerge. Maybe I’m having these recurring dreams because my brain needed me to understand that the person I’m becoming is someone new. She’s still growing. She’s squishy and soft and moldable, and that’s okay. I don’t have to be finished yet. 

Waiting on Focaccia

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On Friday, I kind of broke down about my body. I ended up staying home from work, sorting through my back pain and the urgent, panicked feelings that come up around it. I spent most of the day deep cleaning my apartment. And then, when I stopped vacuuming and cleaning out my essential oil diffusers long enough to sit with myself, I sobbed. I feel absolutely, suddenly, overwhelmed by my spine, and by my body in general. If you don’t know my whole story, I wrote a big long blog post about it here, two years ago when I found out that basically, my back is fucked. Which essentially translates to: I get headaches, my body holds tension like Beyoncé can hold a squat, and sometimes my back viciously mutinies against me, in the form of sudden, pulsing pain. Back spasms, and lately, neck pain so harsh that not only can I not turn my head, but it feels like a knife is slowly being inserted into the base of my skull. Cool!

Of course, because I am who I am, it took me half the day to decide not to go in on Friday. I thought, I can push through this. I’ll be better by 1. I rode this merry-go-round until about 12:30, when I realized that pushing myself was, duh, making it worse. God, am I an idiot. The truth is, I don’t want to have to deal with this. I also haven’t quite accepted that I do, and will continue to, which is part of the ongoing problem. I need to change my mindset around it. Let go of the idea that I’m doing anything wrong when it arises, and just treat myself with measured calm and kindness. When I experienced my first, and most vicious, back spasms 6 years ago, it was my fault. I had hunched over a computer in my bed for an entire summer, finishing my first novel. Now, not so much. I can have a completely normal week at work, and then boom, sudden pain.

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Today, I tell myself, “I can handle this. I can handle and love my body, even though I may not always know how.” My body knows what’s best for me, I just need to listen. Really listen, not hear it cry out and say, “Well, I think I can ignore you and push through, because I have a stronger will than you do.” The truth is, I feel weak, frail, and at fault. I want to love my body, feel amazing and sexy and strong in it. I currently do not. I feel like a frail, gawky chicken bone of a human woman. I’m embarking to fix that. Part of that means I bought myself a new heating pad, and it is AMAZING. You know you’re an adult when you get excited over a heating pad, am I right? Another part? I’m actually GOING to yoga classes. If we’re being honest, I’ve kept my yoga practice securely in my bedroom, because I do not feel strong, hot, or good enough to do it in public. I am seriously afraid that I’m going to do it wrong, so I did it in my room for so long that it stopped really being a helpful tool anymore. Last weekend I went to a Sunday afternoon yoga class, and my body released the tension for once. I didn’t do it wrong, because there is no wrong. There was something really healing in the knowledge that in that space, my body simply couldn’t be weak or inadequate. It could just do what it could do, and that was plenty. I need more of that right now. 

I got a little sad on Saturday, because I graduated college just about a year ago now, and I’m left wondering where I am now in comparison to where I was then. Nowhere near as far as I’d like to be, as far as I’d have liked to have gone in a year. In response, Eli said to me, “I love every day with you. Doing the shit we do, getting frustrated about dumb things. I’m happy our life is the way it is right now, and we’re not fast forwarding through this, or else we would’ve never gotten to do this. We’re waiting on focaccia and arguing about dumb shit right now. It’s great!” 

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In the last year, I’ve relaxed. Calmed down. I’ve lived life with significantly less stress. I started a podcast about mental health, which I now cannot imagine my life without. I went to NYC for an amazing writer’s workshop, started working on a new book, worked my ass off querying my first book to agents, started painting again after six years, went to a conference for entrepreneurs, and gained a new social circle. I’m rediscovering my body; accepting and loving it as it is. I’m rediscovering the creativity that can come from boredom. It’s all completely necessary. I am right where I’m supposed to be. 

I wish my body were different. I wish I didn’t have this chronic pain. But if I waste my twenties wishing my back were something it’s not, rather than managing it as is and working to be more comfortable and confident in it all, I think I’ll really regret that. So fuck it. I’m not waiting a second more for my body or life to be what I want in order to go out into the world. I’m not hiding. The only thing I’m waiting on is focaccia, because perfection takes time. In bread, and in life. 

Take Care,

Fran