I go around and around with this one.
Nicotine patches, toothpicks, gum.
“May I please get a pack of Newports?”
Tell myself it’s better than
As if I absolutely must be
smoking, drinking, or dead.
Smells revolting. Tastes disgusting.
But it grounds me.
I’m solid. I’m standing.
I’m safe. I’m free.
Logically I know it’s a rationalization for
doing something I want to do that’s
bad for me.
But standing in the rain,
cigarette between my fingertips,
I catch myself thinking at
least I found something to
make my mind peaceful.
Photo courtesy of Cameron Kirby.
“Promise me you gon’ shut the fuck up and recognize what you holdin’ ain’t really broken.”
I know I’m slipping when I start to point fingers. When I make up excuses. Tell myself life would be different if only this or that. Little structures are built up in my head and I cannot move around them. Can’t seem to move forward. Make progress. Focus my time and energy the way I want to. It’s just because work, relationships, sleep. There are hundreds of people, activities I can peg my shortcomings to, but eventually it has to come back to me.
So I take a step back and tell myself honestly what it is I’ve made important. And I ask myself if it’s the right things. The things I want to be a vital part of me. Priorities are so often created without any input from my logical self. Without any input from me at all. They seem to conjure themselves out of a few days of bad habits and a poor night’s sleep. Before I even started paying attention to what was happening I hadn’t been exercising regularly for close to a year. Hadn’t even gone grocery shopping this month. I found myself floating again. Living unintentionally.
There are few things as frustrating as realizing you haven’t been paying attention to your existence. Fell asleep on the couch and woke up with the upholstery imprinted on your face, drool down your cheek, and no idea what day is it. What happened to me? How is September over halfway over already? It’s almost Q4 and I haven’t made real progress toward anything. And it’s not because I’m heartbroken. And it’s not because I don’t have time. And it’s not because I’m tired and in love and devastated and vibrant all at once. It’s just because I failed to notice my life in front of me.
My life is not a disaster. I am not broken. This is not what treading water looks like. This is simply letting go of the steering wheel and seeing what will happen. We never accidentally turn into the people we want to be.
Stop pointing fingers. Stop blaming a lack of forward motion on anything or anybody but that person you haven’t been paying attention to in the mirror. She still wants the same things she did before and she’s really starting to wonder why the fuck you’re not listening.
Photo courtesy of Hannu-Pekka Peuranen.
I’m not sure where it started. A seed planted by someone when I was a kid took root and wrapped itself around everything I learned to believe. This sense of worthlessness. Of being unlovable. Of “if only I were more/less…” thought patterns. If I could just get mentally healthy. If I could just exercise more. If I could just lose weight. If I could just be less jealous, funnier, easier going, better looking, more feminine. The lists went on. Journals full of it, books covering every aspect of how to “improve” myself. My worth tied to a version of myself that never existed. That never would.
This feeling sabotaged relationships from the inside. Sunk its filthy claws into my life and didn’t let go. Colored everything in its image. The impossibility of ever being a capable, lovable, powerful person seemed more fact than opinion. I did not take anything as evidence to the contrary. My entire existence pointed to the truth that I was not worth loving. That I needed to be better before anyone would do that. Before I could do that.
As I packed for my upcoming move I threw away those books. I tossed those journals. I cleared my cabinets of all the little pieces of memorabilia hinting to the fact that I need to be something I am not. All those bullshit motivational magazines. The fabric tape measurers, the food and bathroom scale, the diet plans and lifting regimens. All those letters I wrote to myself about how once I am properly medicated and go through enough therapy someone will want to stay with me. Promises of tomorrows that will find me worthy of existing. Overwhelming and unachievable goals of someday being someone other than who I am. Of someday being the kind of person this or that person would want to love. Would want to keep. I walked them all outside and dropped them in the trash. Take it to the curb on Friday. Never invite them back in.
The shift happened gradually. The acceptance that I am good. Worthy. That I am not broken or in need of fixing. That I don’t need to do anything, change anything in order to be a person other people want. That I want. I am the person I am and I am deserving of every goodness in my life. Nothing and no one can rob me of that.
It does not matter that I’m not a svelte athlete. That I will never grow my hair out. That I wear make up most days because I like the way I look in it. That I’m queer even though I don’t feel like I’m queer “enough”. That I’ve slept with someone who was married when they weren’t married to me. That I used to drink and use drugs and forget about my friends. That I don’t have a petite frame. That I’m the jealous type. That sometimes I like to blow everything off and watch Netflix for hours. That I’ve lied because I thought someone would like me more for it. That I’ve started and stopped running regularly more times in my life than I can recall and will probably do it more. That I used to be able to deadlift 200 pounds, but now haven’t lifted anything in almost a year. That I’m divorced. That I don’t want a “real” job because I love working in customer service. That I dropped out of college. That I talk and laugh way too loud. That I love having my photo taken even though it makes me feel vain. That sometimes I still cry over relationships that didn’t work out. That I said “I love you” obscenely soon to my current partner. That I love to cook, but not for myself. That sometimes I really just want to listen to Top 40 pop songs. That I don’t like to go hiking. That I pour my soul out to strangers on the Internet, but often don’t know how to talk about my feelings to my friends.
All that matters is that I understand that each piece of me is decent and valuable and worthwhile. That I am a good person, an excellent friend, capable and deserving of love regardless of all the reasons I think I am not. And even on the days I have trouble believing it, I have to still know it. To listen only to the part of me that looks at myself like my partner does. Like there is nothing about me that needs changing. That each piece is loved and understood and accepted. A scarred and worn package containing an impenetrable goodness that does not have to be earned or fought for or proven. That exists simply because I do. Because my heart still beats and my breath still pumps in my chest. Just like yours.
Photo courtesy of veeterzy.