“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – Colette
Because I’m not superwoman.
Skipped kickboxing last night.
Wandered aimlessly downtown, renewed my worry and angst about being too big, about not losing enough weight, about not being smaller. Felt like I was spiraling into some sort of…
Oh, yes: holiday depression.
I don’t often give thanks during the holidays: the holidays are my time to reflect on all of the things that I’m doing wrong, and all of the ways that I could be a better person.
And I felt completely aimless. What the fuck am I doing with my life? I should go back and get a Ph.D. I’m wasting all this brain power at a mediocre job that pays me well to use my MA skills to print shit out for my boss all day, to copy and collate and call contractors. I need to apply for another job. I need to write more shorts. I need to write better books. These fucking books aren’t going to pay off for ten years. Why am I still doing this? Why is it my primary work, my primary project, when I won’t see returns for a decade? And what about the boxing? Am I going to take this shit seriously, or not? What the hell am I doing, skipping a whole week of classes? Why don’t I have any friends here? What the hell am I hiding from? Am I some kind of freak? Am I broken?
I fly home for the holidays on Wednesday, so Monday was really my only chance for a class this week, and I lost myself to apathy and stirred around downtown guiltily with $29 in my account and an Old Navy Card. And there’s that, too: I’m going home for the holidays, which is always stressful as hell, because the whole time, we go out to eat and complain about how fat we are. That’s just the family dialogue. That’s just what it’s always been. I’ve got an aunt who just had gastric bypass surgery. I’ve got a cousin who’s up for trial for committing a felony. I’ve got a sister whose life is full-up with a child and a restraining order. I’ve got a bevy of relatives who measure my worth by the width of my ass. I’ll never be thin enough, I’m not using my smarts enough, the writing is nothing so much as perverse masochistic scribbling of doom, and old friends back home who expressed interest in seeing me over the holiday have gone totally silent (how many have leapt over to this blog, I wonder?). I need a Ph.D. I need to be in better shape. I need to make better use of my time. I need to live up to my potential. I need a holiday.
And in the midst of my anger, my self-loathing, my freak-out about wasting my precious time, my youth, steaming toward 25 without seeing any kind of investment panning out in the near future – I realized that I could just stop.
That is, I could stop trying to be better.
It was really an option. To just stop. To go home and have a food binge, stop going to martial arts classes, stop trying to sell stories, stop looking at volunteer opportunities and French classes and angsting about not doing enough and just… stop.
And it was that realization that shook me, because it’s just that attitude that I’ve been violently rebelling against since highschool. It was why I jumped off the bridge at Molton Falls. It was why I moved to Alaska. Why I moved to South Africa. It’s why I’m here, carving out a life on my own terms.
Yes, I could stop. And I know exactly who I would be if I stopped. I’d churn back into the binge-eating, drinking too much, smoking too much, and attach myself to some abusive loser who could confirm all of my worst fears about myself. I could go back to living in a shitty apartment in the ass-end of nowhere, and get my phone cut off, my electricity cut off, get evicted and crapped on and start thinking up really great ways to *really* make everything stop.
But, see, I’ve been there. Done that. I’m very lucky in that I hit what I saw as rock-bottom at 18, six months after abandoning high school and running the hell out of my house. I was eager for life to start – and I made the big mistake of relying on somebody else to help me get it started. The lucky thing about hitting bottom so young is that you really have nowhere to go but up. And you’ve got a really great shitstorm to compare everything else in your life to.
“Am I doing better than I was then? Yea? Great. I’m on the right track.”
But every morning I get up, I could choose to stop. And I know that person, and I don’t want to be her. I know exactly where I’ll be.
Maybe that’s what’s really hitting me full-on right now. There’s this person I always wanted to be, this image of myself I had in my head. I wanted to be a writer, to travel, to have degrees, to know things, to meet people, to have friends in all sorts of odd places. I wanted to have stories, I wanted to speak in a loud voice. I wanted to be strong. Independent. Smart.
And I’m looking out now at what I’ve done, what I have, where I live, what I think… and I’m seeing in my life the sort of person I want to be. I’m seeing that and still living in mortal fear of the person who’s still at the core of me, the one who allowed herself to stay in a shitty relationship, the one who used weight to punish herself, the one who didn’t believe she was a real person because it didn’t seem that anyone ever saw her.
I chugged home on the train and came home to find another reject from Sci Fiction. As per the usual, it’s the rejections that tend to finally release the day’s pent-up shit (likely because I only retrieve them at the end of the day). I sank to the floor in my hallway and burst into tears. Not just those slow leaking tears, but those full-body, Greek mourning wailing sobs that echo through the whole house. It’s like taking all of this pain you’ve been holding inside of yourself and giving it a voice, making it tangible and real. I sobbed and sobbed, clutching the rejection letter, half disrobed of my work clothes, and let myself be sad.
It’s a funny thing, with this sort of pent-up pain. If you give it voice, if you surrender to it, it sometimes eases up. It bleeds out of you.
I retreated to bed, cried some more, skipped dinner, took a couple Tylenol PM, and surrendered to darkness.
And this morning, I woke up.
And I started again. Because I start again every damn morning.
What’s the difference, I always wonder, between the person I was and the person I want to be, the adult scribbling pages and typing up tidbits on blogs and backpacking around Europe?
There’s only this difference, every morning: you get up and you start over. You let yourself have a hysterical little freak-out, and then it’s over. You don’t feel bad about it. You don’t carry it around with you. You don’t let it make you feel weak or crazy.
You just let everything bleed out of you – all that hate and anger and fear – and you start over. And the next time it builds up, you find another way to channel it.
Go to law school. Move to Tuscany. Spend six months living in some backwater in New Zealand. Go help AIDS orphans in Africa. Volunteer your time at a homeless shelter.
Only remember that you’ll be the same person in all of those places, doing all of those things, and that’s OK, cause now you’ll also be the sort of person who does those things.
The fear and despair never really go away. Sometimes I think I’m the most cowardly person I know.
But living it up is about being afraid and holding the course anyway.
Every damn day.
…with a day off now and again for holiday hysterics.