Coming up on two months. It feels good to be here. I feel solidly anchored in my body. I feel calmer. I feel proud of myself for learning how to navigate life sober. It has become normal, so I tend to forget that this is an achievement, that this took work. That I brought myself to this point. I put myself on this path.
I must fight my blindness: fight the urge to see only the dark aspects of life, turn my attention to the joyful ones. Learn how to encourage and trust myself [easier said than done].
I have learnt how to deal with social events more or less fluidly. I can breathe again now that I am on day 6 nicotine free. Yoga has become meaningful again : I can work with the breath. My self-esteem has grown and blossomed into a smooth and steady form of self-love that I was too broken and numb to allow myself to feel, even a few months ago. I am learning how to be kind to myself. It’s a slow, upwards slope and I struggle every single day. I struggle a lot. But I find small treasures, internal and external, on every one of those days. I enter three things into my “gratitude” app every evening (EVERYONE SHOULD DO THIS!!!), and re-read the list when I forget about the beauty in the world. I have started drawing again – small, regressive emotional drawings. Soon maybe I will be ready to pick up the paint brushes again and get something out there, onto the canvas – into the world.
Last week I went to a couple of poetry readings at someone’s house. It was wonderful to walk into a room full of strangers with a can of seltzer water and just let myself follow the flow of experience. I was still smoking then, and as I sat on the front steps chatting with a good friend, he stopped in the middle of the convo and said: “hey, I wanted to tell you something the other day, but I didn’t have the chance. I love you. You are one of my favorite people and you are loved and I am here for you. Oh, and you are absolutely lovable” and some other nice things. Back then I smiled and told him that was sweet and I love him too, but I didn’t let the depth and power of his words sink in. We went back to the poetry reading, and I forgot about it until recently.
This week’s realization (it’s a miracle that I am able to have realizations given the internal turmoil ongoing since I spent the afternoon with my ex two days ago. So many things happened and I am still so raw that I can’t begin to get into it in this post) is that along with being greatly inattentive to the “positive” aspects of my life and myself (I still rely heavily on others to remind me of my self-worth), I have not been very receptive to the love around me. I should be more specific: for the last 15 years, I have been oblivious to the abundance of non-romantic love all around me.
I was much too busy being obsessed and chasing dramatic partnerships, believing that that they were the “only” form of love worth having, and made life worth living. Anything else was for monks and nuns, or uncles and aunts.
Aaaaah, romantic relationships, the scene onto which so many of us project and replay our drama instead of healing from it. [until we do heal, but from the inside, and then we paradoxically don’t need the stage anymore] I have revisited past stories, staged past hurts, repeated past narratives again and again in so many of my relationships. And meanwhile, I have been ungrateful for, blind to, uninterested in the love that family and friends have given me throughout the years. So today I want to thank every single person who has been there for me (in person or online) with a kind word or a caring gesture. I truly appreciate and value you, whoever you are, however we interacted. And I am sorry for not expressing gratitude or not noticing. (I think I am also saying this to myself).
This week has helped me realize how frequently and systematically I have turned towards possessive, passionate, dependent or dramatic love to “get” what I didn’t as a kid [SPOILER alert: it didn’t work!]. And how selfish I have been, obsessively chasing it. Hungry, starving, never satisfied (or worse: when satisfied, bored all of a sudden. And onto the next chase). Hiding all of this yearning under the guise of composed, controlled love or indifference. So much effort to put on a brave face, and so much suffering under the surface! Expecting to receive as I gave, expecting to be needed, wanted, special, depended-upon. [Another way of framing this is that I have been in “anxious attachment” mode, hiding under the appearance of “secure attachment”, to get what I want]
None of it was unconditional. It was selfish, anxious, terrified love, masquerading as unconditional. I think I have been confusing unconditional love and “selfish self-abnegation” (stretching myself to my limits in the hopes of being loved in return). This is the heart of codependency.
So whenever love went wrong, or a relationship ended, I would feel absolutely un-loved and break down. [SPOILER ALERT: if this is the only form of love you value and you depend on it to be happy, then no shit!]
This is all feels very strange for me, learning how to feel other forms of love, and to provide them for myself. The words sound simple, but the emotions that go with it are very intense and I have trouble seeing clearly. I’ve known that “one should love oneself” for years, but I never really felt anything and was always left numb and dissatisfied – kind of like during bad sex 😉 Now, I am beginning to understand it in new ways. It’s hard to describe. It involves deep feelings, a lot of pain (sometimes loving oneself involves making unpleasant choices), figuring out needs and boundaries, and experiential knowledge.
So instead of working on “loving myself” (which I already do), this week I have been working on “being receptive” to the love of others and especially, to my own.
For the first time in my life, I am starting to feel something (in my body) when I open up to receiving love from myself. When I meditate it has become much clearer.
And I am able to write all this although I have been going through an extremely intense last couple of days (a story for another time), and woke up weeping this morning, with thoughts of “if you are crying in the morning it means you are not ok, that something is wrong and needs to be fixed/changed”. But I am learning to trust and love myself, which means that I am learning to allow myself to feel sad, instead of trying to correct the situation immediately. It’s so fucking hard and I am so fucking sad, but I’m doing it anyways.