Its been so long since I really wrote anything and for a while it was because I felt too far away from my own mind to do so, and then when I came back to my mind I found so many thoughts collected there, and just like standing before a scattered deck of cards, I didn’t know where to begin sorting through it all so I just stood there and stared at it all for weeks.
All those thoughts…
I promised myself that I would write again on my birthday but that has been and gone, so today I am sitting at the edge of the lake where I live.
The sun is high and it is throwing her rays like javelins onto the water creating a dance of light and it looks like a million camera flashes are going off like they do at the big concerts. A boy has come down on a bike and he is balancing his fishing rod and tackle box on the handlebars. He knows my son and they perch on the rocks and whisper back and forth. He wants to swim but he says he has to ask his mother first. He produces a walkie-talkie from his bag and between the static, communicates with his mother who I learn later is several kilometers away in her living room.
A walkie-talkie. Why have I never thought of that?
The boy feels the water and says that it is bloody cold.
My son says yes, it is bloody cold.
I decide to have the swear talk with my boy later and the sun keeps shining and the million cameras keep flashing.
So here I am and the days have been 447.
I had to take the time to calculate that number because I stopped counting a long time ago.
When you give something up you measure the days only for so long.
Soon enough you aren’t counting the days, you aren’t marking off the weeks. Eventually the thing you are counting away from you is so far gone that it is no longer a part of you.
So I stopped counting the days because the promise stopped being a promise I had to keep and simply became my life.
No relationship, no dates, no holding hands, no sex.
I don’t count how many days it has been since I left high school because that life is so far behind me now that I’ll leave it to nostalgia to bring it up if it wishes and so too with the time where I was the other half to someone else.
It’s all just nostalgias business now.
I don’t know what to tell you about the last 447 days. There are things that I’ve experienced and revelations about who I am that I couldn’t explain no matter how much time I had, though I will try for you now.
At first like I said, it is a ‘giving up’ and like any other giving up there is that period of time where its like you have to give it up every second of the day. You have to choose to stick to the new plan every moment and the hole left from what you gave up sticks beside you like a nagging child constantly challenging your patience and resolve.
Ever feel like testing the strength of a thing? Give it up for a while. It will flex its muscles and prove its resilience.
Cigarettes are no more alluring or tempting than they are to the man who has just sworn off them, nor sex and partnership to the woman who has turned her face away from them.
What I can tell you is that I have not reconsidered or regretted this decision even once in the last 447 days because I finally have a chance to learn who I am.
After spending my whole life watching others, trying to be accepted by others, learning about others and trying to be like others, I actually turned my focus inward and realized that for all I knew about everyone else in my life, I didn’t know who I was. Not a bit.
What a tragic mistake. 29 years old and not a clue who I am.
Do you want to learn a thing or two about your self?
Be alone when you’re up shit creek
Be alone when you are lonely
Be alone when you need a sounding board
Be alone when something happens to you and you drive into the driveway and put your key in the front door and walk inside and wish there was someone waiting for you to gather you up and kiss your forehead and tell you that every thing is going to be ok.
Be alone then.
See how you learn to pick yourself up.
See how you learn to square up your own shoulders and make everything ok.
Reflecting on the time before the thousand days I see that a lot of the problems and difficulties I was having in my life came down to a basic lack of self-respect.
I knew I needed to respect myself if I had any hope of avoiding the mistakes that littered my past.
To begin developing self-respect I thought of people that I had great respect for and considered what one quality thread them all together. What was the pattern? If I could pin down that one quality that causes me to have great respect for anyone whom possesses it, and them learn to posses it myself then I rationalized that I would have respect for myself.
After much thinking and reflection and observing how I developed respect or lost respect for others I knew what it was. I know the word.
I respect discipline.
And that was it. I knew that if I was ever going to respect myself I would have to become disciplined in something…. Anything.
When I considered where to begin practicing discipline I looked immediately to my body. The discipline and focus of the mind is displayed in the condition of the body and a strong, powerful, fit body is a direct manifestation of discipline. So it all began there really and since that day I have been pushing myself physically more and more each day and applying heavier and stricter controls to my diet so that it is almost 100% clean and forcing myself into bed when I know I need sleep and drinking the yucky things that do wonderful, healing things to my body.
Every day I have tied the laces on my trainers, even when I would have rather done anything else and every day that I stayed 10, 20, 30 minutes longer at the gym when I am already exhausted and every day I have noticed small changes to my body even if no one else does and with every day that passed I developed a little more self respect and today as I was walking away from the gym after giving everything I had to give in a very painful and long workout I felt proud of myself for the discipline to get to the place where I was strong enough to endure something I would not have been able to endure last month…. Or even last week.
See that I said ‘I felt proud of myself for the discipline‘. It really had nothing to do with my body or fitness or strength or how I look to others, it was the discipline I was looking for and I realised it took discipline just to get up and stick with it every day.
As I thought about that a very strange feeling stood up inside me somewhere and put its hand up.
I think it was self respect.
Several months ago I was going through an intense relapse of depression where I felt very, very lost.
I recall it being like when I was a young girl and would swim out past the waves and lie on my back and just breathe in and out and in and out and feel my body dip slightly with each exhale.
I felt like I was on my back with the water just below my nostrils and for a while there I was breathing just enough to keep myself on the surface of the water. It was a very dangerous and ugly time for me and a time, which I faced days where I had to make moment-by-moment decisions to survive.
But I did survive.
I survived that relapse and went on to identify the key to developing self respect and I chose to pursue it every day until I looked at myself and said ‘I respect you’
I would also like to say right now that as of tonight I have been medication free for 3 months. Every bit of focus and determination that I mustered in the last several weeks was all me.
Not the pills. Me.
I believe I will never take another anti-depressant in my life….
While admittedly bookmarking several other flaws that need to be smoothed out at some point, once self respect made itself comfortable on my couch it pointed out things about who I was that I have decided I actually like.
I like that I am laid back
I like that I can be patient with very testing people.
I like that when life collapses around me I can survey the damage and matter-of-factly say ‘well at least I’m not like, DEAD’
I like how I don’t feel self conscious about driving the most beat up, dented, scratched up piece of shit car you have ever seen.
I like it that I op shop.
I like it that if I find a song I love, I will play it on repeat for days until I never want to hear it again.
I like it that I sometimes can’t sleep because of the monsters in my wardrobe.
I like that I will boil the kettle, mix up a coffee, let it sit and only drink it when it has gone stone cold.
None of this would have been possible had I not been exclusively single and celibate for this last 447 days.
I’m not going to lie, I have at times gone to bed after a long day and wished someone was there warming up my side of the bed but I have also concluded that when you want to get to know yourself and have set aside a period of independence to do so, casual sex or short term, shallow relationships makes about as much sense as feeling cold and putting your finger into a flame in the hopes that it would warm you up.
A sudden and intense flame is not going to bring comfort or warmth to a cold body any more than a sudden and intense physical encounter will bring a sense of comfort and companionship.
Though you may very well be left with a painful burn…
What an interesting and testing experience this has been.
To the Vanessa who made the decision to do this 447 days ago: Thank you so much, that was the best thing you have ever done.
To future Vanessa: I will finish what I started, I respect you way too much to lose focus now.
“Someone once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”