I have never been one to do the easy thing or take short cuts. I can be fantastically lazy, but it's as if I am drawn to that which will bruise me, the road that will make me fight for each small victory. Not infrequently, I look at some of my choices and think -- why the hell did I do that? Not because I am embarrassed by the life I am living -- in fact, much of what I do makes me quite proud -- but because I can't seem to freaking relax. Ever. Have an extra hour in the day? Should probably do a spin class on top of that yoga class. Getting to the hospital early? Of course! But not before I make a healthy breakfast and lunch, do my hair and makeup, and clean my apartment between the hours of 4AM and 5:30AM.
Swear to God(dess), this is not humble bragging... because I've learned some pretty tough lessons in 2014. Humbling lessons. Sadness and loneliness that I sometimes think I'd rather forget.
You see, this quest for productivity means a few things. First and foremost, I stay hella busy. Busy enough that I am not generally alone with my thoughts. It also means that I look at other people's lives with a weird mix of jealousy and judgement. I am simultaneously thinking: Stop complaining and get your life together! AND I really wish I would allow myself some downtime.
Lately, the balance has been even more tenuous. A series of pretty bad heartaches befell me this year (although, befell is not the right word, becuase in truth, I am culpable), and it has left me a lot of time to contemplate the meaning of life and other things I can't really figure out. For instance: myself. I can't figure myself out. It's a kind of existential crisis. Who am I? What are my goals? My life seems pretty good--why does it also seem vapid and on the verge of destruction?
This latest heartache was truly head-spinning and left me with a lot of questions. Now, initially I was pretty angry. How dare someone point out my various weaknesses! Why did I allow my vulnerability to show?! What am I to do with this ... information? Then, I realized that these exposures were a gift. While I initially judged myself harshely for these flaws and weaknesses, I have come to appreciate that the pain of this process meants I was coming in to myself.
Lately, I have been occasionally mourning my cognitive dissonance. It was kind of nice to be blissfully unaware of the psychodynamic underpinnings of my social deficits. I think everyone is aware of their flaws--it's hard not to be, much of the superficial is shoved down our throats on the daily--but aside from hating my body from the age of ten, I actually thought I had my shit together. Oh how wrong I was.
A few years I began to notice that I truly worshipped alone time. I would leave parties or even small gatherings feeling exhausted. A little reflection made me realize I had always been this way. I was happy to play by myself as a kid, often spent recess indoors on a computer, and had only ever done solo sports. This revelation didn't really bother me all that much. I was actually pretty good at being social. Despite my propensity to isolate, I do well in a crowd. It just leaves me feeling exhausted and craving quiet.
This need for space and time, however, puts pressure on a relationship. Especially when you are working 80+ hours a week. Think of your hardest, longest day at work in the past year. When you came home, were you feeling amorous? Did you want to chat and relax with your loved one or friends? Or did you eat a pint of ice cream and cry for a little bit? Now think of about 14 of those days back to back. That is residency. Add that exhaustion and emotional fatigue to the needs of a true introvert and you have a pretty shitty romantic partner.
The problem is that I allowed that to be the demise of my relationships. Instead of fighting through it and figuring it out, I allowed myself to lose two women who were amazing humans. And I got really stuck on that. Really stuck. I saw other partnerships weathering residency just fine and wondered, what is my problem? It wasn't for lack of love--that's for sure. The depth of my feelings has been borne out in the physical aches I've felt since the end of my last relationship.
It was in that relationship that I began to realize that I needed to deal with all of this. With her help (although, I'll admit it felt more like an attack/criticism at the time), I realized that I had been carrying around quite a bit of hurt. I will spare you the laundry list of interpersonal deficits I created. Suffice to say, at the end of that relationship, I felt pretty low. I was pretty sure these qualities I had discovered made me, essentially, unloveable.
In retrospect, I realize that was not her goal. She was trying to get to know me. And she was so freaking good at it, she laid bare my deepest insecurities. Perhaps for some people this feels cathartic--to love someone so well that you can share all of the ugliness with them--for me, it was laying stones on a road to implosion. I had spent so little time thinking about these insecurities (save for the body hate--that's always been forefront), that it felt like a smack in the face. My thought process looked like this: Oh God. This incredibly gorgeous, kind woman now knows how terrible I am. And I do too. And I've never really thought about it. Oh God I need to get out now. I need to figure this shit out. I need to make myself better.
So that's what I set out to do. Flawed thinking, I know. I ran away from someone who was trying to get to know all of me. I ran away from someone who made all those Pinterest cliches make sense.
But I needed to. I realized that now is the time for me to figure out me.
So I started doing things that made me feel good.
I joined a yoga studio and deepened my practice. I realized that my body is strong and my thoughts are powerful. I realized that the more I challenge myself in yoga, the more I can connect with stillness. True stillness. Not list-making stillness.
I started spending some nights/half-days on the couch, watching TV that makes me happy. And allowing myself to not feeling guilty. And damn--it feels good to curl up under a blanket. No wonder people have been doing that all these years!
I let myself go to bed at 8PM. Or 11PM. Instead of being constantly mindful of the number of hours of sleep I (think) I need, I just listen to my body. I am tired? I should go to bed. I want to do a few things before sleep? That's cool too.
I allowed myself to feel a lot of feelings. This sometimes means crying alone in my bed. Mourning over the losses I have experienced this year. It sometimes means allowing myself to miss people--my mom, my former partners, my friends in Michigan and elsewhere. It also means permitting myself to revel in deep joy from time to time. I like to let myself feel my heart explode when I see a therapy dog. I like to feel that deep chest feeling of pride when I get in to a really tricky asana.
I made a bigger effort to connect with other women--friends and mentors both new and old. It's amazing how uplifting female friendship can be. My heart has felt so warm and I have felt so full and greatful for these experiences.
I have allowed myself to read for pleasure, rather than learning. And in the process, I have learned a great deal about things that matter. Things that are bigger that me. Reading used to be one of my great joys, but from the start of undergrad, I was overwhelmed by the obligation of reading heavy texts that sucked the fun out of the process. I still have plenty of heavy crap to read, but tonight, I'll be in bed with Amy Poehler. Love that gal.
I have burned a lot of candles. Expensive ones. And they smell great. Worth every god damned cent.
I have allowed myself to dream a bit. Where do I want to live? Who do I want to be with? I just try not to do it with a timeline in mind.
It's been a rough year. I have a lot of rebuilding to do. A lot of reconnecting to do (both with myself and those I've been neglectful of). That being said, I am feeling like my optimistic self. I am doing the things I need to do to feel whole.