You open the pantry door and scan the shelves. It’s been around three hours since your last meal and there’s a familiar welcome emptiness in the pit of your stomach. Anticipation builds as your eyes cross over granola bars, Girl Scout cookies, dried mangos, chocolate chips and finally they land on baked pita chips. For just a split moment, the old restrictive voice in your head tries to protest but you’ve turned up your inner “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera so loud you can’t hear her. You proceed to carefully gather three small bowls and fill them with guacamole, hummus, and salsa, your own little sampler complete with carbohydrates, protein, veggies, and fat. You turn off other distractions and are getting ready to savor your carefully prepared snack. The first chip has barely hit the dip when your dad walks by and jests “someone’s letting loose today”. You laugh it off and try to swallow the uneasy feeling with your next bite. If he only knew how far you’ve come. Then your mom comes around the corner and quietly places carrots and cucumbers down next to you. You think, “ God, at least dad’s straight forward with his opinions”. Your mom proceeds to tell you how Dr. Phil taught her to only eat carbohydrates before 12pm. You can’t decide who’s she’s trying to convince. Meanwhile, you’re fighting the urge to grab the entire bag of pita chips and scarf them down in front of both of them like the empty bag will somehow symbolize a victory, only your trophy is feeling ashamed and sick to your stomach. Instead, you turn up Drake’s “Over” in your head and continue to eat the meal you were craving slowly and consciously savoring each bite.
The sun snuck through my window as I covered my head with my sheets trying to disappear into my comforter and hide from its rays. A layer of ice covered the ground outside my apartment, allowing me to deny the morning and avoid Monday and my life just a few moments longer. Icicles hung from my window and I couldn’t help but see myself in them, frozen where I don’t belong.
I don’t know why I’ve come to dread my job so much, I never wanted to be a person who wakes up resenting the sun. It’s not a bad position, many would be grateful for a comfortable salary and great benefits. I am left alone for a large portion of the day to push forward with mundane tasks. The purpose and result of my work should be more important to me, it is important work, but I cannot find the right notes to keep the song playing. The air in the office is toxic and the pressure from above is draining, but deep down I know my lack of effort creates part of the waste that pollutes the air. It’s hard to follow a leader you don’t want to become. Even in a gossip-filled fear-run office the burden of my unhappiness lies within myself. I’m ashamed of the quality of my work and my lack of passion. I resolve to be a harder worker at least once a week and I remain disappointed.
The problem is passionate people need to come alive. Time is precious and days should be spent in places where they are fueled by a fire within them. I finally accepted that It is not about being ungrateful. It’s about accepting that the curves and edges of my piece do not fit into the larger puzzle of my organization to form a complete picture. It’s about accepting that it is okay to not be the best in every position. Discovering that maybe this failure will strengthen me and lead me on the path that I am meant to travel now that I have the courage to change.
I pull myself out of my bed and head for my shower. Each warm drop of water that hits my skin begins to melt the ice in my heart and strengthen my resolve to finish this chapter of my book with strong proud words to lead me into the next. Unfrozen.
I’ve never been a smoker, but I imagine the reason someone starts is to fill a void. It may not be clear with the first inhalation, actually, it may never be clear. I am not sure many people take the time to connect with the reasons behind their actions, but the meaning is there like a dark shadow that could disappear if you shed some light on it. I think gossip isn’t too different from smoking like I said I’ve never been a smoker but hear me out.
Like the kid who buys his first pack to feel more comfortable in a group of people, the girl that whispers her first negative comment about another is also searching to be validated. The girl trying to suppress her appetite because the short-term ideal of thinness blocks out the possibility of throat cancer isn’t too different from the person who tears apart another to feel better about themselves, they are both searching for the short term gratification that will eventually leave a dark thick residue inside of them.
Then there’s aspect of addiction. Once a taste for nicotine develops and one allows the empty spaces inside of them to be warmed with the potent black fog that sends messages of pleasure to the soul, things become deceivingly better if only for the moment. Once they begin to feel, smell, and taste the smoke on their lips, it is enough to draw them to the act time and time again. Negative words can form their own thick fog that fills a room and those with empty spaces inhale it like nicotine and as they exhale the words seep out into the air and infect the entire environment.
“It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behaviour.”
Both smoking and gossip are forms of coping, actions or reactions to things that make us unhappy or uncomfortable. We use them to deal with the pain, they bring a temporary relief but ultimately they both make us sicker. The young girl seeking to become beautiful develops wrinkles over her once youthful skin, her teeth yellow, and she begins to smell of ash. The words uttered become more true of the person speaking them than of the person who evoked the negative feelings in the first place. Both coping mechanisms poison us, and fill our hearts and lungs with thick dark layers of muck that eventually suffocate us.
I can imagine what smoking is like because I have been addicted to gossip. I pick apart the flaws in other people because breaking them down is easier than building myself up. I heard though that if you quit smoking early enough your circulation improves, your lung function increases, and eventually precancerous cells are replaced. I’d like to think that I can replace any damaged cells of my character.
This week I made a commitment to follow a plant-based diet, cutting out all dairy and meat. My decision to focus my eating habits on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes for 7 days had a couple reasons behind it. I’d be lying if I told you it was for the animals. It’s not that I do not care about animals, I do, but I created this blog to be completely and utterly honest with myself. I don’t want to sit here and feed you some bullshit that I am driven by a need to reduce my impact on the environment and protest the food industry. My actions are not that altruistic but my instincts tell me I’m on the right track.
I made a change because my diet was mess and to be more exact, my life is a bit of mess and I’m cleaning it up. I had a stressful week of overeating, working long hours, followed by a weekend of too much drinking, and self-neglect. I was at the bottom of a pit and needed to throw myself a rope.
Hung-over, on an 8-hour drive home from a weekend trip, I made a decision to try and change. There are a lot of abstract changes I want to make in my life and I figured if I paired them with physical changes I would feel more motivated.
What I have been finding in my week of vegan eating is peace, inner peace (no bullshit here). I have been able to eat without guilt, reduce my anxiety over food choices, and just feel good about myself. That may sound silly but its the truth. Eating nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for a week made me feel better about myself. I can’t say that I have lost weight or saved money but I can say that I like who I am just a little bit more and that’s something.
Tossing and turning, I wake up with a start. Where the hell am I? How did I get here? My hair is crusty, dry, and smells of vomit. My dress from last night is still on and my nude pumps are bent out of shape on opposite sides of the hotel floor. There is a deep, aching pit in my stomach; unfortunately the feeling is a bit too familiar. I’ve been here before. Not this hotel room, not this group of people, but this place.
I’ve let the demons in again because I never really made them leave. I’ve been allowing them to exist in me. I pretend I can control them, sometimes under the illusion they are my friends. We are not friends. They find me when I am vulnerable and insecure. They convince me that I need them, whispering, “Trust us we’ll make things easier, we’ll help you through it”. I give in and for a little while things get better. I feel strong and confident, there’s a new sparkle in my eyes. But it quickly fades and they move in, stealing my thoughts, my voice, my health, my reputation and worst of all they steal the very confidence they pretended to give. They abandon me broken unable to care for myself, in the mercy of those around. Embarrassed, shamed, guilty, and empty. When I wake up I swear to myself that I will confront them when they come again. I promise to let them know I am in charge and next time, next time I will keep them on a tight leash. Next time, next time, next time. But I do not confront them. I make no plans to get rid of them, so time passes and they exist dormant waiting until I am vulnerable again.
But this morning in the hotel room, with dark circles under my eyes and unknown scraps down my arms something broke inside of me. Tears began to flood my face leaving black stains on my cheeks. Stains I can no longer ignore. It is time for this relationship to come to an end, to stop believing in forgiveness. I cannot hide the truth just because I do not remember it clearly. It is not any less real. I will stop handing out free rent checks for my soul.
When the world starts to get dark I shrink inside, smaller than I was before. I can’t sit in a room without sunlight. I struggle to hide my lifeless petals when the clouds form around me. I don’t fight. I just sit idle, waiting for the rays to come back. The sky is gray, I’m not dead but I don’t feel alive either. I feel empty- empty, angry, and thirsty for truth. I am trying so hard to grow but I am finding it tough to bloom with no sunlight. I can’t tell who is blocking my sunlight or helping to absorb the water. I let them all in, vulnerable. I know I need the rain but right now it’s drowning me.
It’s 6:30 am on a Sunday, I hit the snooze button on my iphone, knowing sooner or later I’ll have to get up and face the inevitable. At 6:50 am I drag myself out of bed and turn on the k-cup machine, coffee is the only thing that makes exercising so early possible. I down a cup and eat half of a banana while simultaneously trying to throw clothes and shoes on. The trick to running 10 miles at the butt crack of dawn is getting out of the door before my brain can fully comprehend what I’m about to do to my body.
I step outside, thankful for the light breeze in the air and the empty streets. The first mile is always the hardest, my feet feel awkward and I am still in the process of convincing my mind that I will be doing this for the next hour and a half of my life. I turn the music up and try to take in all of my surroundings; the sun rising, the pine cones on the trees, the empty beers bottles from people having way more fun than I did last night, really, anything to hide the sound of my own breathing.
By the third mile I have a comfortable rhythm going. I’ve stopped peering down at the pace on my iphone and I’m trying desperately to loose myself in One Republic’s “Something I need”. The hardest decision to make isn’t to keep going but to choose a path that forces me to hit 10 miles. With the 5th mile, the sun comes out and I start to notice life on the streets. The euphoric feeling is at its climax and for a moment, just a moment, I think I could do this forever.
The feeling doesn’t last long. Around the 7th mile my legs get heavy. I begin checking my pace a bit too often and the thought of breakfast keeps creeping into my mind. I push the distracting images to the back of my mind and turn up Eminem’s “Till I collapse” and trod on.
The 9th mile brings with it feelings of death and defeat. I can no longer stop hallucinating thoughts of oatmeal topped with peanut butter and bananas. A familiar feeling of pain in my right foot starts to reveal itself and I check my iphone just about every minute from this point on.
Finally, I reach 10 miles. That’s it. When I stop, there is no finish line to cross and no one claps or pats me on the back. There is, however, an irreplaceable feeling of self-accomplishment. It reminds me I am capable of achieving goals. It reminds that I can follow through on plans. I feel stronger. These feelings are what dare me think I can subject myself to this pain all over again. So I do.