“The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m not sure who the first person was who said that. Probably Shakespeare. Or maybe Sting. But at the moment, it’s the sentence that best explains my tragic flaw: my inability to change. I don’t think I’m alone in this. The more I get to know other people, the more I realize it’s kind of everyone’s flaw. Staying exactly the same for as long as possible, standing perfectly still… it feels safer somehow. And if you are suffering, at least the pain is familiar. Because if you took that leap of faith, went outside the box, did something unexpected… who knows what other pain might be out there, waiting for you. Chances are it could be even worse. So you maintain the status quo. Choose the road already traveled and it doesn’t seem that bad. Not as far as flaws go. You’re not a drug addict. You’re not killing anyone… except maybe yourself a little. When we finally do change, I don’t think it happens like an earthquake or an explosion, where all of a sudden we’re like this different person. I think it’s smaller than that. The kind of thing most people wouldn’t even notice unless they looked at us really close. Which, thank God, they never do. But you notice it. Inside you that change feels like a world of difference. And you hope this is it. This is the person you get to be forever… that you’ll never have to change again.”
Over the past 6 months, I have been practicing what it feels like to be alone with myself. Not just alone, but really spending time with myself. I realized that I’d never in my life done that. Yes, I’m an introvert and love spending time in the quiet with my cat, with Netflix, with a glass of wine, but always WITH something.
I was going through something really rough and trying to make some big life decisions so I decided to rid my life of distractions for a month. No Netflix, no alcohol, no going out with friends, no Facebook, nothing. The only things I allowed myself to do other than work was school, reading, and exercising. Let me tell you, it was painful. Listening to the thoughts that go through my head and letting myself stop and feel the grief. It’s not fun. It’s not fun to let the tears fall and not allow yourself to call someone to hold you through it. But it’s real.
It’s the realest way to live. It’s authenticity, and it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful to know yourself and to start feeling beautiful in your own skin. To hear your own thoughts louder than the world’s opinions. To know what hurts you and what boundaries to set in the future. The low times are painful. But once you’ve gone through it, the release is worth it in every way.
Avoiding all the distractions was a strange thing. Of course I realized how much time I waste on things like Facebook. But I also realized how much time I spend running. Many times the things I do as a distraction, I don’t even really enjoy. I’m simply doing it as a cheap distraction, when I could just face it and then start being productive again. The other thing that was most surprising was finding even more distractions. I realized the people I choose to spend time with when I am down, I realized the little things like cleaning and eating and music even. I wasn’t even enjoying the things that I would usually enjoy because I was simply using them to avoid myself.
I encourage you to start spending time with yourself and journaling, keeping records of your thought process and emotional status. There are so many things that you don’t even realize you’re letting yourself think, or things that seem logical when you’re upset that you can look at the next day and realize are completely irrational. But, mostly importantly you will notice cycles.
Life is made up of cycles. Almost everything in life repeats. You may not notice it because you’re stronger the second time around and it feels different, or it’s in a different context, or enough time has lapsed that you’re unaware. But everything in life comes in cycles. You will not always be at the highest point, but you will also not always be at the lowest point. Nothing lasts forever, not even pain. You are not a slave to your circumstances, but also nothing in this life owes you eternity.
This may be a hard truth, but for me it has been liberating. I’m going to be honest and tell you these past few weeks have been wrought with heartache. I’ve been feeling myself grasp for the distractions and I’ve been hearing the lies going through my head. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re cursed. You’re a fool for believing it would be different this time.” “You made the wrong choices.” “You trust too much.” and on and on and on. But what’s surprising is that these thoughts don’t have the power over me that they used to.
I just finished reading Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. The book is about cultivating your creativity, but it is so much more than that. One of the things that spoke to me most was the discussion of the tortured artist. She talks about taking stock of your emotional state during the creative process. And the sentence I underlined and promptly taped to my mirror was, “I remember this part.”
I’ve been telling myself this. When I hear the thoughts that are oh so familiar and I feel the cycle starting to repeat, I just tell myself, “I remember this part.” I remember that I’ve been here before and it doesn’t last forever. I remember this part of the process. Maybe I’ll write a good song from it and then it will hurt less and less each day until I can eventually laugh about it or remember it with a smile. When you’re in the throes of the emotional pit, it is so hard to imagine things getting better, but when you can remember back to the last time you felt this way, oh how freeing that is!
Life is truly a series of cycles. When you’re feeling the joy, let yourself remember the last time you felt that same joy and that it didn’t last forever. Experience every bit of it and don’t take it for granted. And when you feel the pain, let yourself remember that too. You are stronger than you think. Don’t let your mind take over, don’t romanticize your past. Take stock of the moments that make up your life to help yourself see more clearly. Remember this part, and keep an account of that as well so that next time you can even remember yourself remembering.
Keep your head up,