I’ve done a lot of thinking in this first month back to school – of course, I’ve had plenty of time to sit and think. That’s all I do, now.
Shuffling, rolling, and spreading my suffering around Athens, I started out the semester with bitter jealousy. Jealous I couldn’t be running around, enjoying the summer sunshine outside like every one of my friends. Jealous I couldn’t walk. Jealous I wasn’t healed.
Fear, too, crept up my spine, like the stinging feeling in my knees. Fear that I would never recover. Fear that my legs would remain forever broken. Fear that the life I loved last year would never be felt again.
I wrote about running recently, how the sensation makes me feel free, limitless. I told myself then, and now, that I have to stop this physical exertion that keeps me crashing instead of cruising. That I have to stop running because my body isn’t meant for the pounding 4-miles every day that I was doing, committed to.
I have to stop running.
“Numbing has been a constant in my research since the beginning.”
It’s late one night, and I’m reading Dr. Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong” before bed.
“We take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping…”
I yawn, my eyes trailing off at activities in this lengthy sentence that don’t mean anything to me.
“planning, perfectionism, constant change…”
I snap alert. Planning and perfectionism, I recognize as guilty as my reflection. No, it’s the words “constant change” that stop me mid-sentence.
I see, like a photograph in my mind, a map of all the places I’ve been in the last 4 years: Hawaii; Orlando (twice); Washington D.C. (three times); Cambodia; Berkeley; San Francisco; Chicago; Rome; Berlin; Leipzig.
I think of all the jobs and positions I’ve started, and stopped, in the last 7 semesters: Society of Professional Journalists; The Post; College Green Magazine; Online News Association; an entire journalism degree; the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; Scripps Ambassador; Society of Environmental Journalists; International Student Union; Global Leadership Center.
I suddenly feel the weight of my travels, my experiences. I feel the heaviness of exposure, the world swirling around me that I’ve scarcely made sense of.
“And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us.”
I can’t help it; I start crying, my tears leaking silently down my cheeks as they’ve done all week — a rough week back into the throw of classes, and facing day-in and day-out the ugliness and constant pain my life has somehow become.
This month, I have felt the waves of my life crash formidably upon the shores of my consciousness. The ability to run — to run away from my fears and the breakable reality beneath my bones, I see now — was stripped from me, and so the waves of truth have come ashore.
I have felt everything: crushing sadness; isolation and loneliness; anger and hatred; fear and abandonment.
“There’s a quiet, insidious alternative to chanderliering, bouncing, or numbing hurt — we can stockpile it. … The body’s message is always clear: Shut down the stockpiling or I’ll shut you down. The body wins every time.”
I am now encountering every feeling I have ever swallowed or held at bay. Every movement, every thought, is painfully slow and concentrated — I cannot physically escape my mental wanderings anymore, and so they flood me one-by-one, unceasing, uncontrollable.
I see myself for what I am: a frail and unhealthy girl, pushing through on adrenaline, busyness, and the promise of her dreams. Airy with a head-in-the-clouds attitude, my aquarius self is used to buoyancy, just not ever getting to the root of the problem.
I used to reliably think, create, or invent my way out of problems — but it’s different this time around. Today I realize the ‘problem’ is (and has always been, still) me and how I’m constantly building myself up and tearing myself down. How I let my worth be determined by what other people think of me. How I care, so so much, about everything and everyone but my own bones.
Without this ability to move, to run away from underlying tendencies that have remained lodged in my core for four years, I am forced to reckon with my demons: my worst self.
And that’s terrifying. I haven’t encountered a single person who enjoys reckoning with his or her (or their) own fears.
So I’m sitting, sitting still for the first time in … well, a long time. This homecoming into my own body is years in the making.
I’m tired of running. I’m tired of running away, running from, running towards.
This semester I get to sit sticky in time? So be it. It’s high-time I start listening to, and appreciating, myself.
P.S. This reminder came in my inbox today:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho,