This resonated with me, as someone who desires change and believes in the power of thought but has found herself stuck in self-destructive cycles of inaction. So last night I spent the moment before sleep (which is my only consistent opportunity for meditation) to affirm my intention to self-heal. I imagined myself carrying that intention today and using it to make small changes - a moment of reflection during daytime hours, maybe a little yoga (!) and, above all, leaving the last two cloves in my last pack unsmoked. Knowing that The God-King planned to take the kids to his parents for the entire morning, I figured this would be an excellent opportunity to take those first small but concrete steps towards my goal.
And yet here I am, sitting on the porch in the cold even though the house is quiet, smoking my last cloves (including several partials I found in the ashtray) and not ruling out the possibility of going out to buy more.
However, I'm not counting this as a failure.
This time of year is a natural time for reflection. 2016 had some real highs, mostly in terms of my writing career, but overall it was a bitch. One of the worst I've survived (to date). The Kinglet took a nose dive, and that's been the hardest to bear: worry for him, fighting the world for him, exasperation with him for not fighting too, having him under foot, watching him self-destruct, trying to cope while he takes his shit out on me. PTSD from all the shit his abuse brings back, stuff I thought I'd put to rest a long time ago. And then the medical stuff, all the appointments, the condescending doctors, the non-answers, the worsening symptoms. And losing my job, feeling victimized and ignored. The lack of friendship and emotional support. Watching my parents get sicker and weaker. And that's just my personal shit, not even touching on the damned election and my disgust with people in general. Fuck 2016.
But the upside of surviving hardship is you get to decide the takeaway. What have I learned this year? Specifically, what have I learned about myself?
The fact that I am smoking, and justifying it, is a lesson about my natural response to hardship. When life knocks me down, I don't make lemonade; I make mudpies. I smoke, or I eat my feelings. I stop exercising, I stop going outside, I seek comfort under a blanket in a comfy chair.
This is not to say that I give up. I mean, I DO give up -- I get depressed, I weep, I contemplate ending it all. Sometimes I quit things: jobs, clubs, friendships. I burn bridges. But I don't give up on life, at least not for long. I lick my wounds for a day or two, but then I do things. I take care of my kids. I make the dinners and the phone calls and the appointments. I send out new batches of writing to get rejected (or not). I do the things. I just do them in shorter bursts, I guess, and with less energy, until the harship goes away and the depression lifts and I lose my taste for mudpies.
The question that's been rolling around in my brain today is whether, given this habit, am I a fighter? Does it still count as fighting if you're doing it from under a blanket, or while chain-smoking, or saying to hell with the diet and putting on fifteen pounds of cookie weight? Or does it just make me a *survivor*?
The secondary question I'm asking myself is, should I fight this part of my nature? This embracing of self-destruction as a means of survival. Should I be ashamed of myself, should I work harder to deny these instincts? Should I strive to be someone who responds to hardship by saying NO to the cookies and the cigarettes and the blankies, should I do the yoga even if it has to wait until 9PM after the kids are finally in bed and the house is quiet, even though I'm freaking exhausted and all I WANT to do is go to sleep?
As I face the last six months of my thirties, mortality is staring back at me. I look at how sick my parents are after a lifetime of surviving on mudpies. I think of all the celebrities who died young this year who struggled with substance abuse and unhealthy choices. I tihnk of my brother who was dead at 37 because of drugs and drinking and smoking - the way he used to cough and vomit every morning, the way I cough and vomit after a month of smoking. He literally coughed himself to death, I know that. Tore a hole in his aorta. I know what I do is not good for me.
On the other hand, life is fucking hard. Self-care can be a lot of things. Sometimes medicine is destructive; like chemo. Sometimes healing is not a straight line, but a zig-zag, full of setbacks but, overall, a push forward.
One thing I know I've got going for me is that I don't stay down here in the mud. I've quit smoking many times and I will do it again, when the switch flips and I'm ready. I know I'll start stretching again, go for walks again, start counting calories and take off the weight one more time. I always do. I just don't know if beating myself up for my choices in the meantime is fair.
We do what we have to. We get by.
In the course of writing this post, I finished off the pack and the butts. They're all gone. The house is still quiet (except for the damn whining cat). I'm back inside, and I've still got a couple of hours to myself. Not sure how I'm going to spend it yet -- maybe I'll quit smoking now. Maybe I'll make some other mudpies. Or maybe I'll Do Things.