Throughout the course of 2013, my friends, family and the occasional kind reader would comment on my blog's radio silence...and ask if I planned to start blogging again. I never knew what to say, since the answer was not definitive, concise or logical.
When we left Kuwait, I assumed that somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, a switch would flip and I'd be old Bethany again...ready to take photos, make stuff and write about regular ol' life in the US. I tried to start again, but just wound up staring at a lot of blank screens. In time, that creative self would simply click back on...right?
But months passed and it just didn’t happen.
Instead of eager to start my creative life again, I felt confused about what I was supposed to do next. Frustrated that I'd lost a year of my life to a place most people can't find on a map. Disgusted with myself for gaining a bunch of weight. Nervous about being apart from my husband for seven long months, while he returned to the Middle East for work.
My mind just churned in one destructive circle as I attempted to restart life in the US, sans Gabe, and make sense of the life we'd quickly left behind in Kuwait.
Lesson learned: It's hard to restart when you haven't forgotten the past.
Looking back at the whole year, it seemed like a failure, and so many negative messages snuck into my head. It happened slowly over the course of the year abroad and continued when I returned to the US. With each tiny perceived failure or flaw, a little note wriggled its way in:
“These pants don’t fit…because I am fat and ugly."
“I haven’t crafted or taken photos in months…because I’m not creative."
“I don’t write anymore….because I’m not interesting.”“I just ate a cookie…because I cannot control myself.”
“My husband is working in Afghanistan, and I forgot to take care of this little errand he asked me to do…because I am a terrible wife.”
“I didn’t send a birthday gift…because I am an awful friend.”
Every aspect of my life played into these messages, and in time they became a chorus of self-fulfilling prophesies. Even if I had the best intentions to change, my mind would talk itself backwards with a, “Why start, when you’ll quit anyway? Save yourself the disappointment.”
Then, those little messages stopped manifesting themselves as attacks on character attributes or unfulfilled goals and instead became one big overarching refrain about who I was. Like a song on repeat, it was always playing, always rewriting any positive thought that happened to sneak through my dark mind.
“I am worthless. I am nothing. I am and will always be a failure.”
That’s a hefty message…with a whole lotta baggage behind it.
After a few months back in the US, my reaction to all this was to toss my feelings into a dark corner, even the few happy ones that were left, and operate as a numb robot for a while. Instead of processing all that muck, I threw every ounce of energy at losing the weight I’d gained abroad. Those 40 pounds followed me around every day…a nasty physical manifestation of where I had gone wrong, taunting me with every glance in a mirror. A constant reminder that I’d failed.
I had to lose it...and I just knew that when the scale read 135 pounds, I would be whole. And so I walked. And sometimes jogged. I walked until the sun went down, peddled my bike anywhere I could. I ate healthily, hippie food and re-veganized myself. I wore yoga pants to real yoga classes. (I think my pants were confused.) All that control and all that movement felt so good.
One day, the scale read 135. But there was no magical feeling that life had begun anew. Or that I’d erased all my missteps from the previous year. I still felt all mangled up, tangled up inside.
One-thirty-five didn’t feel like enough, so I kept going. 133. 131. 130.
And finally, the scale read 129. I rejoiced at the smallest number I’ve ever seen on a scale in my adult life, and that I'd done it all quite healthfully...but took note that once again no confetti dropped from the sky announcing..."a brand! new! Bethany!" It was just the same old me, same problems, same struggles, staring at my startlingly naked self in the mirror. And 129-pound-me still winced at her naked reflection, and at her lack of having life figured out.
I slowly began to realize this:
No number will ever make my life complete, allow me to love myself or solve all other problems I’ve created. There will never be a "perfect time" to change....and work on one’s self will never be finished. My body will never be perfect, neither will my personality, relationships, home or hobbies. There will always be room for growth and improvement, but growth can only occur long term when you have the grace to forgive yourself and the continued desire for something better.
It's time to forgive myself for falling down. Time to let it go.
So, I made three resolutions for 2014. Two are unrelated to this topic. But, one of them is to forgive myself for my failures, perceived or real, and to stop negative self-talk. Thus far, it works. I acknowledge the negative message when it occurs, but attempt to replace it with a positive or realistic message about myself.
This sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s something I’ve gotta do. I am better than a life full of negative messages. I am worthy. I can be a success...if I get out of my own damn way.
Here’s to 2014, friends. To starting new. To dreaming big and loving thyself…and other hippie mantras I learned in yoga. ;)