First off, if you are reading this, thank you! If you’ve ever dreamed of writing, you know just how wildly joyful it is to write and ‘publish’ something and have people read it. Thank you for all the lovely feedback on my first post. It made me desperately want to write something happy and uplifting. That, sadly, is not going to happen today. What is on my mind is darker and ickier than I particularly want to put out there, but again in the spirit of authenticity, here it is.
I’ve started smoking again. This, to you, might not be some earthshattering horror, but to me it is as shameful as it gets. I quit my ten-year-long, two-pack-a-day habit ten years ago – when my dad had a lung removed due to cancer.
My dad made it through that first round of cancer, lived on oxygen, and then died of a recurrent lung cancer six years later. Smoking right now feels like a betrayal of my whole family, including my father, and a personal failure of epic proportions. It also makes me feel physically sick, and so angry at myself that I can barely stand it.
I’ve been skulking around my back patio, secretly smoking, showering three times a day so I can pretend to the world (really, to myself) that this is not happening. I’ve quit, vowed to quit, thrown out the cigarettes, and bought more within hours. I feel like screaming with frustration, and the internal drama is consuming me.
Enter Carl Jung and his damn annoying aphorism “What you resist, persists.” (Did I have any idea this was actually a quote from Jung? Not in the slightest. I found out as I googled it to ensure I was using the proper punctuation.) This is the type of phrase that I’ve always truly hated; it feels like there is some profound truth in it, but I could never quite wrap my brain around it enough to make it useful. Finally, just last month, I got to experience it first-hand.
I have spent my life running from feeling any type of painful emotion – a thirty year affair with an eating disorder, a master’s degree and career in a field that my soul despises, extreme muscle tension, endless planning, reading, flirting with alcoholism, epic codependency – you name it, I’ve likely tried it. Ten years ago I began my ‘healing journey’- which encompasses nearly as many healing modalities as issues – a whole hell of a lot of therapy (thank you, God!), church ministry, dance, yoga, meditation, energy work, dietitians, anger release workshops, coaching, etc. All of which are absolutely fabulous.
My goal, though, remained to ‘finally get rid of my damned eating disorder, once and for all!” This summer, I got to go to Africa on a “Self Transformation Awareness Retreat” and left there with the realization that the years of fleeing and fighting to stop fleeing had left me exhausted beyond description. My new intention became “Rest. Love freely. Live in joyful service.”
I practically floated back home, arranged my formerly harassed and hideous schedule so that I would have way more time, and set out to blissfully rest. And found that I had no…fucking…clue how to do that. I hold a black-belt in numbing only. So, naturally, I scoured the internet, I sought teachers, and I hired a hypnotherapist, who began to teach me how to rest. Thus began the most god-awful, hideous emotional surfacing you can imagine. And, naturally, it brought up every type of numbing resistance strategy I’ve ever used. My “restful” evenings were soon comprised of bingeing on jalapeño poppers, drinking a double martini, smoking, and completing the Argent tournament dailies. (If you have never played World of Warcraft, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Trust me on this one – it is a phenomenally fun game, but when you’re jousting daily with giant skeletons purely to buy a new horse, the fun has died.)
The only difference between this experience and any other numb-fest is that I let go of all the internal drama about it. Instead of buying a small box of See’s candy and having it prettily wrapped pretending it was a gift, I just went in and bought ten pounds, with zero pretense about it being for anyone but me. (If you have never been female and overweight, you likely can’t imagine the sheer horror of doing this.) Next time my supplies run low, I’m just bringing ziplocs and telling them to skip the boxing altogether.
Instead of internally shrieking at myself that I needed to quit drinking immediately, I drank and told myself I would see this through to the end, with kindness, even if it meant I ended up having to be in recovery for yet another issue. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done. Soon enough (though it felt like an eternal hell at the time), the resting ‘kicked in’ and a giant wave of grief came with it, washing out most of the need to numb along the way. I cancelled my Warcraft subscription, I have zero interest in drinking, and I started gravitating, without grueling effort, to foods that fuel my body.
Am I trying to say everything is now perfect? Not in the slightest. I am swamped in grief, and there are days when I embrace it, and days when I do everything possible to avoid it. But something finally clicked for me. I’m resisting feeling anything by numbing. Then I’m resisting the numbing with heaps of drama about the numbing behavior. And…absolutely nothing changes. I am stuck with repressed feelings, destructive habits, and a violent internal war.
Why am I posting this way-more-than-you-needed-to-know story? There are a couple of reasons. It is my hope that you actually can’t relate to my fits of violent self-destruction, but that you can see your own story in here somewhere. It might be that you always put off things to the last minute, and then yell at yourself for putting things off. Or you would love to learn to paint, but you spend time watching TV in the evening instead of painting, and then berate yourself for watching TV instead of painting. I’m offering this post as an invitation to be kind to yourself about something that you are habitually unkind about. If you put things off…so what? Yelling at yourself about it only increases the drama. If you’re yelling at yourself for watching TV instead of painting, then you not only don’t get to try painting, but you ruin the perfectly fun experience of watching TV. What’s your hated habit? I would love to hear it, if you want to share it.
I’m also posting this as a declaration to myself. I’m smoking. I’m not happy about it, but it is reality, and it’s time to stop pretending otherwise. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just need to step outside for a moment…