My thoughts this week have been dark ones. My frustration with suddenly losing my job has been compounded with my frustration about my poor health since late November / early December.
It’s pointless to rehash things that cannot be undone or changed. But I have spent a lot of time, especially in this past week, mulling over some things. We have a euphemism here in the States that we call “a moment of clarity.”
Mine, I think, came in the midst of a 101-degree fever while lying in a hospital room. It consisted of a very simple thought that has stayed in my waking hours and my dreams ever since that moment:“If you do not find the courage to change your life, you will die before your thirty-fifth birthday.”
I’ve only mentioned this to one person so far. It troubled me enough that I held it to myself for a while, trying to understand, trying not to let on to other people that something had happened that both confused and frightened me.
I have a long, long history of not taking proper care of myself. I react badly to stress; for most of my adult life, a carefully-hidden eating disorder was my way of not dealing with stress. At Jeff’s insistence, prior to our marriage, I put myself in counseling to try to dig myself out of the hole I was in.
I climbed out of that hole—or, at least, I thought I did. It took me several years to realize that I had not reached level ground. Instead, I had crawled up—into a larger, more expansive hole. Here was a place that seemed level and safe. I thought this was as good as it got.
I never looked up. Never saw that I had further to go, never saw what was so plainly obvious to the people who cared about me: that even though I had managed to walk away from an eating disorder, I had not learned a replacement way of coping with stress.
A quick, graceful turn inward—thus is my coping strategy. From thus comes a site as intensely personal and private as domesticat. Take the stress and the worry and swallow it down, hide it in the pit of my belly, and smile that dopey crooked smile my friends know all too well.
But the past year has taken its toll on me. I have turned many things inward over the past year, and my body is now telling me it’s out of reserves. My mind is saying that perhaps it is time for me to rest, and a few close friends are asking me to please find a way to slow down before I fly apart.
At the center of this is a peculiar, silent calm. Is this the fabled “bottom”? I don’t know. Is this the point where I look around me and ask if I have anywhere to go but up? Yes.
Where does a twenty-four-year-old geek dilettante learn to take care of herself? Where in the world do you start, when you’re not even sure what the phrase entails? (An exercise program? Introducing the word “nutrition” into my life? Learning some stress management techniques?)
I honestly don’t know.
All I know is that voice in my head, and the knowledge that it’s probably not far off.