Don’t ask me how it happened but more than three weeks have passed since I last posted here. I know some of my readers (particularly my non-London friends) start wondering whether there’s something wrong if I don’t blog. But this time, my absence is down to being very busy with work (in a good way), with my social life (in a good way, too) and to feeling as peaceful and content (generally, most of the time) as I felt on the eve of my birthday – and therefore not having quite so much to say.
Because this blog, over the last few years, has been a place to work through my struggles, to find some catharsis through the act of writing and creativity, to understand what’s going on in my head by getting it out of my head and hopefully to inspire and encourage a few people along the way.
But right now, there aren’t so many struggles, even if it feels dangerous to say that, to write it down. And the struggles I have are short-lived – short-circuited by writing in my diary, taking ten minutes out to meditate, pray or phone a friend. I guess this is one of the gifts of working at something for a long time (in this case, recovery from addictive behaviours and self-sabotaging thought patterns) – at some point, it really starts to work.
But there’s a reason why the recovery movement (be that recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction, food addiction, love addiction, codependency and so forth) uses the slogan, “One day at a time”. I remember in the early days when I was trying to quit compulsive overeating, starving and generally messing around with food for purposes other than nutrition. Back then, the idea that I only had to get through that one day, that I only had to get my head on the pillow that night without having stuffed my feelings down with food was a real life-saver. I’d tell myself that whatever I wanted to eat in that moment of madness, stress, anxiety, anger or tiredness late in the evening I could have the next morning if I could just hold out that long. On many occasions, that promise to myself got me through. And of course, the next morning, with the benefit of sleep and a bit of distance from my emotions, the crazy, compulsive feelings had subsided and I no longer wanted the cake, chocolate or (often in my case) the organic cereal and natural yoghurt (I was always quite a healthy binge eater – in the later stages, at least).
Today, now I’ve made peace with food, ‘one day at a time’ means something a little bit different. It means I try not to project into the future, live in some fantasy land or imagine certain outcomes in my head. I try to remember that all I have is today and that, for today, I have everything I need to feel safe and happy.
This is particularly important when I’m dating. I know I’m not the first female to let my mind race off into some fantasy future where men are concerned and I won’t be the last. Many of us do it, but then we share it, laugh about it, and with a bit of luck, haul ourselves back to reality and remember to keep it in the day. Do men do this too? I’d be interested to know. Guys?
Of course, this is much easier to do if we’re starting from a solid base – if we have a lot of our needs covered and we’re not desperately looking for someone else to fill the gap. And while I guess it’ll never be perfect (because I’m human and perfection doesn’t exist), I feel I’m more in that place than I’ve ever been.
There isn’t such a great, gaping hole inside, such a deep longing for love or such a big fear of loss and abandonment as there has been in the past – because I’m giving that love to myself and I’m showing up for myself. I’m taking care of myself – emotionally, physically and spiritually. I’m resting when I’m tired, crossing things off my ‘To Do’ list when I feel stressed, strengthening my body through exercise, meditating most mornings and eating well. I’m pursuing my creative dreams – slowly, very slowly when it comes to the book, but I’m pursuing them all the same – and increasingly I’m doing work I enjoy that fits with who I am rather than with the image of myself I wanted you to have. (Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of sixth-formers about eating disorders, anxiety, stress and perfectionism and it felt like such a gift). My finances are reasonably manageable – I have a good idea of what comes in and what goes out – and I have a little home of my own, so I’m not in need of rescuing. I have fun and exciting things in the diary that I’ve chosen to do because I love them and they make me happy, irrespective of anyone else. And I feel supported and loved by my huge network of friends and family members. Thank you all for that.
In short, I’m pretty confident that whatever happens, I’ll be OK.
And I guess it’s that confidence – that trust in oneself and, in my case, in God – that helps me go out there and take some risks with my feelings and my heart.
If I fall, I know the ground is really well cushioned. I feel anchored. I feel held.
Interestingly, this has just come to me, but this sounds like the secure base that, ideally, all children grow up with, which is something I was researching recently for work. Babies and toddlers feel confident to go out and explore the big world because they know they can always come back to the safe embrace of their primary caregivers. Their parents’ support is consistent, unwavering, like a safety net. Psychologists say these children grow up with healthy self-esteem, a strong sense of self, an ability to take risks and they’re less prone to anxiety.
Exploring the world as a little person without a secure base can be a scary experience and those fears, that sense of trepidation, that idea that the world isn’t a benevolent place and nobody’s got our back can stay with us for years. We either shy away from taking chances or we cling to things or to people to support us that actually can’t help – in other words, we look for love in all the wrong places.
Some of us didn’t grow up with a sense of a secure base for one reason or another and we spent a lot of years looking for love in the wrong places or trying to keep ourselves safe from hurt. But the amazing thing is we can recreate the secure base for ourselves, as adults.
And once we’ve done that, we can send our inner children out there to join in with all the other kids, to get messy, play and jump from great heights, safe in the knowledge they’ve got somewhere to come back to if they end up bruised or things don’t go to plan.
I guess that’s what I’m doing right now – I’m encouraging her (me) to get out there and play, reassuring her it’s safe to take a chance because I’ve got her back.