This morning, I was up and about in the valley running an errand or two. Enjoying the warm sunshine and golden light, I was full of the joys of, well, autumn. I came up to a pedestrian crossing, seeing someone on the other side. And then I realised I knew them, and the last time I saw them was a few years ago. Someone from my past. Someone who last saw me in, as I feel now, my previous life.
A million thoughts flood my head at once. I can’t run away, of course. I tentatively entertain keeping my head down in my phone screen and carrying on around the corner. But, he’s a nice guy, and that is a stupid idea. I’d like to say hi. So, say hi, I do. And he is well, and we chat, exchange pleasantries, and carry on about our mornings.
As I walk away, my mind picks up the inner monologue and amplifies it, running over and over and over the words that weren’t coming out of my mouth. The thoughts that hit me like a ten-tonne truck. The visceral jolt of panic, bargaining, rationalisation, and determination that all passed by in a microsecond. I wandered on down the canal towpath and mulled it over.
I panicked because in that instant, the memories of everything that I was suddenly took precedence over everything that I now am. Somehow, that past version of me instantly began to haunt my thoughts. And stupidly, the biggest thought was that I had to explain that I was now fat and permanently exhausted, compared to the energy-filled fitness trainer I was a few years ago. As if he would care! As if it matters!
I mentioned I’d been ill for a while, I mentioned I’d put on weight. And as the words were coming out of my mouth I was beating myself up inside about feeling that I had to provide an explanation, an apology almost, for just being me. I exist. I must justify why.
I got home and spent 3 hours making bracelets to give my mind a chance to think it over in the background whilst I got on with something enjoyable and distracting. And I feel kind of weird about it. I think I feel okay.
I didn’t want to apologise for myself, or try and explain things away. Especially not in a 3 minute surface-level conversation about what we’d been up to for the last few years. But I felt I had to in the moment. Why? Because I am so used to apologising for every aspect of myself. I’ve put on weight, sorry, here is an excuse, please don’t judge me. I’ve left my job, sorry, here is an explanation, please don’t look at me in a funny way. I’m feeling sad again, sorry, here is a justification, please don’t leave me alone.
There is something new, though. I feel as though I can view that whole thought process from somewhere outside of it. I’m not stuck in that constant loop of dread. I reacted to it, of course. But I moved away. This is new. I moved away.
I don’t want to apologise for myself any more. Honestly, the overwhelming, all-consuming grip of fear has almost disappeared these days. I don’t hate myself, I don’t love myself. I’m just exhausted by caring either way. And that’s ok. I’m happy just existing for now, recovering, tottering mostly forwards and occasionally backwards. I’m happy with my choices and don’t want to apologise for every part of my being.
I caught myself today, but I’m aware of it, even in the moment. This is shiny, and interesting, and gives me hope for the future. I’m done saying sorry. I’m just me.