The last year or so has been a journey, to put it mildly. Now I’m feeling quite a lot better, and I’m ready to step into this next phase of life. I’m quite looking forward to it. I think I’ve learnt a lot. A road I never expected but really, I feel like a better person for having experienced. However there’s something that’s not helping me get where I want to be – and that something is everything I’ve ever done.
I find it so hard to let go of absolutely anything in the past. Does anyone else find this? To leave behind old jobs, old goals, old thoughts. To be able to throw away that heavy feeling and just. Move. Forward.
I’ll have a lovely evening, but when bedtime approaches, I’ll find myself dreading it, for as soon as those lights go out, a million thoughts begin to swirl in my head, no matter how tired I am. “You’re useless now”, they’ll taunt. “You’ve failed..look at how successful everyone else is…you don’t even know who you are any more”. In between this, there’s the inevitable hi-def replays of things I did 20 years ago that I regret, or that are not even remotely relevant to the person I am today. But I can’t let them go. It’s as though they have claws, grabbing into my brain, hanging on for dear life.
I used to value things a lot differently than I do now. Long hours, image, designer possessions, being sleek and shiny on the outside, whilst becoming ever more vacant inside. And even I can tell I’ve managed to change. Unconsciously at first, becoming disillusioned with throwaway culture and quick fixes, then more purposefully, minimising possessions, leaving a stressful job, re-thinking my priorities. Nowadays, I value things differently. I value time, and nature, and quality over quantity. I value stories and support and friendship and treading lightly. I’ve developed compassion, depth, patience – with all but myself.
I can’t let go of that comparison to the past, and that comparison to others. That sick feeling of jealousy, even though really I’d rather have the life I do now. Where does this come from?
It’s a bizarre situation. I know I’d rather make less of an impact on the planet, rather give something a second life than buy new. But why do I get envious when I see someone with a shiny new possession? I’ve lived through (and am still living through!) the effects of chronic stress, long hours and overwork. So why, why, why do I feel so inadequate when I see others with high-flying jobs? I’ve chosen the life I have now. It took a long time to get here. So how come the claws of the past still won’t let me settle?
I wonder if it’s a life viewed through the tainted lens of social media, designed to addict us to viewing the best bits of someone else’s life. I wonder if it’s the influence of a consumerist society, where more is valued and stepping outside the norm is frowned upon. Maybe it’s the relics of depression coming in to the mix. Maybe I just don’t know where I’m heading.
To walk on, to shake off the old self, is a hard road to take. There are elements I want to keep with me – experiences I’ve learned from, my good friend hindsight. I just need to lose that cord that ties me down.
Is the answer to move slowly? I have begun to minimise once more, slowly shedding the excess I accumulated throughout the last few years of turmoil and illness. Starting with clutter grabbed in a desperate attempt to feel not just better, but to feel anything at all. Now I’m more stable, the untouched crutches of ‘click-with-my-eyes-closed’ eBay marathons are going back on the auction site and my shelves are emptying once again. I’ve piled on countless kilos of weight, hindered by an underactive thyroid, a junk food addiction, and a diagnosis that tells me I can’t exercise. I’m fighting, in a slow, quiet way. My health is something I miss so much that it hurts.
Dragging so much around weighs me down. On one level it’s an accumulation of thinking patterns, cavernous lows, bone-tiring fatigue and the pressure from society that buying something, anything, will make me feel better. On another level it’s weight gained by ‘treating myself’ because I feel bad. And, of course, it’s a mind full of clutter.
It’s fascinating to think through the definitions of clutter and excess. They can appear in so many different ways. The fingernail claws holding us tightly to the underlying ‘normality’. Digging in, refusing to let go. I’ll keep trying to extract myself, once again. One claw at a time.