Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Thinking  more about what I wrote the other day. I see that I have been relieved (!) of many of the activities that have often soothed (or seemed to soothe) my anxiety, loneliness, and self-doubt: I no longer have recourse to shopping, whether for clothes, or cosmetics, or for household goods; I drink far less often; I see fewer friends; I cannot treat myself to a fancy coffee or a piece of pie as  little pick me up. I see, too, that my increased sugar consumption is very likely related to the loss of all those things. Also that my new exercise habit and my recent hunger for fiction are other, healthier responses to the loss of old self-soothing activities. 

It is good to lose shopping and alcohol and sugar as means for alleviating the anxiety of growing up. Seeing my habits and behaviors and tics and tendencies in this way, I see that there is more room for improvement: I plan to give up trimming my cuticles. Now that I see why I have been eating sweets more frequently, I can look for non-food and non-sugary food replacements. (I envision an upcoming mild obsession with sweet potatoes.)  I appreciate the exercise and the fiction-reading more: these are strong, healthy, good things. I can keep including them as part of my daily routines.

I also see that, as I have been paring my life down--paring my activities down--I am taking somewhat better care of myself: I do the dishes and the laundry more frequently. I have not run out of toilet paper or cat litter in months. I don't even remember having made the bed many days but I look over my shoulder to check and it has been made. The laundry doesn't pile up. My pantry is well stocked. I find I have time to make steel cut oats in the mornings and soup on the weekends. This does help to relieve some of the anxiety about the little daily chores that never go away.

And I see it that way: I am paring down my life. How much can be eliminated? How much is necessary? What is it I need and what is it I want and at what point can I tell the difference?

I keep looking for things to eliminate. Not activities or people, but things. I've purged my bookshelves recently; now I see that I can do so again. There are clothes to eliminate. Some furniture (my filing cabinet is a source of pure stress). And I would like to have some new things; in particular, I dream of crisp ivory bedding to replace worn duvet covers and sheets. In general, however, this seems to be a time in which to grow lean. A time that leans away from activity, community, luxury, decadence. A time that is full of time, and time is just the thing I need: there is an enormous amount of writing and reading and research to be done and this requires uncluttered time. This is a time to strengthen the muscles of my body with exercise and a time to stretch my imagination with fiction; this is a time in which to sink into research and make my mind supple by writing.

I wrote the other day that I am annoyed with myself and vexed to be unable to avoid myself. As I pare my life smaller and smaller, I am finding it more and more difficult to hide from myself and that might be the source of my annoyance. What is it, really, that I am afraid of? What is it I've hidden or scooted to the side by shopping my way through anger and sadness? What is it that I numb with sugar and with obsessive cuticle trimming? What is it about pushing my body to do a few more pushups or a few more squats that brings me to tears--not from physical pain but from sudden emotional rawness?

Peeling away habits of destructive coping rituals leaves me feeling exposed and undersupported. The new and healthy habits I am developing don't seem to obscure the fear and anger from which I have been trying to escape. Instead, they lead me back to them even while providing some kind of support for me while I learn to look clearly at myself.

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