You may not know this about me, but I’m a ghostwriter. This means that various clients who have stories to tell but lack in writing skills hire me to help them tell their stories. I love ghostwriting because it’s like playing pretend.
Recently, I was writing an entrepreneurial article about how to strengthen your weaknesses to improve your business prospects.
However, it got me thinking, because a lot of the advice I was writing (as someone else) seemed to hold true to other stuff in life, too.
Writing as my entrepreneur alter-ego, I wrote about how one of the first steps toward strengthening your weaknesses is identifying them.
I began thinking about my own weaknesses, in both my personality and how I function in relationships. Not necessarily in a self blame or beating myself up sort of way, but more in a “well, how could my life and relationships benefit from changing these things?” kind of way.
One thing in particular that I decided to focus on is my tendency toward isolation.
I have this thing where I need a lot of space. A whole solar system of space. I need a lot of alone time, and I can get cagey if someone is in my space too long. I get mean and rude and selfish. I alienate people. But then when I am left alone, I feel shitty. I get lonely and then I get sweet and try to lure them back.
It’s a terrible thing, that push-pull thing I do.
When I am eventually left alone and get lonely, a scaffolding of food thoughts seems to rapidly construct around my heart and brain, keeping them from feeling hurt, but also keeping them from feeling connection.
So, in thinking about this, I took my own advice, again from the article I was writing.
I considered the benefits of changing.
On the one hand, changing is scary, because if I change, will I even be able to recognize myself?
But then on the other hand, I realize I have so much to gain by trying to conduct myself differently. I could gain love connections, deep friendships, family, opportunity…actually, pretty much ONLY benefits.
By changing, I could make my life and relationships better and stronger and more loving.
The only non-beneficial aspect that I could think of was a doozy, of course: it would be hard to change.
For one thing, it meant that I had to acknowledge my bad behavior and to admit that my conduct may have been hurtful to people in the past. It also meant that I had to face the fact that this tendency of mind could be keeping me from experiencing the true potential of relationships.
God, that was a hard truth to face. Part of me couldn’t even take it, and wanted to do something, anything, to get rid of that rotten feeling of having done something wrong.
In my eating disordered past, I would deal with that terrible feeling by smothering it with food thoughts. I might try to fill the void with ice cream and cookies and then vomit them up to give the pain a physical manifestation. Or, I might deny myself food while simultaneously thinking about it all the time.
Distraction techniques. It’s so easy to see now. But now, all I’m left with is pain.
I wanted to make big sobbing apologies to people, to beg for and be granted forgiveness. I wanted to make things OK again, like right now.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Talk can be good, but it’s cheap if it’s not backed up by action. A teary apology is only a band-aid if I don’t take more proactive steps to change the behavior.
So now, here’s where the real work begins: being open to, and committing to, changing for the better.
The other day, I made a list of things that I could do to help foster this true and lasting change and to be more open and loving without my ol’ push-pull routine. It went kind of like this:
Let people in.
Say yes more.
Let yourself love.
Let things hurt.
Consider the other person’s point of view.
Then, on Sunday, I went to a yoga class where the teacher did a talk on the very subject of change, which was oddly appropriate to my situation. His yogic prescription is even simpler and better than mine, and included “the 4 R’s”. I forget exactly how he explained them so I am taking a few liberties here.
Refuge: Get yourself in a safe, quiet place for reflection.
Remember: Remember what transpired.
Regret: Consider the potentially hurtful effects.
Resolve: Learn from your mistakes, and resolve to move forward in better ways.
Anyhow, this is kind of a long-winded way of getting around to it, but one of my realizations here is that the work of recovery doesn’t get any easier the further you progress.
If anything it just gets more challenging, because you actually have to live with and sit with the deeply uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy and anxiety that come with facing your personal demons. You don’t have the safety of your eating disorder anymore to cover up the pain.
I’m not trying to be defeatist by saying this, though. Ultimately, while dealing with these “real” issues is hard, I believe the rewards can be incredible. For me, actually facing these things means moving toward the life, happiness, and true and lasting connections that I so deeply desire.