Leaps and Bounds

When you hit your breaking point, sometimes you need to be held and sometimes you need to talk. Sometimes you need to curl up in bed with the covers pulled up over your head, and sometimes you need to go for a nice long walk — out where the world is bigger and the air is crisp and clean and you know you’ll feel better in a bit. Surely, you’ll feel better in a bit.

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If that doesn’t do the trick, there are always plans B, C, and D. (But you really might want to give Plan A some thought.)

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What else you can do: delete your dating apps. (Remember the wisdom of looking for “someone to share your happiness with” versus “someone to make you happy.”) Do something for somebody else. Invite a friend to dinner, pick up some flowers, bake something warm and comforting for her to bring home. No need to overthink this too much; in the land of sweet surprises, you really can’t go wrong.

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If the feel-good wans, change back into your favorite pajamas. Read the book you’ve been saving it’s so good. Email your dad and sign it Love, Hannah. Text all three of your siblings the equivalent of I miss you. (When what you really mean is I need you. I need all of the support I can get.) Let yourself cry big drippy tears.

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Pick up the phone and CALL someone. It is good to hear other people’s voices. And about their lives, so much richer than your own. This is one of those important reminders.

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Make a list — a fun list. Put work out of your mind. (Remember what your biggest assignment is.) Wash your sheets. Paint your toes. Make a plan for tomorrow.

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My plan for this morning is simple: I want to write. Something, anything, doesn’t have to be for the blog. Sometimes I write and decide what I’m looking at is something I want to hug very close. (I am acutely aware of my tendency to use the blog as a stand-in substitute for a friend/teacher/lover who isn’t here. It’s a little embarrassing. Sometimes I hit publish feeling like I’ve made myself too vulnerable, and good grief, I need more people I can actually connect with in real life.) But other times, I write and it feels good and right and — I don’t know, empowering? — to put it out into the world.

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In any case, it feels good to work on something longer than a grocery list.

I’ve been doing something a little different lately: writing longhand. Most of it is crap (no delete key or backspace button), but I haven’t ripped any of it out, because there’s a sentence or two I like on just about every page.

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My mom gave me the notebook when she came to visit, and when I read the words embossed on the front cover, I knew why she’d chosen this one. Don’t wait — to start eating again. But also: to be the person you want to be, to be kind to yourself, to live your best life, to be happy, to fall in love. To make messy, beautiful babies, if that’s what you decide you want. Don’t wait.

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It has become one of those things I whisper to myself when things are hard. Which is essentially all the time, because with the way things are, I swing between “mildly to majorly stressed” Monday through Friday, before switching to “moderately to unbearably lonely” on Saturday and Sunday.

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Those are two big triggers for me: anxiety and sadness. I don’t think I’m genuinely depressed this time, which helps, although I am very worried about all of the rainy months ahead. I think at the moment I’m just deeply entrenched in what I’ve come to rely on disordered eating to do for me (namely, slap a thick layer of fog over every feeling so sharp), and it’s scary hard to stop.

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Stopping involves sitting in my apartment in a literal puddle of tears (there are splotches all over my pants and more pooling on the hardwood) and accepting that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. It involves remembering that it’s actually a good sign to be feeling this badly, to be feeling this much. It involves telling myself twenty times a day that I won’t always feel this awful, and I just need to eat, however I can get myself to do that, no right or wrong way, and then at least I won’t be contending with hunger in addition to everything else.

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It involves asking for help, and not trying to be this person who can handle it (can handle everything). It involves realizing how absurd it is to aim to go through life without needing anything or anybody. It involves deciding that chasing after some completely unachievable standard is exhausting and we aren’t meant to look nineteen forever. And it involves remembering that I like myself better when I am softer and more approachable and more able to be present. OK, I was two sizes bigger, but I was also healthy, and I had more interesting things to talk about than what I had for lunch and what I was thinking about for dinner.

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Getting better means deciding to do things differently so that every day doesn’t feel like a series of transgressions to avoid. It means deciding that strength, for me, looks like reaching for another slice of cheese or a second square of chocolate. It means deciding that bravery, in my book, looks like crying on the stairwell in my building (currently the only place I can get the Wi-Fi to connect). It means deciding that progress is having my eyes well up with tears at any sensitivity, any kindness, the way you are always OK until someone asks in the gentlest voice, “Are you OK?” and suddenly you’re not.

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Getting better means going easy on myself. Easy, easy. Gentle, gentle. It means asking the people who love me to tell me over and over again that they don’t care what I look like; they just want me to be happy — even though I hate that I need that reassurance. I won’t always. It means telling myself GOOD JOB, in all caps, with clapping emoji, even though half the time I feel like I haven’t done a good job at all. It means choosing not to punish myself anymore, not ever again. (First for being thin but feeling inauthentic because I was dieting to look that way, and then for being bigger but unable to sit with it without feeling so ashamed.)

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Healing means noticing I’ve gained weight and resisting the urge to shrink back into who I used to be. It means moving on, moving forward. To where it is all very uncertain and it may be better but it may also be worse and tell me how does anybody ever feel reasonably OK about this. At least it will not be the same. I am tired of the same.

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At the bottom of page two in my new Kelly green notebook: “I can do this. And even if I can’t, I have to.”

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“You make slow progress when you come out of anything difficult. Every day is another step, and in the beginning there are so many setbacks you feel as if you won’t ever make it. But over time you realize that it’s true what they say: every step backward is preceded by three steps forward. And one day you lift up your head and realize you’re not just talking steps, you’re talking leaps and bounds.” -Unknown

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“Deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we know that there is no such thing as a work-free transformation. We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were and go on from there.” -Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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“It’s about speaking from the largest part of yourself — that part continuously reaching for a bigger life. That part willing to risk a little bit of lonely. That part that makes a practice of faith, religious or not, and thinks: well hell if I’m not lucky that I get to feel this, hard as it is.” -Meg Fee

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4 thoughts on “Leaps and Bounds

  1. Thanks for sharing this! You are an awesome writer! I’m at a loss of words but you made me feel, believe and relax…

  2. I appreciate your writing so, so much. Whether you’re edging through pain/fear or sharing your small joys of happiness and memories, I connect with your words. I feel a lot of the things you feel-thank you for your openness. Facing the world is infinitely better when you know you’re not the only one wading through the unknown.

    -Sarah

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