It is snowing here in Portland Oregon today, and I am grateful that I am in my warm house. As I get older I feel like I can’t handle the cold as much as I did when I was younger. I like looking at it, but go out in it? No thanks! Probably because I am not drinking anymore too. It used to be fun to take a shot of warm brandy, bundle up and walk the neighborhood in the snow. Walking in the snow doesn’t seem as fun without that alcohol coursing through my veins to keep me warm. So, I have replaced these tipsy walks with staying in my warm house and being creative. It is a more solitary experience, but I don’t feel lonely. In fact, just the opposite. Even though I am creating alone, I feel surrounded by love. I feel happy. I feel excited about what I am creating.
Being creative every weekend has trained my emotions and brain to go to that place. So, now when I wake up on Saturday morning my brain automatically starts thinking about what I want to write about. I have been writing my blog for a little over a year now, and it is amazing how in such a short time I have developed this very ingrained habit. I used to spend my Saturdays at the gym punishing myself for drinking and eating too much the night before. I wouldn’t stop working out until every last bit of energy had been squeezed out of me. Sometimes I would be arguing with a family member, friend or my husband so I would be texting angrily in between exercises. I would walk by the full length mirror and my critical eyes would only see my faults. My eyes wouldn’t see that I was in pretty good shape for my age, they wouldn’t see how hard I had worked all week, they wouldn’t see the emotions inside of me, except for anger. I was filled with shame and it clung on to me like a wet blanket. The drinking didn’t help. The drinking made me more anxious and short tempered.
But it wasn’t just the drinking. It was a combination of everything that I had been through, and everything I kept putting myself through. I couldn’t even comprehend being creative back then. It was always some far off goal to convert my detached garage into an art studio. It was going to happen one day, and that would be the day I would start drawing again. I never put a deadline on it, so the idea just floated around in space and seemed unachievable. I felt like I didn’t have the time to be creative, or maybe I felt like I didn’t deserve to feel the love that was inside of me. I didn’t deserve to develop and nurture that love in order to be creative. I saw myself as a worker. I needed to get things done. My self worth came from how other people saw me. If they saw me as productive that made me feel worthwhile. This came from my childhood, as I was trained as a child to see myself in terms of my value to other people. I was trained not to say no or stand up for myself. I thought because I had physically gotten away from my family that they didn’t affect me anymore. But they lived inside of me everyday. I repeated what I had learned from them over and over to the point that I didn’t even know that I could say no to myself. I didn’t know I had the power to change my behavior towards myself. That I could stop beating myself up. I didn’t have to work out at the gym until I felt like I was going to collapse. I didn’t have to drink alcohol to the point that I felt sick to my stomach, my skin dried out and my eyes glazed over. I didn’t know that it was within my control to stop my own self abuse. I didn’t know I had a choice, and it made me angry. I felt powerless. I was angry at myself, and I was angry at other people.
So, I thought I could burn off my anger by constantly moving. I was in a one woman race. But a race that had no clear finish line. This race sometimes consisted of me driving around town aimlessly. What was I trying to accomplish? Exhaustion. I was trying to exhaust myself. All that running around was being done to tire myself out so I could stand to be with myself. If I was tired, I didn’t have to look at myself. Plus if I was exhausted then I would have an excuse not to make changes. A part of me knew I needed to make changes in my life, but my fear of what those changes may look like stopped me. I was scared. My fear kept me going through the motions of a life I had outgrown. And it was easier to go through the motions when I was exhausted, drinking or hungover. It made it bearable to do nothing about my dissatisfaction.
It is snowing harder now than when I first started writing. It is supposed to snow all week, and that is okay. I am in my warm house being creative and there is no place that I would rather be. I don’t need to wander aimlessly anymore looking for my value in other people’s eyes. When I walk by the mirror in my house I smile at myself. I look goofy with my hair in a bun and my baggy sweats on. But I see myself now. I have compassion for who I was, like I would for a friend who didn’t know better at the time. I have come a long way from my frantic days of punishing myself. I see my own value now. I feel my worth, even when I am alone in my house. I never knew this feeling existed, or was possible. I am not angry anymore, even at my family. They never knew me. But now I know me, and that is all that matters.