The following is something I wrote during my morning writing routine this morning…New Year’s Eve, 2018.
In one day, a new year will begin. 2018 will close and with it all of the difficulties and heartaches will go too…
Wait. No. That’s not how it works, is it? The heartaches are still there. Still hurting. The difficulties are, in many cases, still there also.
So instead of writing about all the things I decided I would ignore or throw out or disown at the end of the year in favor of “living with and on purpose,” I decided instead to write about one tiny piece of what it means to me to change how I feel about the promises I make to myself.
2019 will be a year of difficulties and heartache too, just like many others. But 2019 will be different in a couple of ways:
I will no longer break promises to myself in 2019.
I will seek daily to Live Well (On Purpose). I promise myself this. “And I NEVER break those.”
I would love your support as I seek to Live Well (On Purpose), and if you’re ready to do the same and join a community of people who want to help support you, click the button below to join my email list and get a link to join my Facebook Group!
Here’s what I wrote this morning:
I love Rachel Hollis’ quote about not breaking promises to yourself. “I made a promise to myself, and I never break those.”
While Rachel was able to get to the point where she never breaks her promises to herself...I’m about 6 marathons behind. I’m just like her friend: “I’m the first person I break promises to.”
And I didn’t even realize how much resentment I was holding toward myself for breaking my promises...I mean, I knew in general that it sucked and I wasn’t terribly happy with myself about it all along, but it wasn’t until I did the first meditation in the Forgiveness series on the Calm meditation app that I realized how truly resentful I’ve felt toward myself for failing, quitting, or even refusing to try to be healthier.
I did only the 10 min meditation...glad I started with the shortest one, on Forgiveness of Self. Tamara, in her always soothing voice, asked that I go back in my mind to a time when I let myself down or did something I wish I hadn’t done.
I was instantly transported to my apartment in North Carolina...I could see it as if I was standing in the living room. I walked into the hallway, and cracked open the bedroom door. I could see myself lying in bed under the covers with my computer—the same one I’m writing on now—next to me playing Gilmore Girls for the 15th time. I could see myself at my heaviest weight—when walking to the kitchen would wind me. I couldn’t even sit up to watch GG in bed.
I could see my hair matted to my head. I had a pixie cut then. I regret cutting it off...but now it’s back to almost the same length or longer.
I remember how numb I felt in this place. I lived inside of Gilmore Girls as much as I could. I longed for Luke to come out of the screen and carry me into Lorelai’s home. I could become Lorelai. Coffee addicted, beautiful home, great job, man who adores me...who wouldn’t love her life? She was fit and cute too. I’m talking season 4-5 cute and fit. The best Lorelai-hair seasons and the best love with Luke seasons of those regular season shows.
As I went through the meditation, I was both feeling how I felt in that bed, under those covers, with my kitties next to me or on my legs or on the bookshelves behind me. I could feel their purrs like a small, vibrating alarm clock. They always wanted neck scratches, and the most I could be pulled out of my GG world to do was pet them. I never wanted to move more than that—unless it was to get coffee or food.
But I was also myself as I currently am. Wearing my soft shorts and my boyfriend’s T-Shirt that I wear to bed every night, and my Iowa State sweatshirt—also my boyfriend’s. My hair has grown a lot since my NC days. It’s almost as long as it was before I cut it off. I’m more fit than I was then, though still not near back to where I was before I moved to NC, when I was borderline obsessed with working out and running and eating “clean.”
I realize I’ve been resenting this version of me—this lying in bed under the covers with GG playing on repeat (all but season 7...because who wants to see Luke and Lorelai split up?!) and eating delivered Jimmy Johns sandwiches or anything else I felt like ordering—for giving up on my physical fitness.
That work was OURS. We worked so damn hard for that body we had the last 2 years of college. 150 lbs, lean and strong, beautiful hair, thin face, no rolls. Discipline. We used to have discipline.
But the girl-not-quite-ready-to-be-a-woman under those covers had ruined it. She had let one promise go broken...then another...one run skipped because “it wasn’t safe to run by myself in Durham,” then another. One fat and oil and sugar filled meal replacing a clean one after another...and the result was 206 pounds of no cardio endurance, no confidence, and living vicariously through skinny Lorelai Gilmore and her “medical marvel” thin frame that could have anything put into it and still remain thin.
I had done that to myself.
In my meditation, Tamara suggested that I start to feel empathy for myself at that time. I was already bawling. In my mind, I watched myself sit up with sadness and emotional exhaustion making my eyes heavy. I saw my former self sit on the edge of the bed, stomach rolls bunching up, hamstrings tight and cramping, hair matted, skin creased from the blankets, cheeks red from the bed warmth. My cat Franky comes up and turns around to flick his tail at me. He wants attention. I pet him and smile a little...the most smiling I did in that room when I wasn’t engrossed with GG. I watch myself sigh.
But now I can see the invisible weights on my back. They are all engraved: Failing marriage. No Friends. Outsider. Isolated. Disconnected. Fat. Bitch. Mean. Judgmental. Judged.
I notice how they all sit right on my mid back and crush me. My shoulders are hunched forward from the weight. There’s a weight for every mean thing my ex-husband ever said to me. There’s a weight for every drive thru or delivery meal I choked down—not really wanting it but desiring it nonetheless. There’s a weight for every time I felt like people didn’t like me...every time I felt like I had no friends, which was all the time. There’s a weight for every time I said “I just want to go home.”
There’s a weight for every broken promise...all the promised I made to myself and then broke.
And current me is crying. Big, sobbing tears. Tamara from Calm keeps reminding me to breathe and follow my breath. I’m choking on my breath between my tears.
I go up to earlier myself and reach out for her hand. Still crying, I lead myself with both hands out of the bedroom in that small apartment in Durham, North Carolina, through the hallway and into the living room.
I guide myself to take a seat on the sunk in, blue leather couch. I try to find the spots that aren’t collapsed. I keep looking into my eyes. The earlier version of me can’t see me looking into her eyes with tears in mine. I’m holding both of her hands. She’s avoiding my gaze like an autistic child who can’t look into her mom’s face.
I break my gaze for a moment and look toward the desk on the other side of the room. My ex-husband is sitting there. Headphones in. Glasses on. Desk lamp putting a glare on the glasses so I can’t see his eyes. Not that he’s looking at us anyway. He’s engrossed in a book or a game or playing guitar. He doesn’t notice the earlier version of myself...or if he notices, he doesn’t acknowledge. I realize I have a lot of work to do to forgive him as well, but right now I’m engrossed in my empathy for my former self.
I look back at myself. My earlier self’s eye lids are heavy still. The weights are still there. I can’t pull them or push them off of my back. So I have to leave them there to crush me.
I don’t say anything to myself. I just hold my hands and try to look into her eyes and get her to see me.
I want to show her that our hair grows back. I want to show her that our left hand looks better without a ring. I want to show her that our skin clears up and our nails grow strong. I want to show her that we’ve gotten back into running and, even though it isn’t easy, we’re doing it.
I want to show her the bracelet we wear now that the love of our life—the man we dated when we were an even earlier version of ourselves and were always in love with—gave us. I want to show her that our waistline will shrink, as much from feeling our love’s arms around us—negating any need for the warm embrace of chocolate cake and milkshakes—as from our running routine.
I want to tell her we are loved now. Truly loved.
I want to encourage her that she’ll need every ounce of toughness she can get from living in this place and dealing with all of this crap and toting all of these weights to face obstacles ahead...supporting and loving a man who struggles with PTSD and depression, figuring out the most difficult financial situation we’ve ever faced, working hard to find a full-time job when we’ve just been getting by on our freelance income for 8 years.
Maybe most difficult of all, I want to tell her that her pain isn’t without purpose. We need that pain to begin to learn who we are, what we want, and to fuel us to fight with passion to build the life we dream of.
And I want to thank her for being who she is and getting to the point she got us to so that I could look back to her now and know how I got to where I am and how good our life—in all its difficulty—now is.
I don’t want to play the comparison game, even with my former self. I don’t mean that I look back to myself at that time and realize how good I have it now in comparison...I’ve too often looked back to earlier than that—to the last two years of college—and felt bad about where I am now in comparison.
No, I mean that I look back at her—my earlier self—now and thank her for the warrior she is becoming. Soon, in only a few months from now, she’ll stand in this very room. Our ex will be sitting where she is now. She’ll be wearing an oversized gray T-Shirt with a Niki logo on it. No bra, no pants. Just stretched out underwear under the T-Shirt. She’ll be sporting the mullet-like hair cut she’s growing now because she can’t make herself leave the house to get it trimmed. She’ll be completely exposed, and somehow entirely secure in her body.
She’ll ask our ex 2 questions: “What is more important, getting a PhD or remaining married to me?” And in response to his answer that the former is more important, she’ll ask, “Are you willing to move home to Iowa with me?”
And when he answers, “No,” she will say in the calmest, most controlled manner: “Okay. I’m moving home. I’m taking the cats. And we are getting divorced.”
She isn’t trying to hurt him with those three statements. She’s relieved. One weight comes off her back. She feels lighter. She literally loses almost 10 pounds that week alone—mostly emotionally controlled, physical weight, she assumes.
She feels heavier and lighter at alternating times throughout the next few days and weeks and months and years...but in that moment, she will feel lighter.
So I sit there, my current self with my former self, and I cry because I know what’s coming. It’s both exciting and terrifying. I’m excited and terrified for her, my former self, even though I know what’s coming.
I squeeze her hands, stand up, and walk to the apartment door. I open it. I look back at myself. She’s looking longingly at our ex...wishing he would pay attention to her. She sighs.
I take a step out the door and look back one more time. I smile and let more tears fall.
She’ll be ok. I’ll be ok.
Tamara says, “When you’re ready, open your eyes.”
I squeeze mine a little tighter—squeeze out the tears again. Then I open and wipe my eyes.
And then, I’m ready. I’m ready to get to work. I’m ready to write, to run, to stretch, to eat well, to fight, to cry, to hustle.
And most of all...I’m ready to REFUSE to break any other single promise I make to myself.
“I made a promise to myself. And I NEVER break those.”