It's so easy to feel stagnant. How little effort it takes to look around and take note of what needs to be fixed, or worked on, improved, changed, rather than to settle into a smile over the work completed. And this is a pretty cliche thing to talk about in the world of wellness - believe me, I know. Before I get too into it, I recognize that we are constantly hearing about how we should practice more gratitude in the process of slowing down and witnessing our growth.
But if it's such a cliche, why hasn't it been working?
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I had a friend recently mention that they were a little worried about me after my last post. They said something along the lines of not realizing how exhausted I was; they assured me I could have stayed home if I needed to. I laughed it off in that moment and assured that I was fine - definitely tired, but not enough to miss out on a Friday night with friends - which was, and is, true. But what I left out is that it hasn't been so much of a physical exhaustion, rather than a mental, deep-soul fatigue. Burnout, maybe. Lack of motivation and spark, absolutely. I wasn't sure if that would have made sense, so I didn't elaborate. But looking back on it, I really don't know how anyone couldn't relate.
I've talked about this before, too - but I keep having to remind myself that post-quarantine is sort of like a new world order. We had to adapt, very quickly, to constant stress and worry - not just for the every-day that comes with being an adult, but for our lives and livelihoods. This made our mental alarm bells go off so often that we became deaf to them and conditioned to the feeling of being on watch. That sensation doesn't just go away when mask mandates start lifting. No wonder we're all so tired. I have to bring that up with myself so often in order to not feel like a failure, or at the very least, unreasonably lazy. The last thing it is, in fact, is unreasonable. There is a particular, pinpointed reason for feeling the way so many people are.
And I'll take it back two years prior to the pandemic, in the midst of my college years and spiraling anxiety. I had not, and have not, ever felt worse. I was a silent stream of panic from freshman to senior year, sometimes so severely that I genuinely didn't know if I'd make it through the day. I couldn't see it as anything other than a miracle. I'll save the details of those years for another post, if they'll ever be called upon, but the reason I bring them up now is because sometimes I will feel myself in the body of 20-year-old Erin again, and think, how did I make it here? How did I make it out? How did I survive?
There are loads of potential explanations and combinations of them, but the short answer is that I haven't sat down to figure it out, and maybe I don't need to. What I know is that I'm here and I'm so much happier, so much better off than I thought I would be. Shit, I'm alive in a moment that a past version of me thought I wouldn't live to see. It's incredible.
So when I jump back into my current body, 24-and-a-half, exhausted, paying a mortgage, living with the love of my life, burnt out and lacking the motivation, at the moment, to go to the gym and cook meals every night, I try to remember that at one point I thought I'd never get here at all. When I look around at the house with frustration because we haven't hung shelves and we still don't have a couch upstairs, I try to remember the deep-seated, repeated fear that used to play in my mind over and over: the one where I was sobbing on the floor to my mother because I had no money, no place to go, and no one to help me. I genuinely didn't see, at the time, how life could play out any differently. When I stare at my body in the mirror or in photos and get discouraged, I try to remember when I used to stare at a cup of yogurt for half an hour and refuse to let myself eat it, despite the hunger, because I had already surpassed my calories for the day.
I try to think of those younger versions of me with love. I try to send them the smallest sign that everything has worked out, up to being 24-and-a-half. And I keep saying "I try" because this version of me feels that I don't do it enough. I'm writing about this tonight because I think it's so necessary, beyond reminding ourselves to be grateful, to simply remember where we came from and the fears that once enveloped us. Haven't we outgrown at least a few of them?
I could fill pages with habits I've broken, patterns and friendships I've rightfully stepped away from, truths I've learned for the betterment of my soul. But, because I'm not a superhuman, I'll always be a little more inclined to focus on the fact that I still bite my nails, or that I can't stick up for myself to certain people, or that my parents have left some pretty hefty, tangled and twisted beliefs about myself and the world for me to sort through and make sense of. It's going to take more than 24-and-a-half years to check it all off. It's unrealistic to even look at it all like a checklist.
But how I've grown. How feverishly I would scream to the universe about how I'd take this version of myself - demotivated and dulled, perhaps, but so content - over the version who genuinely wanted something tragic to happen to her because she felt she deserved it. I hold so much love for her. I wish I could actually hold her. But God, I don't envy her.
How you've grown. And I know it without perhaps knowing you. How monumentally far you've come from those past versions of yourself. That's not to say you don't miss parts of them, nor that you've lost things you know they would have liked to keep. I'm looking at you, now, in astonishment for the fact that you're here, carrying on as you are. Life has been really fucking hard as of late, the world bleak too often, the days endless at times. But here you are. Those past versions and their desires, their fears now outgrown, have grown into you. I hope you can see how truly amazing that is.
Whatever isn't right with life right now, I challenge us all to put it down for today. Just a day. Instead, witness what you were once afraid of that is no longer true or present. See how it feels to live in the absence of those fears, though you've surely grown into some new ones. Weren't they big? Weren't they terrifying? What is it like to think of them now?
You thought you'd never get here. But even though "here" isn't perfect, nor is it how you might have imagined, it's real. It's deserved. It's every single thing that you choose to witness and fill it with.