I want to wake up in a foreign country. The cityscape beyond the window exotic and unfamiliar, the sheets white and crisp, the noise of the city muffled and undecipherable. I want to wake up in a jungle, the tangle of trees coming close to the glass, nature hushed and thick. I want to wake up by the sea, falling asleep to the noise of the waves crashing against the cliff, the horizon endless and blue.
Anywhere but here.
She says: You can run, but your demons will come with you.
For the past few months, I’ve been facing them. Sitting in circles of other humans, closing our eyes, baring our scars, listening. Showing up for therapy, climbing down the stairs past the guard who never looks up from his iPad, down into the basement with the tattered ceiling, past long corridors, into a small conference room with a table so large, there’s barely room to move around, the walls lined with collapsing, half-opened old boxes, and pictures of oil rigs and digging sites in cheap dusty gold frames. I cling to my coffee as she pries open things I don’t like to share.
Sometimes, I find myself on a loop, rehashing the same things over and over until my brain feels like such a broken record, I wish I could just fling it against the wall. I quiet it by getting into bed, bringing the covers up above my head, a flannel-wrapped hot water bottle close to my skin; by going to a yoga class followed by a sauna and a steaming hot shower; by showing up at her house and surrendering my demons to her.
“Nobody wants to do it- not real change, not soul change, not the painful molecular change required to truly become who you need to be. Nobody ever does real transformation for fun. Nobody ever does it on a dare. You do it only when your back is so far against the wall that you have no choice anymore.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
This summer, that’s how it felt: like my back was pinned so far against the wall I had no more breathing room.
He says: our reactions are like roads in our brains, wired a certain way, and then rewired and rewired every time we choose that reaction again and again, until that road becomes a highway our brain will always take.
Lately, I’ve been trying to pause, observe my reactions. Consciously choose a different path.
I tell my therapist that I’ve been afraid to take the lightrail since the stabbings have begun; I’ve been taking cabs everywhere. It’s been an expensive little phobia.
She asks: I’m just checking with you. Do you think your fear is rational, legitimate? In the past two weeks since you were last here, were you stabbed?
I leave her office, and stand outside: Do I call a cab? Do I take the lightrail right around the corner, that goes all the way to my house?
How much of what I’m feeling is even real? How much of it is just a programming that I can choose to program differently?
I cross the street and get on.
I’m in the desert again, and there’s a sign on the door to the cabin where the workshop is being held, it says: Leave your mind and shoes behind.
When I started this intense hacking of my personality, I thought maybe I would emerge a different person, that my inner self would change dramatically. It’s not that, though, not exactly: more like that this voice that was muffled this whole time, I can hear it a bit clearer now; and all of these things that were weighing me down, I’ve been letting go of some of them, or at least, I’m starting to look them in the eye.
There are so many parts of myself I want to change:
The good girl, who says yes to everything, who wants to please, who shoved her own wishes so far down she doesn’t even know what they are anymore.
I exist only when I’m of service.
It doesn’t matter what I want.
I can’t ask for what I want.
I don’t even know what I want.
The part of me that doesn’t know what real love is, what unconditional love is, that doesn’t really believe it exists, and that draws to me little things that I hold on to, things that I accept, that I manifest. Halfway houses for love; substitutes.
I don’t deserve love.
I’ll grab this greedily because it’s all I’ll get.
I’m only loved when I’m good.
There’s no way anyone can love all of me.
The part of me that believes that my worth is dependent on how productive I am; on what I’m doing. That the only time it’s ok to rest is if you’re sick. I was sick a lot this winter.
My self-worth is dependent on how much I do.
I’ll be enough if…
She says: Begin with loving yourself.
When my demons get restless and start bubbling up, they reach up with big greedy hands, and I feed them chocolate. Shh, I say, sending down warm cake and icecream and more cake. Let me suffocate you with that.
He says: you have to stop it with the chocolate.
Excuse me, but do you know how big they’ll get if I just let them out?
They circle my bed: the fear of stabbings and of sirens and of planes and of natural disasters and life in general and being sick and alone and not productive, and the one holding the nutella jar, and the puffy dark grey one, towering above them all, that says: you see all of these demons here? NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE YOU.
And apparently, I’m supposed to sit there like a little buddha, with upturned palms, and instead of being like: here, take some carbs and shut the f up; I’m supposed to be like: Oh, hmm, I see. Oh you too, hmm, well then. Welcome.
I’m working on it.
Roasted Zucchini & Romanesco Buddha Bowls
Serves 2 (or 1 now + 1 later)
3 cups cooked grains (such as quinoa, wild rice or buckwheat)
1 head Romanesco
1 yellow zucchini
1 green zucchini
1/4 bunch of kale
1/3 cup canned chickpeas
1/3 cup cubed sheep’s milk feta
handful of micro greens (such as sunflower sprouts)
mixed fresh herbs to garnish (such as oregano, thyme, mint, chives or cilantro)
salt & pepper
Heat your oven to 200C/400F. Break the Romanesco into florets, and slice the zucchini into half moons. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and arrange the Romanesco and zucchini on it in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt + pepper. Roast for 45 minutes or until golden.
Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients: Peel the carrots and shave them into ribbons using a vegetable peeler; slice the kale into bite size pieces, and massage it with some olive oil and salt for a minute until it gets aromatic and dark green; rinse and drain the chickpeas.
Divide the grains among two bowls, and top with the vegetables, feta + greens. Garnish with herbs. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and season with salt + pepper.