I’m back in New Orleans. I have bad habits. Bad habits are often linked to place and company. I had good habits on my trip because I was with a judgemental teenager. I have lost my judgemental teenager and now must fend for myself in this jungle.
Things that mitigate back-sliding.
Singing. I haven’t smoked cigarettes for a week and when I went out to busk last night I was so happy to see how much breath I had. How much control and strength. Happy isn’t quite the word for the sensation. It was a kind of calm pleasure, as of receiving a thing that you know belongs to you.
Absence of misery. I’m not quite at this one because I’ve just started a ketogenic diet at the recommendation of a friend with similar brain-being-pulled-into-vortex-of-death mental health symptoms. She has had wild success with not feeling like she’s going to die all the time and not waking up with shock, fear and baseless dread. I am excited for these things, but currently my body is on an intermittent We Need Sugar campaign.
Driving back from North Carolina to New Orleans, I didn’t have any media playing for most of it. It takes me about an hour to calm down into quiet enough to start watching what’s happening inside me without constant, desperate little thoughts trying to seize on some distraction and pull me back. I worry for those thoughts. They are so afraid, and once you settle down past them they have so little power and so little purpose. Why do they even exist?
Turns out, I am addicted to everything. Hyperbole. But kind of. I behave like an addict with everything. Not drugs, I could never fit them into my narrative in a way that let me think I was still in control of myself. But alcohol, cigarettes, food, entertainment, sleep, music, and male attention. Some of those things you can stop completely, but you can’t stop food. You can’t cut out sleep. Male attention, with it’s bizarre power stripping/power enhancing combo, is also very hard to eschew unless you are going to a nunnery. Spending a lot of time with women helps with that one, gives you a clean contrast so you can tell what feels healthy and what feels gross and it’s not all just undifferentiated mush with some endorphins in the middle.
I’m kind of addicted to Aaron, which is off putting for both of us. I love him and want to spend time with him and I want to spend time with him even when I really really don’t. Even when I want to go do something by myself. Even when he wants to go do something by himself. There is a clutching and a desperation that has no relation to him as a person, that I am identifying now as the exact same response to bagels. He is not a fucking bagel. It is destructive to our actual relationship to relate to him as if he were a bagel.
If music is on in order to avoid thinking and not in order to listen to it, it’s the same creature. And tv or movies or stupid internet stuff.
I’ll sleep in order to not be there with myself. I’ll read in order to not be there with myself, and that one is a crying shame because I love reading. It is one of the greatest pleasures I know. This approach to it, this addictive avoidant approach, cripples the pleasure in it because there is a tension that must be maintained the whole time. If you were to relax that tension, you would realise you didn’t want to be reading right now and have to put the book down and there you are again with you.
Sugar. Turns out I am crazy addicted to sugar, which is also wheat, which is also potatoes and other grains. These things turn into sugar in your body. I’m basically doing uppers and crashing three to five times every day. I’m not telling anybody else they should do this, I have no idea what’s happening in your body so please don’t take this as advice. Do some research if you want. Think about it for awhile. I’ve been thinking about it for about a year and a half and now I’m getting better at putting little markers on thoughts that feel like me and thoughts that feel like sugar addiction. Those thoughts will pretend to be you. You will think they are you. They surge up like a little firecracker, very bright and loud and inclining you to panic and take action. But if you can hold yourself still, or promise yourself that you’ll indulge that firecracker in, oh, half an hour or so, you get to see that the life span of these addict thoughts are tiny. As long as you don’t to indulge them right then, for me, they fade within about a minute. They are many, but on examination they are individuals, not just a wave. And their frequency decreases as you continue to delay them. More and more, you see that they have no roots within you. They are a rider on you, not inherent to you. They whisper that indulgence is self-care because it is what keeps them alive.
It’s been a long time coming that I could do something like this without violence towards myself, without trying to starve myself or hating myself. It has never worked from that foundation because the hate makes you so sad that the promise of comfort is even more alluring, even more effective. I just watch now. Neutral. Sorting the threads of the thoughts and tracing them back to their points of origin. Was that me? Did it sound like me? Did it feel like me? No, it’s a little goblin in a mental attic dangling bait. A scaredy little goblin. Poor goblin. All things strive towards life and propagation. Viruses. Thoughts. Cultures. I pity these thoughts that want to live but I will not be a host. I will not be a carrier for desires that are not mine.
After about two hours in silence in the car, as I was doing my prayers and feeling myself open and open and open, it came into my mind that it was an act of courage for a flower to bloom, to continue to open. Addictions are curtains. They are blankets that make us feel safe. And they do, for a time, make you feel safe. Then they rob you of peace and of sensation.
Physical relaxation is another component of this. It is another thing that feels very very dangerous. When I relax my neck and shoulders it makes me feel like I’m going to die. I’m trying to right now at this cafe and I am crying because it makes me feel like I’m going to die. But I will die, sometime. That’s okay. And look, now I’m not afraid anymore. How sweet. I can see leaves moving in the wind. So much space. So much light.