Just when you think you can’t learn anything else about yourself that you don’t already know, BAM! Something happens that challenges you, changes you and shocks you to your core.
Sometimes it happens that you discover it yourself, but more often than not, someone else sees it and points it out for you. These kinds of friends are important as they challenge you to grow and to see that you do change through life. What you never saw before is suddenly apparent and sometimes the actions you’ve put in place to survive a certain time in your life are still being clung to, long after the situation has passed. In other words, the walls we erected to keep ourselves safe, now serve as a cell.
At the age of 31 I thought I knew everything about myself that I was going to learn, but learning is a lifelong process and so is finding out about who you are as a person.
Sometimes it takes a very special set of circumstances to make you realize that you’ve been missing out on life. Maybe you’ve stopped doing something you enjoy simply because you read an article about the apparent health risks that may be a part of it. Perhaps you’ve been channeling your energy into something or someone who is not worthy of the effort or you’ve stopped allowing yourself to love another simply because you’ve been hurt in the past. Whatever the case, these decisions often mean that you aren’t really ‘living’ you’re simply existing in the world.
Last night I did something I haven’t done in a long time; a very long time in fact. Last night I had my first drink in over 13 years. Why did I stop in the first place? What made me decide to finally break the pattern last night? The answer is a very special set of circumstances and of course, the essence of everything in life: timing.
I’d had a bad day, I needed to get some things off my chest and a friend suggested I come over to his place for a drink. I accepted. I told myself, “Jade, it’s time. You need to deal with this and you need to do it now.”
As I pulled the lid on the can and heard it gasp with a satisfying “ah”, I settled back on my friend’s couch and let loose with all my troubles. In between talking I sipped my drink and it was when I was about halfway through the can that I suddenly thought, what’s wrong with my muscles? They feel so relaxed. Ah yes, the wonderful effects of alcohol and how it just relaxes the senses; numbs the senses in some cases. Then again, was it the alcohol, or was it my subconscious that was aware I had let go of things that no longer served me? Perhaps I will never know. In any case, muscles that had been bunched in knots for over three years suddenly loosened and I wondered why I hadn’t done this earlier. I knew the answer to that, that much I did know about myself.
“I used to be fun,” I said to my friend.
He looked at me and said, “Yeah, you used to be.” “
What?!” I retorted. “You don’t think I’m fun?!” I screwed my eyes up at him and looked at him critically.
“I didn’t say that, I’m just saying what you said; ‘used’ as in past tense. Don’t put words into my mouth.”
I considered what I’d just said and even in my alcohol-muddled mind the realization hit me. This was my BAM! moment.
At a time in my life many years ago when I was a student at university, I’d stopped ‘living.’ I felt that many parts of my life were spiraling out of control due to external factors and the only way I could rectify that was by focusing on things that I was directly responsible for. Looking back now and talking or writing about it I can see how ridiculous it was, but at the time it made perfect sense, at least in my mind.
It began with giving up certain items of food and of course, alcohol. Alcohol gave me the ability to be free of all inhibitions and that often meant I was more honest with both others and myself than I would normally be. I figured if I stopped drinking I would have more control of my feelings and wouldn’t have to face them if I didn’t want to. I deprived myself of everything enjoyable because I knew that they could be taken from me at any time. I figured that if I didn’t have them in the first place I wouldn’t be losing anything.
I erected barriers around myself, walls so high and so thick they could not be penetrated. I distanced myself from anyone that tried to love me because I didn’t want to get hurt like in the past.
There was no joy in the world or in living. In fact it wasn’t living. I was starving myself, both literally and figuratively: for food, for love, for pleasure, for enjoyment. To live a life like that is exhausting.
The truth is that life is a risk. In living we extend ourselves, we face our fears and realize they were never really controlling us in the first place. We are only controlled by ourselves unless we give our power to others. It is up to ourselves to allow or not allow ourselves to feel or experience certain emotions in times of hurt or risk.
I wanted to start living again, in every possible way. I wanted to grab life with both hands and be the person I always was, the one who was locked away from the world, afraid to lose control if I let myself feel anything.
So I had a drink and I realized that I was in control, or at least, as much as anyone can be in life. At the age of 31 I finally understand that trying to control everything in life is not only pointless, it’s impossible. Life is to be lived and not to be bound by our own restrictions or by others we allow to restrict us. Life’s just too short for that.