I think it’s high time for another un-earthing of old journal entries.
Last week at November Project was the week of wonder. 5 days, 5 workouts, 1 badass group of people doing work every morning. How fitting that the middle of the week gave us an opportunity to throw-down our toughest workout in the early morning summer sun. ‘The Messenger,’ as it’s called, is exactly one half-hour of running up, and down, the deceivingly treacherous hill at Gold Medal Park. Up and down thirty times – your rest period dependent only on how fast you can get up and down to the other side. It’s not terribly difficult to understand how one might be making this face during the fourth iteration, knowing you got a long 26 minutes to go:
But it’s not all bad. It’s not just suffering. It would be kind of pointless if there was no means justifying the end, right? And for myself, well I don’t even need to wait that long. In the heart of all these workouts, it’s everything I can do not to exude every ounce of leftover energy from the previous repeat by heaping on encouragement to everyone else coming down the hill.
I often fail.
So much so, that for the second time since my induction into November Project I was bestowed the Positivity Award. Sometimes in this life, it does pay to be an obnoxiously enthusiastic asshole. I’ll take what I can get. Represented by a miniature bat etched with the group name and the tribe’s city, being a recipient of the award allows me to reflect on what my relationship with positivity is, and how that’s changed over the years.
One way that that is made easier is by having a journal to reflect back on – and compare the content of my writing then (a terrible place mentally/emotionally/spiritually) to now (a work in progress, but MUCH better). I am not naturally a ‘positive’ person. At least not internally. External manifestation of this is reclusion and isolation. A feeling of wanting to be alone. This is a pretty natural state for someone who would be considered an ‘introvert,’ but when that label becomes a crutch to cling to bad, ingrained habits, well, the results speak for themselves. I spiraled into my own proverbial well of self-loathing and pity, enamoring myself in my own sorrow until I convinced myself that solitude and melancholy were just fundamental attributes of my personality. Unchanging, and destined to the defining characteristics of my soul until the passing of my physical presence in this world.
Pretty fucking grim, yeah?
Well, believe it or not, that’s where my headspace was not long ago! And look, I can prove it! Read on for some insight into the most authentic, only slightly abridged (out of respect for peeps’ privacy) details of my thought process from that time. Below are small excerpts of a few journal entries I’ve selected that should give some insight into just how, well, not positive it all was for me. This one comes from a journal entry the day after a night I shared with one of my best friends. Names are changed, some omissions made for clarity (but the content is unchanged/unedited!), and I bolded some text for emphasis:
Tuesday August 17th, 2015
Anna came over and we watched movies and talked literally until I could not keep my eyes open anymore. I’m not sure I have met somebody else who shares almost exactly the same sentiments toward their father as I do my mother…I know I haven’t had that kind of meaningful interaction with another person in a long time. Probably (rather, definitely) any other guy in my situation would have come to the conclusion that they are attracted to and interested in dating (or with most men I know/hear about, fucking) her. Whether it is because I am stubborn in keeping my word or because I’m determined to fulfill this vision of myself as a ‘loner,’ or because I’m truly not interested, I won’t be in a romantic relationship with Anna…I don’t think of myself as attractive and would be horrified to think of people seeing me not fully clothed, due to sheer embarrassment…I can’t imagine having to divulge the inner workings of my mind to another person again. And above all of the reasons I have already given there is something inside that pushes me to isolation so strongly that I am most happiest in seclusion. Perhaps it was the two years that I lived in solitude at the U that has made me so terrified about what other people think?
And then just a few days later:
Thursday August 20th, 2015
…It’s interesting that many of the new people I have met from work think of me as someone who has got it all figured out. I truly don’t myself as any more than a below average person who can’t find the discipline to succeed. I am absolutely baffled at how much other people can stay organized and happy, how others can make things happen for themselves. How they can find what really motivates them. I miss the confidence I had in myself, and would frankly give just about anything to have it back.
OO! And this encapsulating snippet right here:
Tuesday November 11th, 2015
…as I have stated many times, it is not a life I’m destined for. Solitude is the end-game for me, no doubt.
Alright, last one. This comes from an entry in which I was pushing myself to write stuff I hadn’t yet had the courage to put to paper. It comes from a conversation I had with a friend in which I came home feeling guilty that I was still holding onto intimate parts of my life when my friend was willing to share so much with me. I even lied to their face when they asked me straight up ‘Did you have an eating disorder?’ I plainly said no. Unconcerned with how terribly I lied. I was so afraid of myself that it was just enough to turn the conversation in another direction. But I managed to work the courage to spit out on paper, and now, 2 years later, I’m here to share it with you. It gets a little dark – bear with me:
But here is a list of things I have divulged to almost no one (and some things that have never been divulged)…we’ll start with me. No, Anna, I have not been fortunate enough to escape the clutches of eating disorder. Not anorexia, but disordered and binge-eating, you betcha. Suicidal ideation: You know I hadn’t really even thought of it as an issue at all, or even as a terribly sad thing, until recently. I imagined it all of the time actually, but in my childhood it was more me not getting the love of my life, or playing a martyr, or something. Now it has grown up a little and I see it more as an actual means to an end, especially since the binge-eating.
Time, effort, and practice are excellent modalities for change. And I mean BIG change. As I paged through entries of my old journal looking for the snippets that I could use to contrast my headspace now to then, I was honestly amazed at how much negativity I carried with me. I regret not writing and journaling more during those years in college where things were bad, just so I would have an even better understanding of how low things had gotten. To the point of giving credence to thoughts of self-harm? Maybe I would have put down on paper the times when I bounced a knife up and down on my forearm, just imagining how easy it would be to press down a little bit harder. And contemplating suicide? For me, well, that’s pretty fucking far down the hole. But just like physical training, and studying and learning, that journey from self-hate to self-love takes practice. It takes effort. It takes patience. It takes time. I talk about some of those things more in my best friend’s podcast – I encourage you to listen to it. Take a break from reading this (and thank you so fucking much for making it this far – I truly appreciate it) and put this podcast on 1.5x speed. I think you’ll learn a little!
Okay, where are we at? Positivity – yeah. Alright, let’s end this with two things. Firstly, I want to give you an example of what my journal entries look like now. I assure you that thoughts of self-harm and suicide are in the past. Let’s take a look! This comes from the end of the first week of 2018. The week following my epic 50 mile run, my return to NP, to Mill City, and the start of second semester of grad school. Names are different, content’s the same, bolded text for emphasis. Let’s take a look at what practicing mindfulness for a few years did for me:
Sunday January 7th, 2018
Let’s maybe put this week into perspective (not just write a bunch of fucking events). I have been more honest, open, and insightful than I have in my entire life combined. I have told people things I at one point thought I never would, or could. I talked with Beth about how terrified I was when I thought I was never going to give up binging. And maybe 2 months ago, that would have simply been impossible to mention…I surround myself with those I can confide in- those who take a true interest in my life. Those who love life, and the people in it, and love to laugh and share positive experiences. They love to learn, grow, and connect. Not complain, stagnate, and isolate…I love life again. I let myself give and receive intimacy…I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable, but feeling absolutely free, strong, and empowered every time I share my story. I’m admitting all of my faults, and maintaining humility on the (few, if any) proudful accomplishments in my life. I continue to grow stronger everyday – physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. Freeing myself of that disgusting, consuming habit is the single greast, defining moment of my life so far. I’ll use it to spread as much love and knowledge as possible. ‘Til next time!
I think you’ll notice a difference in tone. And it’s not exclusive to this entry. I’m not going to tell you that everyday of my life is some cherry-blossom, bed-of-roses, self-loving, fairy-tale. I am a person like any other – I still struggle with my body-confidence. And my self-confidence. I receive compliments about as well as I can swim (I could drown in a kitty pool). I’m not an enlightened individual by any means. But I practice being positive. Not just to others, but to myself too (although the former is wickedly easier for me). But that’s why they call it practice. I had to do some dirty, internal work. And I continue to have to do to that. I have to meditate. I have to sit with those nasty, hateful thoughts, and learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And I have to embrace the positive aspects of who I am more tightly when I recognize them. But like I said, the results speak for themselves. What you’ve read in this post is the contrast between what it’s like to be a slave to self-deprecation, and what it’s like to be fighting for self-gratitude.
Those are my thoughts on positivity. Hopefully I’ve elucidated that it’s not some magical millennial buzzword that hipsters throw around when they’re getting stoned. It’s a real damn thing that really damn changes how you think, feel, and act. Get out there and get some for yourself.