It’s been quite a difficult few days. It’s been stressful along a multitude of fronts.
With the number 8 figuring prominently in a lot of things. And yes, I’m being cryptic. Mostly because I don’t necessarily want to say much at all. I’m still gathering thoughts and processing emotions (and sorting out the spaghetti bowl of emotions is never a straightforward exercise).
Last week, I received a resounding yes in answer to something that I’ve been praying for for a while (there were a lot of tears and storming the gates of heaven). Then I had to pray for guidance about how to go about having the difficult conversations that would come following the answered prayer. Whilst I don’t think it went the way I wanted because they were never going to be painless, the difficult conversations were had and I feel relieved to have had them and now I can move forward.
I am thankful for my faith. Because I can focus on the knowledge that yes, things are bad, yes things are challenging, but my God has me in the palm of His hand. My God has the perfect plan for me, with the perfect timeline, and all I have to do is trust Him.
So one of the things I always want to do is to read more and I always allow things to distract me from that particular goal. It’s not for the lack of trying. But I think this year, I need to find time to stop looking at my screens. I need to reconnect with the things that bring me joy. I need to find my way back to the things that allowed to me recharge.
Enter my tsundoku. You all know what a tsundoku is right?
Tsundoku is a Japanese term referring to the phenomenon of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. For those of us with the never-ending goal of wanting to read, we start these book towers that represent out fervent wish to find time to immerse ourselves in our reading genre of choice.
My current tsundoku isn’t that very tall yet. I hope it doesn’t grow too much. I need to catch up…on last year’s intended reading list!
To be fair, I was okay. I had a better state of mind, and whilst I was battling some sort of viral infection, I felt okay about going back to work. I think it helped that I was working from home this week and only had to roll out of bed and walk to the work desk I set up in my living room (there was such a huge mindset shift in having a separate workspace area, as opposed to having my desk in close proximity to my bed, let me tell you!).
Apparently, post-holiday blues are now a recognised thing. According to verywellmind, post-holiday blues usually refers to the short-lived mental distress, anxiety and sadness after the holiday season. I’ve always just used it to refer to my reticence about going back to the daily grind. Of course there were days when I really could not face going back to work – the whole getting up, getting in the shower, getting dressed, commuting to work and sitting at my desk was a bit much to contemplate after the holidays. Of course, like everyone else who had a job, I did the adult thing, dragged myself out of bed and sternly gave myself a telling off (verbally, in front of the mirror and mentally, still sometimes in front of the mirror).
After reading through several articles, there seems to be an agreement amongst mental health professionals that the holidays can have an effect on a person’s psychopathology. In the run-up to the holidays (especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali), there is the frenetic energy of preparing for it, all those tasks on your to-do list to get things done for friends and family, for all the meals, for the gift-giving, treats for visitors and the children. Then there are those days that you are enveloped in feel-good feelings where you are loved-up, relaxed (or in a contstant state of stress as family or social situations can be stressful!), or marinating in dopamine-producing experiences.
Then of course, there is the huge thump of a landing once the holidays are over; you are back, right smack in the middle of the daily grind. the days are grey, damp, cold and depressing, and everything that made you happy might not be around you anymore. I love Margaret Wehrenberg’s suggestions on Psychology Today for beating the post-holiday blues: to start with, it’s the mindset shift that whatever you’re going through is a change in stimulation and, more often than not, it’s less stimulation so you need to get used to that (so be kind to yourself and allow yourself to adjust); then it’s physical activity (which I think, in my case is finally unpacking completely and finally finding all my comfy sweats because apart from them being comfortable but presentable lounge wear, they’re also warm!); following that you go through a “looking forward” exercise – not resolution-making or massive life goals-setting (because that’s just daunting and you don’t need daunting whilst dealing with the blues!), just planning or thinking about something that you want to do in the new year (in my case it’s getting a lovely tea set and ingredients so that I can invite my friends over and have tea and cake with them in the new place); and finally, you steer clear of any holiday-related reminders, like watching Christmas movies because the post-holiday blues is a rabbit-hole that you don’t want to, like Alice, want to inadvertently fall into.
It’s going to be a difficult few weeks for all of us, perhaps more for some than others. Be kind to yourself (it’s a reminder that has almost become a personal mantra) and if things become difficult, remember to talk about it. I am reminded of a meme that I often see on Instagram: if you’re not speaking out, you’re storing it, and that gets heavy.
So I’ve been at the new digs for a month now, officially. But I still haven’t finished sorting out the things I’ve brought over. I still don’t know how I managed to accumulate so much tat in the time that I’ve been living in London.
If you’ve moved houses, how long did it take you to sort out all the things that you packed into boxes and storage boxes? Is this normal? Or am I just procrastinating again?
I can quite shake the feeling that there are things I need that I haven’t actually thought of. But of course, if I don’t sort out my stuff, I won’t know what I have and don’t have and I won’t have a clear picture of what I do and don’t need.
That should give me enough motivation to sort things out, eh?
I’ve developed a habit of having the telly on in the background for what I called “white noise”. I’m not sure when it started. I now feel uncomfortable when it’s quiet.
I used to adore the quiet, when I could be alone with my thoughts. I was happy to just doodle, or write in my journal (which I probably need to start doing properly again). I remember the enjoyment I felt, just sitting outside and feeling the breeze. I loved just sitting in the library and just letting the silence wash over me.
I think I started fearing the quiet because I became conditioned to think that the quiet happened when I did something wrong. Company, presence, conversation and affection were withdrawn when I did something that was deemed unacceptable. It was my punishment and a reckoning would happen when I made a noise. I’m not describing getting hurt physically. It was just I would be inundated with past recriminations and past infractions. Sometimes, that feels worse than being hit. Because words stay with you.
I need to learn to appreciate the quiet again. To learn to just be. To learn to be in the moment. To know that the quiet doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. To know that when things are quiet it means you can relax.
It’s a new year. And in the new year, we (usually) make these grandiose resolutions of wanting to better, healthier, fitter (some of us take out a gym membership!), more successful, more prosperous, an improved version of our previous selves; we want to make a change.
I’m not any different. I started to make my list of my new year resolutions last night, in the run up to midight. Then I remembered: I don’t have to. I already have a list. Because, really, what are resolutions but a guide for the things we want for ourselves, what we want to improve, right?
2022 was a year of seismic change for me. It was like someone took the tray that had everything I found familiar and safe and turned it upside down. I was recovering from my father’s death and I found myself confronted with the bomb site that was my life, surrounded by debris that looked familiar. There were items that I thought looked and felt familiar, or resembled things that I thought I knew, that no longer provided the same sense of security that they used to. I had to face the end of a relationship that I thought would never end – a relationship that defined my identity, my sense of self and, I thought, my future.
I suppose it was a long time coming. When you lose yourself in something, when you make impossible compromises (you know the ones, the ones where you do things because you think you’re doing it in the name of love), when you accept treatment that you otherwise wouldn’t (because, again, love), when you make adjustments in the name of being understanding (because you feel you have more capacity to understand), when you think it’s okay to settle because you think this is your lot, you made a decision, so you live with it.
It takes a life event of disaster proportions to make you see things from a different and possibly a clearer perspective. In my case, it was the end of a more-than-2-decade-long relationship for me to reevaluate everything. I guess from a making-a-change perspective, it was good that I was forced to do all these reevaluations from a different location. I was alone and I had to confront all the compromises and decisions I’d made to date. And it looked awful. I’m not blaming anyone else. I made those decisions. To paraphrase a once-favourite Wilson Phillips song, I’ve got no one to blame for my unhappiness, I got myself into my own mess. I contributed to the majority of the nuclear explosion that changed my life.
But, still thinking about that Wilson Phillips song, I am holding on. Because I know that things will change. Because now, I recognise the person in the mirror again. I recognise the person talking again. I’m learning from the experiences and I am coming out knowing who I am, grateful because I know I am so very blessed, learning the lessons and not settling for the bare minimum ever again.
I am a work in progress and I have a long way to go. But I am taking it a day at a time, a step at a time.
I am ready for the challenges that 2023 will bring because I know my God has me in the palm of His hands, I have people who truly love me supporting me and rooting for me.
I won’t have to edit who I am anymore.
I am walking forward being truly and authentically me!