the me I made

I woke up today, as I do on all my days off, supercharged with positivity, happily anticipating all things I was going to accomplish. But then, not knowing how or why I even got there, I was suddenly opening cabinets in my mind that I know hold nothing good. I'm not sure what I was looking for. Checking to see if my many faults and failures are still there, I guess. They are, of course. Shiny and ready for review as ever. I don't even need to polish them. They are tarnish proof. 

It was a rough hour. And though I clawed my way out of the hole, dragged myself to my laptop to be mildly creative for a minute, I'm realizing that I probably need to admit to myself that In General, I am Not Doing So Hot Lately. And that it would probably feel good to stop fighting it. To accept the clouds brewing overhead, knowing they'll pass eventually. Maybe even write about the clouds, and the various bits of rain gear I'm relying on? I think that would help. 

I'll start with self-talk.

Everyone engages in self-talk, which doesn't necessarily come through as a conscious, clear message to yourself. Your self-talk exists in your beliefs about the world, and your place in it. It manifests in your choices, micro and macro. Your self-talk will bubble up, unbidden, in moments of sadness, anger, disappointment. There's really no stopping it.

My own version of radical (read: weird) self talk is a product of the pandemic, no question. It was born of a confluence of physically and emotionally stressful factors. Going to work in an open, public space at a time when I'd imbued the virus with absolute superpowers of viability and transmissibility. Getting on a train with strangers whose respiratory functions I couldn't control. Being penned up in a tiny apartment, in a filthy building with trashy, unmasked neighbors perpetually clustered on the front stoop. Dancing in and out of an intoxicating, but sometimes toxic, relationship. Not being able to see friends, some of who eventually left the city altogether. Suffering through another scorching summer on foot. 

Last year was a fucking ride

And it was lonely. That's the thing that really killed me: the loneliness, despite ostensibly having a boyfriend and a tiny army of amazing, supportive friends. But everyone has had their own COVID cross to bear. Everyone has been occupied by their own problems, their own stresses and fears. One of the awful things that the pandemic has done has sequestered us with our own pain.

So at some point, I got deadly fucking serious about self-soothing, because if I didn't, I wouldn't have made it. At some point, when there was - yet again - no one around to keep me company or comfort me through a difficult moment, I did consciously what people sometimes do subconsciously, under extreme mental duress: I sort of...duplicated myself. 

I duplicated myself, but just once. We're not talking Sybil Redux here. Just one more me, but better. Stronger. More capable. Calmer. The me I made is fucking awesome. She always knows exactly what to say. Her tone of voice is always perfect; her words always the precise ones I need to hear. She is endlessly patient and compassionate. She is by my side when I'm slogging home at midnight because there was a service interruption on the train and I've had to walk the last 30 minutes through some sketchy fucking stretches of the city, utterly exhausted, with ugly thoughts creeping into my head about what failings, what disastrous life choices must have led me to this point. She bats that shit away quickly, reminding me not to trip out on temporary circumstances. She always has on hand a list of my emotional accomplishments - of the absolute bonkers shit I have survived, from the deaths of my entire family, a wackadoodle marriage to a sociopath, another abusive relationship or two, a batshit boss who attacked me, massive swings of financial fortune, health issues, friends leaving etc etc etc. You're a fucking badass, she says. Who do you know who's even been through 1/10th of what you have, and come out as strong?

She's there every night to do a gratitude post-mortem on the day, so I go to bed in a positive mindset. I list out everything I can call a win, every pleasant or fun interaction, every healthy habit I stuck to, every last little achievement. She's there when, on my days off, my sense of direction stalls out, and I feel bored or uninspired. At those times she nudges me back towards the things I love, reminding me that starting is the hardest part. She's there when something triggers me and I start to spiral. At those times she's like a nanny minding a child, shooing me away from negative thoughts as if they were broken glass on the sidewalk, or something gross washed up on the beach. 

Basically she is my perfectly crafted personal cheerleader, parent, friend, and adoring, supportive boyfriend rolled into one. And as she reminds me in the almost unbearably dark moments: she's not going anywhere.

I told you. Next level self-talk. Oh and I forgot to mention: more often than not, I do this out loud. So be assured how ever much you think you've lost it this last year, or might lose it - know that I lost it first, and harder.