I asked a co-worker this question the other day, and he jokingly responded with some sort of comment about hearing his heartbeat, waking up each morning and not being dead, etc. etc. While that is clearly a true statement, there is more to living then just being alive in a physical sense. I was talking more about an emotional, mental and spiritual level of being alive. As part of my recovery, I’ve been trying to establish and get a clear understanding of what it is that I enjoy about life, what types of things I do or enjoy that are more prominent and important than any eating disorder could be. In order to fully let go of an eating disorder, which is a full-time, all-consuming job, you have to find something(s) to take the place of all your laborious thoughts and anxieties over food, weight, calories, eating, body image, and the like. Otherwise, there’s this big void of ‘nothing’ that will fill your life.
I think I’ve struggled with finding that thing or things in the past that really make me happy, that I personally enjoy, that take me to a new level of happiness and contentment. Since I couldn’t find anything that was ‘mine’, I felt lost. I wanted to be good at something. I wanted to be a good artist, or a good photographer, or a good writer. I wanted to find my calling. But the more that I looked for that calling, the sadder I got. Why? Because I was expecting just one thing to be my go-to thing. Maybe I had a warped sense of what I needed in order to fulfill my life because my eating disorder was one big massive thing and that, and that alone is what took up all of my days. So perhaps I thought that since my eating disorder was one beast, I had to find just one thing that could replace it and be ‘mine’. Nevertheless, I drove myself up a wall because I am not a wonderful artist, I’m not an amazing photographer, I’m not a poet or skilled writer.
After searching and looking for the one thing that I could call my own, I gave up and felt like I’d never find it. But then my approach changed. Life and people aren’t made up of just one singular thing. We are a composite of our beliefs, interests, passions, and purposes. We are three-dimensional, with layers and depths. How could I look for just ONE thing to fill that void? It’s simply impossible. So that’s when I slowly but surely started to peel away those layers of who I am and what I enjoy and love. I started to find the things that make me feel alive.
I started to do more things and widen out a bit and by doing so I started to be able to tell what things I enjoyed. But it was more than that, there were some things that made time disappear, hours or minutes flew by and I had no idea. I would have those moments where I could completely submerse myself in what I was doing and feel completely consumed by what I was doing. It’s a healthy, natural escape that I never experienced before. My eating disorder was that escape, only in an unhealthy way. It allowed me to escape any feelings by restriction or by binging…either numbing the pain by starvation or numbing it by covering over it with food and more food and more food until I felt sick. So I’ll share a few things that I recently discovered and am still working on implementing and using as my ‘go-to’ instead of resorting to eating disorder behaviors.
1) Photography. “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” – Karl Lagerfeld
Photography is beautiful. When I pick up the camera, I have no sense of time or place. Everything else that is on my mind completely melts away. It’s almost as if the camera is in a complete world of it’s own and when I pick it up, I become a part of that different world. Every other thought or concern seems to just melt away. However, it’s not just the act of taking pictures that I love. I also love looking at photography. There is something so magical about a photo. Just like the quote says, it’s a moment captured in time that can never be duplicated or replaced. Each picture contains a story of its own. I find that I can look at a picture and sink myself into it. I think of the circumstances that may have led up to the picture being taken, what is captured in the picture, the story it tells, the secrets it holds, the mystery it maintains. There is so much to be deciphered and interpreted by a picture, yet often times it’s something that is viewed differently and understood differently by each person. I love that. It is similar to a poem with no clear meaning or intent. It’s left to be deciphered by the person who reads it. Much like a picture. I just love it.
2) Music / Live Music / Concerts. “There’s nothing better than live music. It’s raw energy, and raw energy feeds the soul.” – Dhani Jones
This has been a somewhat recent discovery for me. There is something completely electrifying about being at a concert and listening to live music, especially when the music taps into your emotions in one way or another. I’ve had the occasion to be at some concerts that are a completely captivating experience and one that leaves you feeling completely out-of-body (but in a really great way!). When I’m at a concert, it’s like I am a different person. All my apprehensions, worries or fears disappear. When I normally am super conscious of how I look and how others perceive me, at a concert, I become concerned with only how I feel in the moment, attuned to the music and how it makes me feel, and the world and everyone else in it fades away. When prior reservations about dancing or moving to the music would be on my mind, when I let myself become part of the music and be free to move, I have no cares about how I look or what others think of me. It’s just me and the music and it fills me with an inner peace and solitude. I can be free. I can be me. It is a raw energy that just consumes me. I feel so alive during and after I leave a concert. It’s thrilling.
3) Being out in nature. “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” – Rachel Carson
There is something so inexplicably peaceful and beautiful about being out in nature. It’s something that can’t be felt in a shady part of a busy street. It’s the quiet, serene woods where you hear nothing but the wind rustling the tree branches or the soft, quite sound of a stream rushing over the rocks. It’s the scurry of four-legged creatures as they move about. It’s the sound of waves crashing on a beach (that isn’t covered with people). I love to appreciate the natural, raw beauty this world has to offer. There is so much of it to experience and enjoy and take in. I feel so at peace when I submerse myself in a natural environment, where you can’t hear cars passing by on a nearby freeway, or the sound of construction work being done down the street. When I went to Colorado and spent time in the Rocky Mountains, I got to enjoy that kind of serenity and beauty. There is really nothing quite like it.
4) Traveling. “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
There is something so magical about traveling…about going somewhere new and different. Traveling is an adventure. It breaks up the normal everyday monotony. If I could travel all over the world for the rest of my days, I think that is exactly what I would do. There is so much beauty that our world holds and I feel like I’ve only experienced such a small, insignificant fraction of it. And the sad thing? In my whole life, I will probably only experience a small, insignificant fraction of it…although I hope it will be a greater fraction than it is now, at least. When a person travels, you get to experience all new surroundings, places, people and things. It’s such a free feeling and if you do it right, it can also be an experience that allows you to grow as a person. Each place I’ve traveled to has become a part of who I am, some places become bigger pieces than others.
5) Being with the people and furballs I love. “Happiness is only real when shared.” – Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
It doesn’t matter what I do when I’m with my family and closest friends, as long as I’m with them it’s guaranteed to be a wonderful time. I gain such happiness and personal satisfaction when I am with those I love and who love me back. There’s a beauty that comes from being completely you, true to who you are, and I am able to be me in the fullest sense when I am with my family and closest friends. Even my little furballs…I can be completely, unapologetically myself and they will still love me, no matter what. To be yourself, to be loved for being yourself, there is no greater feeling in the world. No matter where I go in life, no matter what I experience or face, I know that I will always, always, always have my family and dear friends there to provide me with strength and support. The times we share together enrich my life. There is nothing that comes close to being with them. Even the simplest moments and times shared together become some of my happiest, most enjoyable and memorable times.
As I continue forward, from this moment on, I want to continue to do more of what makes me feel truly at peace with myself and the world. I want to enjoy life, enjoy the things that I love, and spend more time doing these things, and less time doing the things that take away from me being me, and me being happy. Realistically, I know I need a job, but do I need the job I’m currently working in? I don’t know. I want to be open to entertaining the idea that ‘no, I don’t need to stay where I’m at, just because it’s safe and just because it’s comfortable.’ If there’s something that screams to me, that is calling me, I want to be there to answer that call and not just shoot it down because it’s not the safe route.
I want to seek out opportunities to do the things I really, truly love and not feel guilty for spending my time how I choose. I also want to explore more things that make me happy and feel a sense of satisfaction and joy. Because let me tell you what? I think there are many more things out there for me. I have never felt more excited about discovering what those things are. This is my life, this is my time to LIVE my life and I want to start enjoying my days more. Life is short, and it is fleeting. We spend too much time doing the things we feel we should or have to do, and so little time doing the things we actually want to do. I think now is the time for me to choose my wants over my shoulds. I think now is the time that I let myself feel ALIVE.