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April 11, 2007

It happens.


* * *

A few weeks ago I was in the midst of chaos and madness and I was having a REALLY BAD DAY.

It was just one of those days. There's not one event in particular that sets you off, but a conflagration of seemingly miniscule things piles up (rude bus driver, someone at work snaps, your computer eats an entire monthly status report, coffee spilled, project axed, to-do list growing, mean email from someone, perhaps a thing you'd hoped for and wished for falls through miserably, you say something stupid and immediately wish you could un-say it, then you break a heel) (by the way, I thought that only happened on TV! I didn't know in real life you could actually break the heel of your boots, amazing).

And you want (you really really want) to be one with Oprah and feel full of gratitude and blessings, because logically you know how good you have it, but instead you are a five-year-old and you are officially mad at the world and you kind of want to throw something. Hard.

It happens.

I got home and sat down for a minute and what made me maddest of all was that I had no more coping mechanisms left! I don't smoke anymore, so there's that. I don't drink excessively to pickle my liver and brain anymore, so there's that. I don't stuff myself at the Jack-in-the-Box drive through window anymore, so that one was gone, too.



It was actually the first time in a long time I wanted to smoke. In fact, I wanted to smoke while funneling cabernet and mainlining Jack-in-the-Box. Those were my coping mechanisms for a very long time, and for just a moment I sat and cried because I had no idea what to do.

Would I fall off the wagon? Revert? Two steps back?

But wait.

There isn't a wagon to fall off.

I can't start a new diet tomorrow because I'm not on a diet. So if I smoke or drink 800 calories of cabernet or eat a small family in deep-fried bite-size portions, it's my problem, one more in a long list, and I cannot pretend I'll fix it sometime in the far-away future with a magic diet or clean-living program or "I'll be good." There was no one counting, or taking score, and whatever I did that day was all up to me and really only affected me. Not the mean email or the snappy person or the boots or the bus driver.

A little voice in the back of my mind (great, now we're hearing voices) said, You should probably go for a walk.

Now, I like to walk. Usually. I enjoy strolling around my neighborhood and looking at the houses and yards and people and cats and sometimes I get to pet a dog. I like to meander or sometimes I walk fast, and afterwards I feel relaxed and calm. So I knew that I should go for a walk but I was MAD and wanted to SMOKE SOMETHING NOW NOW and I pulled off my work clothes and threw (threw!) a Kenneth Cole boot with a broken heel into the back yard to rot and grow worms, and I stomped around like a toddler with anger management issues, pulling on my sweats and tennis shoes.

I went out onto the street. "Fine. FINE. I'll take this g-ddamn coping walk. FINE. I AM COPING."

And I walked and walked, pretty fast, actually. The whole time muttering silently to myself something along the lines of, "Stupid no smoking no eating french fries life FINE I am on my coping walk, I'm coping, stupid coping walk, it's COPABLE. I AM COPING, PEOPLE. It's COPE-A-LICIOUS. It's... it's...


And something about this stupid train of thought made me laugh. COPASETIC. Because I was being silly and I don't even know what that word means and it was nice to be outside, and the air was clean from all the wind we'd had and people were out walking dogs, and really, to be honest, I was feeling a little better.

I have all my arms and legs. I have my lungs, now unpolluted. I have a body that has gotten used to walking so lookee here! I'm not out of breath in two minutes. At least I have a job, even if it was hard today. I can bring home the Meow Mix, then scoop out the cat pan.

That night I walked for two hours, just puttering along, saying hey to neighbors I passed, looking at pretty yards, decompressing. It took two hours, and only for a fleeting minute did I feel guilty because I should be back home, on the laptop, working diligently. I had a list as long as my arm to do, To-Do, always stuff To Be Done.

But I just walked.

When I got home I had a (single) (large) glass of wine and made chicken fajitas from Trader Joe's and later I took a shower, then I sat down to work for a few hours before falling into bed.

It's not easy to give up the things I loved, and believe me -- I did love my old coping strategies. Even though I want to be healthier and live longer and have a strong and sturdy life and wear clothes free of the Plus Size Bedazzler, there is a part of me that still wants to hide out on the back patio smoking cigarettes all night and drinking 9/10 of a bottle of wine, eating instead of talking, stuffing down every scared or tired or lonely or stressed-out feeling I have.

There is a part of me that is tired, and weak, and scared, and not ready for more Growth And Learning. There is a part of me that will always be a smoker, an overeater, someone who likes to take the edge off with a pile of wine and cheetos.

But since I am no longer on a diet, no longer "about to start a new program... tomorrow" and no longer waiting for an unspecified time in the future before I start to treat myself with dignity, every day I just have to make the best decision I can. I suspect I will see the inside of a Jack-in-the-Box drive through again, I suspect I will drink 600 calories in cabernet in one sitting, more than once. But sometimes I will also choose to go for a walk, or a long drive, or make the cats dance with me in the living room (they hate it soooo much). Or I will throw a shoe into the back yard with profanity befitting a sailor, and later slink back out to retrieve it and clean it with a damp paper towel and copasetically place it in my bag to take to the shoe repair guy the next day.

There is no wagon to fall off.

Posted by laurie at April 11, 2007 9:22 AM