I’ve learned a lot about myself in these first ten days of 2021.
I’ve learned that I’ve reached the point where I am consciously unaware of stress. My moods are at sevens and eights, I’m laughing and smiling and feeling good about life, and nothing’s really been bothering me. Yet there’s this dull tooth ache that likes to keep me on my toes, switching teeth and sporadically appearing and disappearing. Could it be due to clenching or grinding? Probably. Could it be psychosomatic? Also, probable. My skin follows a similar pattern – it starts to clear up and then it becomes aggravated despite my having done nothing to encourage it. There are even these on again, off again aches and pains that have no explanation, especially in my shoulders, neck and stomach. I’m not aware of the stress I’m living through, but my body sure is, and it’s reacting to it.
I’ve also learned that I’m not as incapable and out of my depth as I believe myself to be. I’m taking a six-week course with the National Gallery. Art history through 1500 to 1600, a little after my 2020 obsession, Lorenzo de’ Medici, died, but still very much centred around my biggest art inspirations: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. I panicked as my first lecture started coming closer. Art was always my sister’s thing, not mine, and I’m terrible at history. I love the stories and remember them well enough, but all those dates and names make me shudder. Sitting through the first lecture, I realised that I actually understood every single word! I knew the people they were talking about, the religious movements they were mentioning, the political climate they were discussing. I even understood the art techniques spoken of – minus one, where my lecturer switched to Italian, but Google rescued me on that. In the end, I wasn’t out of my depth at all, but rather in my element!
Perhaps the most important thing I learned is that I have friends without whom I wouldn’t have learned those first two things. It was my friends who called me out on the fact that doing unpaid work doesn’t count as a holiday, not even writing unless it’s enjoyable; that just because my brain isn’t acknowledging stress, doesn’t mean my body isn’t telling me I am, and urging me to start listening to it; and that I am capable, worthy and deserving. I’m lucky as hell to have really supportive parents and sisters, but I haven’t always been as lucky with friends. When I signed up for my CBT diploma, my friend circle at the time tried to dissuade me from doing it. Though I did enrol in the course, I can’t say it didn’t affect me. Three years later and I still haven’t finished it. It makes me feel incompetent every single time I touch it. My current circle though – I call them my Pride; fierce lionesses that rip people apart with the same teeth they carry their young with, who are always there when I need them and are equally graceful as they are vicious – are the ones who talk through my fears with me, give me the hard truths when no one else will, celebrate with me and offer me a world of love when I’m in pieces and feel unable to function.
These three big lessons have really helped me do things I wouldn’t have otherwise done. I’ve stopped replying to client emails after work hours or deciding to get a head start on tomorrows to do list – that’s for tomorrow for a reason! I joined the National Gallery as a member so that I could further explore this passion that has hidden itself from me for so long. I’ve started taking off three days a week instead of just the one, so I can spend time studying and writing and reading and staying away from technology. I’ve even stepped back from other people, accepting that I can’t help everyone no matter how desperately I want to. My Pride know I’m there when they need me, and they know I’m struggling even when I don’t, so they don’t get angry if I take a day before replying to their messages. And in the evenings, after work and catching up with everything, before curling up in bed with a book or a Netflix binge watch, I’ve booked in online theatre shows, lectures on Titian, writing talks with authors I love.
These past ten days of 2021, I’ve learned a lot about myself and have been pushing to cater for the things that I’ve learned, and I’m already seeing a difference.