I realize it’s been quite a while since I’ve written to the dearest Countertop. This has not been a result of a lack of inspiration and wonders. My life has been filled with one blessing after another lately of which I am truly grateful. I’ve spent the past month traveling around England and Italy visiting friends and family. London, New Forest, Florence, Rome & Windsor to be exact. What an amazing time. For the first time in my travels, I woke up this morning to find myself alone. After being with and around loved ones for a month of many, many highs- waking up alone has been quite a downer.
Actually, to correct myself, I did ask for it. After many weeks of traveling which involved eating different foods, sleeping and waking up at different times, time change, drinking (lots of late nights and wine), and living out of a suit case- I woke up yesterday morning feeling quite exhausted and out of sorts. I felt that not only my body but my mind and soul were all ready for a break. Instead of going with the flow and being easy and understanding of myself- instead, I retreated to an old (and no longer helpful) set of coping methods (that some may call extremes). I checked myself into a hotel room, visited Whole Foods to stock up on some daily essentials (vitamins, greens, water & chia pudding), and spent the day in the room sleeping. Strange? Extreme? I used to do this all the time. Not that I would check into a Hotel room. I am usually at home. When I lived in Vancouver I would spend 1-2 days a week doing this (which usually ended up falling on the weekend because of work). It felt normal. When I look deeper into this coping mechanism though- I realize that it is mostly a pattern that developed during my eating disorder days.
A typical behaviour pattern of someone with eating disorders (especially bulimia) is to hide away. The main reason (for me at least) for this hibernation is punishment and disgust. I would go into hiding because I didn’t feel good enough to be out in public, with people- until I felt better (or “perfect” in my mind). Although this behaviour pattern is a very minor part of my life now a days, it still has a faint appearance every now and then. Most especially when I am in an environment that is out of my comfort zone or my normal routine.
What’s interesting though, is that for the first time, once I arrived home from Whole Foods with all of my holistic goodies and was ready to sink into Hibernation Mode, something felt wrong. It was as if I suddenly realized that it no longer served me. It felt silly to go into hiding on such a beautiful day in London, while I was on holiday. I still knew that I needed sleep- that was clear, however, this whole idea of going into hiding suddenly felt irrelevant. For so many years I’ve been so resistant to accepting love and help from others. When it comes to the nitty gritty, deep issues of Miss Chloe Elgar- I tend to keep to myself and work through things on my own. At least, that is what Chloe 1.0 did. However, I’m noticing a new desire to grow out of these old patterns, and accept love when it comes about. Something I learnt is the idea of putting energy towards establishing new positive and healthy long-term patterns as opposed to feeding old coping mechanisms for immediate gain or pleasure. If anything, Chloe’s Countertop (and writing and sharing with an audience) has taught me the value of being open and vulnerable to the world. We are all human, we all experience the same emotions. The difference is in the actual personal experiences and when they happen- and even those can be the same a lot of the time (think: going through a break up the same time your best friend does).
So, Chloe 2.0 is ready to accept love. I’m ready to embrace an even larger level of vulnerability. Releasing yet another form of self-control that I used to observe as a mechanism of strength. I now realize that it was just another level of self-protection. It developed years ago when I needed it. I don’t need it anymore. Being aware of this will hopefully allow it to gradually and naturally drop away. Perhaps the next time I have a desire to go into hiding, I will realize that I don’t need it like I used to.
Another thing that has really hit me hard this morning is the illusion of isolation. We go through life experiencing different levels of relationship. Parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, friends, colleagues, partners, spouses, children. All of these relationships vary in degrees of emotion and experience- however, the one thing that remains constant from birth to death is the relationship you have with yourself. You are born as you and you die as you. It is, in fact, the only constant. It is the only constant source of love. Yet, we live our lives constantly searching for love outside of ourselves. Seems silly, doesn’t it?
Whenever I go on a trip with my parents and brother, I get really upset when the trip is over and I have to say goodbye. It’s quite strange. This experience is especially heightened with my dad. Whenever I say goodbye to my dad after a holiday with him I get this intense, almost depressive emotion. I’ve never really been able to figure out why it’s so intense with my dad. After all, I love my parents both equally. I was sitting in my hotel room this morning, when suddenly, I realized why this may be. Growing up, I would always have to say goodbye to my dad. I lived with mum and my brother, Sam. One of the cons of our family lifestyle is that my dad was always traveling and always on the go- it’s been a necessity of his career. So, since I was a little girl, I would have a conditioned emotional response when I anticipated my dad leaving. I realized this morning that although I will be seeing my dad in just 1 week in Dubai (we live in the same city now!) I still experience this attachment anxiety when I know that I have to say goodbye to him.
I am sure that with time, if I continue to attach myself to this illusion of isolation- then I will develop the same anxiety towards saying goodbye to other loved ones in my life (mum, brother, friends, partner). Now that I think about it, I’ve experienced attachment anxiety quite a bit since I was little. My family can most certainly vouch for this. No matter who it is, when I know that I am about to say goodbye to someone for a certain lengthy period of time, I will no doubt get teary eyed. Every summer when we would leave our grandparents in England, the whole family would say something along the lines of, “oh dear, here Chloe goes with the water works.” People always say that some people feel things more intensely than others. This is true. However, I wonder if it also has something to do with an illusion of being alone or not. Perhaps I relied so heavily on love from others, that I felt separation so intensely because I was losing a comfortable and safe source of love.
This morning when I woke up in the hotel room I felt quite a heavy wave of depression come over me. It was this intense feeling of “i’m alone”. I think this is quite a common emotion to go through. I think that for the most part, this emotion becomes incredibly extreme if a long-term relationship suddenly ends. The reason why this becomes so intense is because on a superficial level, a source of love is cut. Thus, the foundation of this feeling is love. For instance, a break-up. There is nothing quite like the feelings that come from a break-up. Especially a long-term relationship break-up. It’s like all of a sudden a source of love that you have not only watered, treasured and felt for several years, but that you have relied on quite heavily- is taken from you. The experiences that are a part of this source of love are just the memories that heighten this emotion. At the end of the day, it’s the love that creates this intense feeling of suddenly being alone in the world. After all, all anyone really wants is to be loved. To love, and to be loved.
The comforting thing about all this, is that even the most intense break-ups and feelings of being alone do pass. It’s just a matter of time. This is because the source of all love, where everything stems from, comes from within. They always say- the first step in finding true love is turning within and loving yourself. These mushy gushy statements have become more clear and true to me with time. Now, I really do get it.
Now, choosing to love yourself doesn’t mean that you will never hurt again. We are all human, we all experience emotion. Opening yourself up to receiving love and loving another is both rewarding and scary. The risk is in getting hurt. It’s a balance of give and take. Once you receive love from another you are also taking the risk of losing that source of love. When and if you do, it will hurt. However, that is life. Life is balance.
Traveling has really brought these thoughts and feelings to the surface for me. Traveling is a bit of a fast-track method of learning about yourself. The main reason (for me at least) for this is that I learn most when I am in new situations that are not always comfortable or familiar.
So here I am, alone- in this world- at this very moment. However, looking around the room that I am in (Whole Foods Market upstairs cafe in High Street Kensington), I realize that we are all truly alone. Although some people are eating together in twos or groups, at the end of the day, we are all our own beings. What brings us together is a shared fundamental desire, no matter who you are or where you are in the world- to be loved. So whether you are alone, at home, traveling, with family or with your partner- embrace and share the love around you and know that if you are in pain, this moment too shall pass.