Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and I brace myself for the influx of books and resolutions insisting that the best way to live a rich and fulfilling life is to become someone else. It’s really that simple; lose weight and become smaller, eat a perfectly healthy diet, set up radical goals. Forge a path through an uncleared forest with a pair of scissors.
Please don’t. Losing weight won’t make you happy if that’s what you need to curate a ‘new you’. And posting all over social media about it will only trigger those of us with eating disorders. Plus, it won’t last. Come on, you know it’s true.
You do you. Accept who you are and use those strengths. How’s that for a radical goal?
Last year, without knowing it, I achieved more writing goals than I thought possible by ditching the idea that I could change myself. I am who I am; you get what you get. I spent a lot of time improving my craft, rather than myself. I wrote over 200,000 words of fiction not counting the multiple drafts my two books went through. I own time management. I am good at it. If you want to develop a healthy habit, I suggest learning time management. Thank you six children. Thank you limited time, the Scrivener app, the extra hour of child care I get at the gym after my workout; thank you school pickup lines. Thank you nanny, the solitude of a library, and Starbucks. Most of all, thank you to the man who supports me and my goals and loves his kids.
So, in 2018, I published a memoir piece and several poems in lit mags. I wrote and revised two novels and shelved one. And signed a publishing contract. And college.
This may sound like bragging, but really it’s a matter of getting a life. I’ve spent the last six years drowning in anorexia nervosa. Obsessing over calorie counts and logging workouts and standing on scales is an exhausting time suck. It’s an imaginary achievement based on an imaginary societal ideology, driven by an innate neurological malfunction.
I didn’t choose to give up my eating disorder; the disease is too insidious for that, and mine is damn treatment resistant. Rather, I started writing and slowly the perseverance I had reserved for my weight seeped into a perseverance to complete manuscripts. To get better.
I’m not perfect. And this is the point. One therapist told me that perfect is boring. I get it now, as I craft characters who are vibrant because they are wildly imperfect, sometimes not even likable. I write about mental illness. The Weaver deals with alcoholism, bipolar disorder, PTSD and agoraphobia. And a creepy little town, a murder, and a flooding old farm just for fun.
If you struggle with mental health, be gentle with yourself. Your illness is anything but kind, and recovery can take many years. With my anorexia, I always knew I would have to find something else before I could let go of the obsession with my weight. Always knew it, but didn’t know how to do it. I am (pun very much intended) an open book with this stuff.
And I know that you can slap as many layers of paint over your truth and get nothing but sore arms. It’s like revising a book by fixing the commas.
New Year, New You? Nah, how about a radical revision in how we think? What if we accept who we are and step away from the need to control and orchestrate everything?
Maybe that’s where the magic happens.