18 Jul filling holes
I’ve been on a purge bender lately and I’ve never felt more clarity. Bags and bags of trash, gone. Trunk loads of donations for the Goodwill, delivered. It’s a cleanse of epic proportions and I’m really enjoying myself. Something clicked for me recently and I’m following the prompt to a freer existence. After backpacking on the Camino de Santiago, I realized a few things… one of which is this: I have too much stuff. I truly live in excess. I don’t need most of what I have and what I do need is not a possession.
I left Vegas on May 25th with a hopeful heart. The idea of the Camino had been planted a couple of years ago by a friend of my sister who blogged about her solo journey and caught my heart’s attention. She blogged every single day and told tales of blisters and snoring and albergues and grumpy strangers. She wrote of her thoughts and how they were evolving as she gained perspective on the trail. I was hungry for ‘something’ and this blog was just whetting my appetite. The seed was planted. The first item on my ‘bucket list’ was confirmed: one day, I would walk to Camino. I wanted adventure. I wanted clarity and enlightenment. I just wanted something more. I was living a life of excess in all areas and yet, I wanted more. I just didn’t know what it was.
I had never really developed a bucket list before. I just did the things I wanted to do. I bought tickets. I went places. I spent more than I saved and I saw the world. Then Mason left and my world was warped, my confidence shaken, my faith cracked. I had a new Fear within me. A vulnerability. My defenses were down… and I was acutely aware of the lack of control I really had over my life. My grip had been loosened. I think the Camino ended up on a bucket list in my mind because I really didn’t believe I could actually do it. It was physically demanding, for starters, and I was in no shape to hike hundreds of miles with a pack on my back. It involved sacrifice. More specifically, it forced hours and hours of introspective work and that scared the hell out of me. I was afraid so I just imagined doing it, I tucked it away in a new little bucket in my mind and said, “One day…”
Early this year, I lost my job. My really cool promotion from 2014? That one. I was laid off with hundreds of others and once again was reminded of my vulnerability. As others scrambled for new jobs, I sat still. I took some time to soak it in. I blinked a few times and looked around and realized that yet again I was at a standstill while the world kept spinning. I laughed. I remember thinking, “This is nothing. I have lived through the worst. I can handle this too.” And I set my sights on Netflix and made a comfy spot on the couch. I was making no plans. I preferred to sit still and just let things unfold. Losing your child has a way of putting everything else into perspective. Not necessarily an accurate perspective, mind you. Nothing will ever have as much significance and, as a result, I have a hard time responding appropriately to big events, my own or otherwise.
My friend suggested we tackle the Camino and I agreed. Um, what?!?!?
No plan. No agenda. Just go and see what happens.
And with that, I stepped into a new understanding of myself, my journey, my place in this world. Which by the way, I don’t feel is finite or predetermined or permanent. More on that another time…
I’m home now and looking at things with new eyes. Before I left, I got my job back. Same role, same company, different team. I came back from almost four weeks of roughing it and was immediately immersed in big business again. I felt different; changed. I felt exhausted and refreshed. Depleted and filled up. I knew less but understood more. None of which makes any sense in a linear way.
Life is not linear.
So, back to filling holes. Most of my life has been spent filling holes and patching up cracks. I’ve shored up, reinforced, and double insulated the walls of my heart. You’ve heard the phrase, ‘The best offense is a good defense,’ right? My defensive line was on steroids and no one was getting through. Cracks in the veneer were filled and fortified and polished. Sandbags were lined up along the edges of my insecurities and did their best to keep the flood of emotions out. Or in. Whichever was safer. Whichever gave me more control. I thought being in control was right. I thought it made me strong. I was in a fight my whole life and didn’t even realize it.
Part of filling holes for me translated to buying things. I worked hard, I worked smart, and I parlayed my talents into a nice living. I spent that nice living on things to make an ever nicer living. I’ve never been rich so when I say ‘nice’ I just mean average nice, I don’t mean Kardashian nice but I bought stuff and more stuff. I bought things I didn’t need but I bought them because I wanted them. They made me feel good. They filled a hole. I totally get why hoarders collect things. They’re filling holes.
I also collected friends. Lots of them. All kinds of people. Everyone was welcome (not everyone was quality). Some weren’t genuine, or kind, or in any way beneficial. I didn’t have much of a vetting process, to be honest. I was inclusive and a connector, and mostly I don’t regret that. But I see now that I was filling holes. I needed people and lots of them. I liked a crowd. I wanted a busy, happy home and so the door was always open. Everyone had the access code. This also includes men. I found projects and made them my boyfriends. I found boyfriends and made them my projects. I liked ‘fixer uppers’ because they needed me and I needed to feel needed. My son once told a friend that I ‘always picked the wrong guy.’ He was right. I’d attach myself to someone who was not a good fit for me, in a hundred different ways, and I’d love them fiercely. I believed in their potential and gave them credentials they hadn’t earned and didn’t deserve. Whyyyyy? I was filling holes. I wasn’t having genuine relationships. I was controlling and orchestrating and keeping everyone at arm’s length. No one reached me. I was behind miles and miles of concrete and truly was untouchable. A man once told me that I treated our relationship like a business. He was the only one I ever wanted to marry and that is how he felt? I was so bound up and strapped together and unattainable, and I didn’t even know it.
I ate to fill holes. I look over the span of my lifetime and see evidence of this. In times of happiness, I was healthy and fit. In times of stress, or extreme emotional duress, I was heavy and dull. I have clear memories of eating until I physically hurt just to have some control over my emotions. It’s weird. It’s a little psycho. It’s real. I ate to fill holes within me; invisible holes that made me feel vulnerable. Emotional holes. I ate to feel loved. I ate to feel happy. I ate to feel emotionally full. I ate to feel motivated. I ate to avoid loneliness.
I also drank. I would drink to fill the holes that threaten to spill all of my secrets. I’d drink to make life lighter. I love the feel of a good buzz… that warm and tingly feeling that begins to spread throughout the body? Mmmm. Love that. I drink and I feel prettier and wittier. I laugh harder and I enjoy people more. I drink to make ‘you’ funnier. I drink to make ‘you’ more attractive. I drink to make ‘you’ more tolerable. I drink to make life bearable. There are so many holes, I don’t have enough fingers to plug them all. So I patch them up with food and wine, and I invite more friends into my life to distract me from the cracks that are spreading. I smear activity and busy-ness over the cracked surfaces like a bonding paste. Instead of doing the actual work, and investigating the damage, and peering through the hole to see what is on the other side, I just fill it.
I am full of holes. I have spent a lifetime packing them full of stuff and friends and men and food and alcohol and denial and avoidance. I’ve looked down my nose at people who have done the same thing. I didn’t know, I didn’t realize, that I was filling holes just as they were.
I walked just a small part of the Camino and it was so hard. I was huffing and puffing and struggling. I was questioning my motivation and cursing my lack of planning and berating myself for every stupid life choice I had ever made. I had a lot of time on the trail to think and feel and face and tackle and address. Too much time. It was a lot of work. Most days, my mantra was “Just be kind.” I didn’t always succeed at that. I was a miserable companion some days and I was especially mean to myself most days. It wasn’t pretty. But I made up my mind about a few things along the way and that made the struggle worth it.
I am done filling holes. I need to breathe. I was suffocating and didn’t realize it. I was clogging more than pores and arteries. I’ve been craving some freedom from all of that for a very long time. The idea of the Camino took root because it offered a freedom I had never thought I could experience. I let go of fear at work and embraced adventure instead. It worked out. I’m okay. I’m better than okay. I’m on a purge bender, as I mentioned earlier. I am digging out from under the baggage and finding room to think and breathe and feel and be. It’s a new experience and I’m enjoying it.
It’s like flossing. When you dig after that hunk of food in your teeth, you become a woman on a mission. You are fixated on freeing that tiny little object that is causing such discomfort. And when you get it????? Wow! Freedom! What a relief it is to have the item removed from your pearly white grill! How about an ingrown toenail? It is crippling. So very painful to endure. But when you do the work, and you dig it out, the relief is palpable! It takes some time to heal but the real pain is gone. This is what is happening in my life. Does that make sense?
I want less stuff. I don’t want to self-medicate with ‘things’ anymore. I don’t neeeeed anything. I have had more than I could know what to do with. I’ve dusted more things than I ever actually used. I want fewer purses and shoes, and more empty space. I also want fewer friends. I am seeing people for who they are now and not who I think they could or should be. I’m done doling out all access passes to my life and heart and time. I just want to spend my precious time with people who fill me up rather than those who deplete me. I don’t need the excess. I don’t need frivolous, empty people who filled a hole in their life by glomming onto me. I see now.
I am never, ever attaching myself to a fixer upper man again. How condescending and arrogant of me to have lived that way and purported myself to have ‘loved’ any of them. That was not love. That was fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of losing control. Fear of being rejected. I lived reactively and defensively for too many years. Those days are over.
I am not feeding my insecurities or my loneliness anymore. I am not gobbling or guzzling ever again. I am savoring and sipping. There is a HUGE difference in that arena. Does this mean I’ll never again buy anything or eat anything or drink anything…? Noooo, it means I am committed to making deliberate choices. You cannot live deliberately, with intention and purpose, when you are busy gobbling and guzzling and grabbing everything that crosses your path. It is absolutely permissible and beneficial to slow down and feel the feels, rather than stuffing the holes and numbing the awareness.
I never wanted to be weak or vulnerable. It hurts to get hurt. I spent years trying to patch up my wounds and protect myself from future injury. I always thought things with holes seemed fragile and worn, but the truth is sometimes those holes are proof of a life well lived. For years, I survived on false bravado. I’ve now learned that cannot protect me. I can work, and build, and fortify, and protect, and still lose. I can fight, and guard, and defend, and still suffer. I do not want to spend my life filling holes. I am choosing to let myself breathe; To let my pain and tears and words flow out. I’m closing my eyes and letting the breeze blow over and through me. I’m looking for things that weigh me down and I’m releasing them (things and people). I’m letting the broken parts be visible, instead of patching them up and glossing them over. I am unfinished. I am broken in places and cracked in others.
Two years ago, my sister wrote this to me, and today it serves as encouragement to keep pursuing the path I am on. “I believe you are destined to receive that greatness. Because the broken parts are where the light shines through, and though your pain is great, your light is blinding Holly. You are not alone. You are so loved. Can you feel it?”
(pic taken at Finisterre, Spain, formerly known as the ‘end of the world.’ How wrong they were…)