On Eating Breakfast And Committing To Myself
by Laura Taylor
Over the past twelve months, I’ve had four homes, two jobs and three regular know-your-order cafes. I’ve learnt to surf, fallen in love with songs and embedded lines from countless books into my mind. I’ve become best friends with people who this time last year didn’t exist to me, moved away from people I couldn’t go a day without texting and had some of my closest friends leave.
I crave stability, yet my life barrels forwards at a pace that terrifies me. How are you meant to feel settled when the earth shifts monthly? You’re on the train, and while it’s moving bloody fast, you’re still using banana boxes as shelves because you haven’t settled enough to buy yourself a chest of drawers. Doing so much may give the illusion of fullness, but I’m realising it’s increasingly easy to become a voyageur not a participant, having a great disconnect from your own life.
I recently moved, and all of my belongings in this world filled two suitcases. My friends were in awe of my unintentional minimalism, but I simply hadn’t committed enough to see the point in accumulating anything. To be perfectly honest, I think I stopped planning - to travel, to unpack, to eat three meals - because I am still terrified the floor is going to fall out from underneath me.
I was settled and unacquainted with trauma until a couple of years ago, and then my world shattered and for awhile it felt like grief was all there would ever be in my life. Slammed by a drawn-out process of loss and adjustment, loss and adjustment, it is only now that I am coming to terms with not fearing the ground caving in at any moment. And undoing that story hasn’t been a process of being on the up and up. It’s gentle waves and hailstorms and quicksand and a light breeze. It can swallow you whole, paralyse you, linger over your day. Some weeks you’re floating - and others you’re locked in the toilets crying after a particular song came on.
My word for 2018 was to ‘dream again’, but I have completely avoided it and am as reactionary as ever. I’m still too scared to book a holiday, living jam-packed week to jam-packed week and never ahead of it. Of course this at some point starts to overwhelm me - normally when I realise I’ve been consuming one meal a day and it’s pasta at 10pm, pushing through for months on empty and beginning to lose a grasp of my sense of self.
Dolly Alderton writes about this in her book, where she spent years ‘spread across people like the last teaspoon of marmite’ and after a long drawn-out period of burnout, slowly began to reclaim her life as her own and settle her roots. She writes ‘finally, love was all around me, it was the home I now carried on my back like a snail”.
This line jumped off the page in-front of me - for as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve gone away I’ve felt a deep need to return home. Except a physical ‘home’ is a concept I struggle to find existence of. My childhood home is long gone, my last flat disbanded, I live in the city when I grew up by the sea. When I push myself to visualise ‘home’, I long to return to particular snippets with the people closest to me - drinking red wine on the floor, eating fish-burgers after a day of surfing, drinking whisky and grapefruit while dancing to Paul Simon. Looking back at it, home is the people I have built my inner life with, even if they inhabit different places. And even more than that - home is building a real love for yourself. And committing to yourself means holding that space, inhabiting that home and knowing it won’t be floored by the next storm because it is built on unshakeable, deep, love.
Someone once told me it takes twice as long to get out of trauma or a state of burn-out as it did to be in it. Which sounds shite. But it doesn't mean you need to remain in limbo throughout the process, disconnected from your own life. At some point, you will reach a crossroads where you need to make a choice to engage with your life - even if the first step is figuring out the basics again. One of my best friends gives the worlds greatest advice, and when figuring out where to start, she says just adopt the following - have I eaten something nutritious today? Have I had some sleep? Walked the beach? Had a glass of water? - because that matters. This quote from a podcast I listened to recently puts it perfectly:
“Do you feel like you are hitting a wall? That nothing matters? Start by getting breakfast right. One of the greatest antidotes to despair, fatigue, discouragement and often depression is a ritualisation of the mundane. You begin with the details, and you get the details right. You elevate the details as a way of saying okay, there’s a lot in life that is chaotic and messy that I can’t control, but I can control this. And it’s these tiny decisions and steps that can fill you with hope. Because if I can do this ritual, and I can bring order to this space, then maybe I can bring peace and harmony to other spaces as well. Its a concrete taste of the ideal.”
So that’s exactly what I’m going to do, starting with eating breakfast.