447 days and a scattered deck of cards

August 27, 2013 — 95 Comments

Its been so long since I really wrote anything and for a while it was because I felt too far away from my own mind to do so, and then when I came back to my mind I found so many thoughts collected there, and just like standing before a scattered deck of cards, I didn’t know where to begin sorting through it all so I just stood there and stared at it all for weeks.
All those thoughts…


I promised myself that I would write again on my birthday but that has been and gone, so today I am sitting at the edge of the lake where I live.
The sun is high and it is throwing her rays like javelins onto the water creating a dance of light and it looks like a million camera flashes are going off like they do at the big concerts. A boy has come down on a bike and he is balancing his fishing rod and tackle box on the handlebars. He knows my son and they perch on the rocks and whisper back and forth. He wants to swim but he says he has to ask his mother first. He produces a walkie-talkie from his bag and between the static, communicates with his mother who I learn later is several kilometers away in her living room.
A walkie-talkie. Why have I never thought of that?
The boy feels the water and says that it is bloody cold.
My son says yes, it is bloody cold.
I decide to have the swear talk with my boy later and the sun keeps shining and the million cameras keep flashing.

So here I am and the days have been 447.
I had to take the time to calculate that number because I stopped counting a long time ago.
When you give something up you measure the days only for so long.
Soon enough you aren’t counting the days, you aren’t marking off the weeks. Eventually the thing you are counting away from you is so far gone that it is no longer a part of you.
So I stopped counting the days because the promise stopped being a promise I had to keep and simply became my life.
No relationship, no dates, no holding hands, no sex.
I don’t count how many days it has been since I left high school because that life is so far behind me now that I’ll leave it to nostalgia to bring it up if it wishes and so too with the time where I was the other half to someone else.
It’s all just nostalgias business now.

I don’t know what to tell you about the last 447 days. There are things that I’ve experienced and revelations about who I am that I couldn’t explain no matter how much time I had, though I will try for you now.

At first like I said, it is a ‘giving up’ and like any other giving up there is that period of time where its like you have to give it up every second of the day. You have to choose to stick to the new plan every moment and the hole left from what you gave up sticks beside you like a nagging child constantly challenging your patience and resolve.

Ever feel like testing the strength of a thing? Give it up for a while. It will flex its muscles and prove its resilience.
Cigarettes are no more alluring or tempting than they are to the man who has just sworn off them, nor sex and partnership to the woman who has turned her face away from them.

What I can tell you is that I have not reconsidered or regretted this decision even once in the last 447 days because I finally have a chance to learn who I am.
After spending my whole life watching others, trying to be accepted by others, learning about others and trying to be like others, I actually turned my focus inward and realized that for all I knew about everyone else in my life, I didn’t know who I was. Not a bit.
What a tragic mistake. 29 years old and not a clue who I am.
Do you want to learn a thing or two about your self?
Be alone.
Be alone when you’re up shit creek
Be alone when you are lonely
Be alone when you need a sounding board
Be alone when something happens to you and you drive into the driveway and put your key in the front door and walk inside and wish there was someone waiting for you to gather you up and kiss your forehead and tell you that every thing is going to be ok.
Be alone then.
See how you learn to pick yourself up.
See how you learn to square up your own shoulders and make everything ok.

Reflecting on the time before the thousand days I see that a lot of the problems and difficulties I was having in my life came down to a basic lack of self-respect.
I knew I needed to respect myself if I had any hope of avoiding the mistakes that littered my past.
To begin developing self-respect I thought of people that I had great respect for and considered what one quality thread them all together. What was the pattern? If I could pin down that one quality that causes me to have great respect for anyone whom possesses it, and them learn to posses it myself then I rationalized that I would have respect for myself.

After much thinking and reflection and observing how I developed respect or lost respect for others I knew what it was. I know the word.

DISCIPLINE.
I respect discipline.
And that was it. I knew that if I was ever going to respect myself I would have to become disciplined in something…. Anything.

When I considered where to begin practicing discipline I looked immediately to my body. The discipline and focus of the mind is displayed in the condition of the body and a strong, powerful, fit body is a direct manifestation of discipline. So it all began there really and since that day I have been pushing myself physically more and more each day and applying heavier and stricter controls to my diet so that it is almost 100% clean and forcing myself into bed when I know I need sleep and drinking the yucky things that do wonderful, healing things to my body.
Every day I have tied the laces on my trainers, even when I would have rather done anything else and every day that I stayed 10, 20, 30 minutes longer at the gym when I am already exhausted and every day I have noticed small changes to my body even if no one else does and with every day that passed I developed a little more self respect and today as I was walking away from the gym after giving everything I had to give in a very painful and long workout I felt proud of myself for the discipline to get to the place where I was strong enough to endure something I would not have been able to endure last month…. Or even last week.
See that I said ‘I felt proud of myself for the discipline‘. It really had nothing to do with my body or fitness or strength or how I look to others, it was the discipline I was looking for and I realised it took discipline just to get up and stick with it every day.
As I thought about that a very strange feeling stood up inside me somewhere and put its hand up.
I think it was self respect.

Several months ago I was going through an intense relapse of depression where I felt very, very lost.
I recall it being like when I was a young girl and would swim out past the waves and lie on my back and just breathe in and out and in and out and feel my body dip slightly with each exhale.
I felt like I was on my back with the water just below my nostrils and for a while there I was breathing just enough to keep myself on the surface of the water. It was a very dangerous and ugly time for me and a time, which I faced days where I had to make moment-by-moment decisions to survive.
But I did survive.
I survived that relapse and went on to identify the key to developing self respect and I chose to pursue it every day until I looked at myself and said ‘I respect you’
I would also like to say right now that as of tonight I have been medication free for 3 months. Every bit of focus and determination that I mustered in the last several weeks was all me.
Not the pills. Me.
I believe I will never take another anti-depressant in my life….

While admittedly bookmarking several other flaws that need to be smoothed out at some point, once self respect made itself comfortable on my couch it pointed out things about who I was that I have decided I actually like.
I like that I am laid back
I like that I can be patient with very testing people.
I like that when life collapses around me I can survey the damage and matter-of-factly say ‘well at least I’m not like, DEAD
I like how I don’t feel self conscious about driving the most beat up, dented, scratched up piece of shit car you have ever seen.
I like it that I op shop.
I like it that if I find a song I love, I will play it on repeat for days until I never want to hear it again.
I like it that I sometimes can’t sleep because of the monsters in my wardrobe.
I like that I will boil the kettle, mix up a coffee, let it sit and only drink it when it has gone stone cold.

None of this would have been possible had I not been exclusively single and celibate for this last 447 days.
I’m not going to lie, I have at times gone to bed after a long day and wished someone was there warming up my side of the bed but I have also concluded that when you want to get to know yourself and have set aside a period of independence to do so, casual sex or short term, shallow relationships makes about as much sense as feeling cold and putting your finger into a flame in the hopes that it would warm you up.
A sudden and intense flame is not going to bring comfort or warmth to a cold body any more than a sudden and intense physical encounter will bring a sense of comfort and companionship.
Though you may very well be left with a painful burn…

What an interesting and testing experience this has been.
To the Vanessa who made the decision to do this 447 days ago: Thank you so much, that was the best thing you have ever done.
To future Vanessa: I will finish what I started, I respect you way too much to lose focus now.

Finis

“Someone once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”
-Unknown

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On the day of my 29th birthday. At peace, calm and very happy.

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95 responses to 447 days and a scattered deck of cards

  1. 

    You really are the most amazing writer. I have not forgotten your post where you described what depression feels like. The “grey” of it. I thought of it the other day as I was slipping into it myself.
    I can relate not so much as to your circumstance, but of many of your inner feelings, somehow.
    You should be proud of your journey, so far. I wish I could be as disciplined in certain areas of my life.

    • 

      Hi again,
      How are you feeling today? Have you slipped into depression completely? Or were you able to dodge it?
      I hope you are well and thank you for commenting last night xo

      • 

        Hi, I recently discovered why I swing in and out of depression. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, I reckon it’s worth anyone with unexplained and persistent dips into depression to investigate.
        You are so very welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing about your childhood adventures too.
        Again, good luck with your journey :)

        • 

          I have Hasimoto’s Thyroiditis, too. I never knew depression was linked up to that, though. Thanks! That’s really helpful to explain that I’m not crazy.

          • 

            Oh definitely. All women suffering from depression should have their thyroid levels tested AND ask to be tested for Hashimoto’s. Too many antidepressants are prescribed when it could be a matter of thyroid issues.

  2. 

    I have missed you and your writing. Really pleased to see this today. Im going through a marriage break up and a lot of this hit me hard! Thank you.

  3. 

    Happy birthday, belated but still. This is a beautiful, inspirational post and you know what? It made me realize something…

    While I’ve felt weak and failing the last few days, I’ve actually been disciplined and I’ve actually survived. I’ve done things I didn’t think I could do, I’ve pushed through the intense amounts of pain. I’ve persevered. Thank you for this post!

    • 

      When someone is depressed, low, sad, weak or unwell everything takes so much more effort. Something that wouldn’t usually be considered an accomplishment becomes an accomplishment. I think that even being alive at the end of a day can be an accomplishment for some. Its so important to realise this. A sad, sick, weak or depressed person cant compare their achievements to that of a fit, well person because it isnt the same. I’ve learned to let myself off the hook and realise that my arms will be longer on some days than they are on others…. as long as I stretch them as far as they will go, that is all I can expect of myself.

  4. 

    What a major event to be able to place on your life story! Now that you are almost halfway there, I imagine your thoughts are now turning to where you wish to be at the end of the journey. I’ve been following this since almost the start and have seen much to light the way but I imagine there are quite a few choices to make; paths to select before the end comes into fine focus.

    • 

      I am still surprised that it has been so long already. So much has happened and my life has almost completely changed, and yet it feels as though the time has passed by so quickly. It makes me realise that the final half of this journey will pass just as quickly… I actually feel nervous about it. I cant imagine day 1001…..

  5. 

    Reblogged this on originalcopiesblogdotcom and commented:
    Discipline

  6. 

    You have learnt to live with yourself. When the 1000 days are over – remember the person you are now. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and person you are with.

  7. 

    Vanessa, you can also be really proud of the wisdom you already have, at only 29 years of age. Your blog is an inspiration to many .

  8. 

    Kudos to you for taking on the challenge and learning so much about yourself as a result. It’s a shame more people don’t take the time for self-reflection and self-education. The world would be a better place.

    • 

      Thank you, and I completely agree. I realised that if I knew all about the world and all about other people and nothing about myself then I would have wasted my life. I dont want my life to be a waste.

  9. 

    Happy belated birthday, Vanessa! Good to see you back here. :) Thank you for this post, as most times, it rings true. Thanks for putting things back into perspective.

    • 

      29 years old! I keep shaking my head at that. When I was young I used to think ‘when I am 30 I will be SO old and a real, real grown up’ I think I was expecting that I would know so much about so much but age really is just a number isn’t it, because I still spend half my time wondering what it is that I want to be when I grow up…

      • 

        Oh, I feel the same, and I’ll be 36 this year… I always thought I’d be all clever and have everything and everyone figured out. Now, I sometimes wonder if that’ll ever happen… but I’m looking forward to finding out! ;)

  10. 

    THANK you for your words-you are able to create such a VIVID image when you write… blows me away every time!!

    your journey is incredible and i thank you for sharing it-i have not experienced half of what you have, and yet you bring me to tears often, and make me stop and take stock of my life.. such power and freedom in your words!

    WELL DONE Vanessa!

  11. 

    Your writing really is soulful. I have been where you are, stood above that card deck and tried to do the same thing. I spent a few years spilling my deepest darkest thoughts into my own blog as well. And then I stopped. Sometimes I miss my writing. The friends I made there.

    It’s okay if the cards aren’t picked up properly. It’s okay if each card is not put back in its proper place. No one is perfect.

    It’s okay that you are living your life.

    May the days be filled with wonderful images, and focused on the good. May your heart live in the moment, and not in the past. May there be love, in each day.

    • 

      :-) This made me smile.
      What happened to your writing? Where did it go?

      • 

        Ahhh, my beloved blog. :-) It’s hidden…. I go back and read it sometimes. I can share, but its only to invited email addresses at this point. And I havent written since 2011, since my father passed away. I truly do miss the blog friends I made… some you may even know (one special man introduced me to you, as a matter of fact)….
        …some are gone, now in the stars, Have you ever met Anu? And her writing online?
        She was amazing: appreciateyourself.blogspot.com
        My angel now in heaven, from India….

        Anyhow, Some thoughts: Express yourself where you want, when you want, how you want. Forgive yourself. And don’t be harsh or judgmental on anyone…especially yourself. Live, laugh, love.
        xo.

  12. 

    This is very beautiful. Respect is the word that comes to my mind when I read this. Total commitment and impelling self control. Congrats on the 447 days! The tossed coin is almost about to make its way back, you’re almost half done.

    I’m ten years younger, I’ve learned many things from your journey albeit following you only through your blogs. I wonder how fascinating it’d be to actually meet you.

    PS: Your writing constitutes a whole new epitome of enhanced metaphor usage. And yes, I almost forgot, belated birthday wishes!

    • 

      “The tossed coin is almost about to make its way back” THAT is a very cool image.
      Thanks for your words. Do you know what? Every time I publish something I am sure that this will be the post when people realise I have no idea how to write at all, and catch me out as the phoney I feel as a writer. EVERY time. Then I get comments like yours and realise I must have fooled you again.

      I am not very fascinating in real life. I have terrible road rage, I hardly ever make my bed, I hate bananas and I love live music.
      Thats me in a nutshell.

  13. 

    Beautiful, Vanesssa. Your journey is both unique and universal. I am richer everytime I read you.

  14. 

    When I was about forty years old, I decided it was time to give up my addiction to men. I would not have called it an addiction at the time, but it was. When I was focusing on someone, anyone else, I could lose myself in the love story I made up in my head, the story about how I was now finally someone because someone else loved me. I did not have another date for four years and I went through many of the same things you are going through. I struggled to understand who I was instead of always and always comparing myself against others. I did find out who I was during that four years and I liked the person I found. I could not have articulated the feelings I was having about that journey as well as you. You bring me right back to that place.

    • 

      It is a bit of an addiction isnt it? “lose myself in the love story I made up in my head” that is so, so familiar! Unless you find out who you are then how can you pair yourself with someone else? That would be like having shapes in front of you and trying to pair yourself with one of them but not knowing what shape YOU are! It doesnt make sense….

  15. 

    A very though provoking post. Don’t forget about forgiveness. That will be the true release. While agree being healthy and fit are extremely important how you appear does not define who you are. Enjoy the movement of your body and get to know its rhythms. This will serve you in ways you cannot imagine. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • 

      I dont think people who really, truly care about being fit and healthy are motivated solely by appearance. (Of course someone who is fit and healthy is going to look better than when they were unfit and unhealthy) but I think it largely comes down to self respect. If I respect myself I am not going to treat my body like a trashcan I am going to take care of my mind and my body knowing it is the only one I am going to get and my longevity and quality of my life comes down to how I treat my body. That is my motivation. :-)
      Forgiveness is VERY important, I couldnt agree more. Forgiving others and forgiving yourself. Vital
      Thank you for your message and your encouragement :-) x

  16. 

    Wow, how beautiful. You are so right, we all need to learn who we are. And that takes th emost courage of anything we can do on this earth: To make a choice to be alone and to be ourselves and to discover who we are apart from what people say we should, who we feel pressured to be, or anything else. I myself have been single for a couple years (by choice), and it has been t emost beautiful thing I have ever experienced…just learning to be me. I used to be such a people-pleaser (most in romantic relationships, but even with friends). I used to change myself and let people walk all over me. Now I know who I am, and I’ve become radiant and strong and ME. I pray you will continue on this journey. God bless!!

    • 

      It is such a beautiful thing, I agree. I too was a people pleaser and only recently began to tackle that (I still have a lot to learn)
      I like the quote: Be yourself, everyone else is taken.
      Even the best copy cats cant fool anyone.

  17. 

    This makes me want to be a better writer…Happy Late Birthday to you! Glad you’re back :)

  18. 

    I love you. Keep it up. God has a plan. Have faith and live each day in the joy of life and feeling.

    Still praying for you
    Andrew
    Xoxoxox

  19. 

    Powerful words from a powerful woman. Thanks for sharing your thoughts again.

  20. 

    The sun and the javelins of light in the water. Beautiful imagery Vanessa, and happy birthday. X

  21. 

    and your writing has taken a turn for the better as well!! Very clear, vividly descriptive of your feelings. Great job, Vanessa

    • 

      I responded to a comment recently that ‘Every time I publish something I am sure that this will be the post when people realise I have no idea how to write at all, and catch me out as the phoney I feel as a writer. EVERY time. Then I get comments like yours and realise I must have fooled you again.’

      I am surprised and really pleased that you think my writing is improving. I never know…..

      Thank you

  22. 

    Self respect comes from loving yourself. It is a journey for many of us, including myself. So good to read your post and see how far you have come. Congratulations on pursuing knowing yourself!

  23. 

    Reblogged this on 1041 Days Later and commented:
    This is so beautifully written.

  24. 

    I love this post and completely agree with it! Living alone taught me so much about myself. But also about what I would and would not accept in a partner. Such valuable lessons.

  25. 

    I really loved this and I thought it was beautiful in so many true true ways. I’m excited for the things you’re learning on your journey!

  26. 

    Love your writing Vanessa. Documenting your singles days journey is going to be such a good thing to look back on when its all over. The ups and downs, the good and bad…will all make you stronger. So much wisdom you have shared so far.

    Blessings from Whangarei :)

    • 

      Oh a message from Whangarei!! (I am coming home for the summer, so excited… MATAPOURI BAY!!!!)
      It is going to be important for me later on in life I think. I was never very good at keeping a diary but the ones I did keep in my early years are so precious to me now. See who I was, how I thought, what concerned me. This blog will become like a time capsule containing SO many memories.
      Thanks so much Jacks. xoxo

  27. 

    thanks bright eyes. you are as usual right on the button. also had a bad lapse jan to april this year after a medicine change for another symptom. how terrifying to be back where I was 20 years ago.i slept with the wardrobe doors open! thank you.

  28. 

    Thank you for writing this. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today.

  29. 

    Thank you. I am have been celibate (does self love count?) for well over a year. Everything you’ve written describes it perfectly. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • 

      I hope you squeeze every last bit of learning and insight into this precious and unique time in your life. This will be the last chance you get to learn some of the most valuable lessons you could possibly learn.
      Thank you for writing xoxo

  30. 

    The part where you talk about doing those things alone, being places alone…yes, that does help. As I sit in my comfy bed alone and I am pretty emotional and just finished crying….but I know it is a healing for me. I am learning self love and we’ll see who god sends me after I’m done with my ‘self’ journey. Keep writing, I can relate. Good luck with this….feat? ….endeavor…? ……task? :) Thanks

    • 

      Think about an athlete. Think about how he has a level of physical strength that he needs to reach. He endures painful training, his body cries with tears of sweat and no matter how many people are at the sidelines cheering him on, he is alone in it. He is being prepared for something and it is the painful isolating moments which prepare him most.
      Think about where you are. You have one life and life is worth nothing but for the lessons we take from it. You endure painful training and your heart cries tears and no matter how many people are on the sidelines cheering you on, you are alone in it. But you are being prepared for something and it is the painful isolating moments that prepare you most.

      You’re allowed to cry, it shows your heart is in training.
      Much love xoxo

  31. 

    You are such an amazing and inspiring person, be strong and courageous! My 29th birthday is coming up soon, too… happy birthday! (*^_^*)

    • 

      The big question is, how do you plan on celebrating your 30th? After 29 comes 30 and you have to do something you have always wanted to do when you turn 30, its the rule.

      I have always wanted to be a human disco ball. What about you?

  32. 

    I can relate to a lot of this, and somehow I do know that I need the discipline and self respect to move on. It’s hard! I will keep trying though. Very wonderful piece, I will keep it close to my heart.

  33. 

    You’re almost half way through the 1000 days! You have no idea how much respect I (and a bunch of other people) have for you, your decision and your journey. I love your writing, so keep posting new stories. When you’re feeling down, think about us, your readers. The readers you inspire! x

  34. 

    You write so beautifully, Vanessa, and I think you say a lot of things that others can benefit from, and take courage and encouragement from your words. I certainly have :)

  35. 

    What a great read! Loved it!

  36. 

    I don’t know if I could commit myself to 1000 single days. That takes a lot of will power that you seemingly have. Nonetheless, I’m glad that you’re discovering a lot about yourself. It will make you a better fit for someone, to know yourself so well, once you are ready to date again.

  37. 

    You’re doing well Vanessa, the hardest person to live with is yourself, the hardest to get to know and once found the easiest to like.
    Laurie.

  38. 

    What an amazing post. More than that, what an amazing snippet of your life. Thanks for sharing! And you are magnificently right. None of these things that we aim to achieve in our lives happen in an instant. Neithr do the things that you’re working towards. It takes a lot of fortitude to recognise that, way before you’re actually able to tackle the problem. It’s quite true how the simplistic gym visit symbolises one of those achievements. It’s not about the gym, it’s about GOING to the gym. None of us are perfect, but none of us whould be trying to be perfect. You should add another thing to your “I like that…” section. It should read “I like that I share my learnings, my experiences, without ever trying to force that opinion on others”. All credit to you. You are winning, and you’re doing good to you. :)

  39. 

    Whoah!! I just discovered your blog site and it will take some time for me to get through them all but I will do it. Love your determination and wish you everything of the best.

  40. 

    Fantastic post…and an incredible blog. You are such a wonderful writer and very inspirational. I never thought about discipline as clearly as you expressed its importance, and you nailed it. Life is unsteady, but moving forward boldly as you are (and writing about your journey) is wonderful.

  41. 

    Hey, from another 29 year old that feels like he’s barely entering adulthood. Lots I could say, but simply: thank you for your blog. It’s one of the few I look forward to reading and find enlightening in unexpected ways. God bless you. You may like the post I most recently wrote on violence and suffering in a spiritual sense. Or you may not, which is ok too : ) Thank you…

  42. 

    An incredibly insightful journey. And yes, it is wonderful when you realise that it is you who have created that respect and feel that within. One of the hardest things to do in this life is to love ourselves. And after giving to ourselves that respect, for we are worth every bit of it, we begin to treat ourselves with that love. Be in a place of peace within, see everything from a totally different place, and then give to others from that loving place we have created within. A very long hard journey till we understand, and as you have said, all that went before no longer matters. It is now what we have become. Be very proud of that journey Vanessa, the vessel that you have now built is a precious one, and holds a beauty within of untold wealth. Namaste

  43. 

    I’m glad you are in the business of finding your self-confidence-which I sometimes call “inner peace.”

    I finally learned to love myself and be enough for me when I became homeless, jobless, carless, and penniless. I should have been at my lowest point of self-esteem, but I felt free from social constraints. (If you’re interested I wrote an article called “Self-Love, Self-Belonging”, I’d give the link but that would be rude.) Anyway, I also have ideas on love languages and personality types when you decide to start thinking about relationships again. As for me, my INFJ personality type is a confirmed bachelorette : )

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