Compass

by MB


This weekend was an extended exercise in self care. I dwelled  in the dissonant space between wanting to do nothing but needing to do everything. I was craving time with myself, a space for introspection and growth. I was looking to take stock of my life. I battled every urge I had to make plans, to be accountable to someone else, to put my time on someone else's clock. A war un-won by connection.

I sit here in this cafe in TriBeCa, having just met Jill for a couple of hours, warm from tea and the knowledge that perhaps I'm not alone as I think I am. Writing and thinking. A couple speaks Spanish on the bench behind me. It's Easter Sunday, and they are drinking Aperol Spritzes. John Legend pours out from the speakers tucked behind the mismatched light sconces, his sorrow drowned out by the cafe's patrons.  It looks like spring outside, but looks are deceiving. The consistent flow of customers - in and out and in again - brings with it a cold air that nips at my ankles and wrists each time the door dances on its hinges. 

I have a couple of hours to kill. Nowhere to be. Nothing due. I am learning this distinction - I have many things to do, many things I could be doing, but nothing due

I stepped on the scale yesterday, right foot before left, bringing my mind to the present moment. I watched as its small plastic face blinked at me a couple of times before spitting out its answer, a frenetic energy pouring from my body.

I waited.

I waited for the scale to give me what I was seeking - a summary of my week, a validation of my sickness and my time off, approval of my instincts to eat and nourish myself through my illness, to rest my body and my mind. For what felt like eternity I stood as still as I possibly could, waiting for my compass to guide me. To whip me into shape and belittle the choices I made. To question my decisions, to remind me that maybe I wasn't that sick after all. To probe me with what I knew deep down all along - I didn't deserve that time off, that rest.

I waited for the scale to to tell me how happy I was, how good of a week I had. How much I triumphed. How recovered I was. I waited as though the number would drop a pin somewhere on this invisible map of my life and reorient me to the present. I waited as if every sad feeling or thought, every recognition that I am alone or that my life is in limbo, would be eradicated by a number. I waited for the simplicity to intervene.  

People in recovery talk a lot about how a scale can't tell them anything about their lives - how happy they are, how much they are loved, how much they love. Few people talk about a related but distinctly different phenomenon. Just as a scale cannot measure joy, it can no more accurately explain your sadness. There is no number that can encapsulate your sorrows, show someone else how much you worried or how afraid you were. A scale cannot vocalize how much you struggled, how hard each meal was. How difficult the present moment is. It cannot, in any meaningful way, begin to explain the extent with which you fear your future or question your every move or decision, fearful that today is slipping smoothly through the invisible gaps between your fingers.. 

The scale can't speak. 

I stopped waiting. 

I realized that slowing down didn't feel like giving up, or giving in. It didn't feel selfish or wrong and I am not wracked with guilt.