Another one of those quirky dreams struck the other other night. I was wandering around a dimly lit Norwayville-style toytown without teeth. There was an operation I was meant to be at to get my face fixed that for some reason had been missed. Rather than resolve the problem I had instead chosen to wander the streets forlorn and despondent. Quite sure there’s no symbolism to be gleaned here at all.
If life is about choices, a lot of them still seem to be made entirely by my body’s visceral reactions to how I’ve been treating it. After a relatively heady but also stressful month, my body revolted in its favourite way. My “moon cycle” as the hippies call it, announced itself with a level of brutality that had me vomiting up painkillers all over my balcony after a night of agony I’d gladly swap with being pummeled by a muay thai fiend. Time to clean up my act, apparently, and clean out my system.
Out with the late nights and enraptured conversations with people I’ll probably never see again, in with the nerdy focus on health protocols, energy systems, cortisol levels, early mornings and exceptional sleep. Along the lines of saying “yes/no” to a variety of things, I experimented with a fast that lasted four days, per the suggestion of date #6 of project 100 dates. He (staunch fasting advocate who has shown temperate enthusiasm for my rats) actually suggested I shoot for seven days, but I’m still pleased with the four days that I did manage, and through which I enjoyed the best sleep I’ve had in years.
“And what about your performance?” asked my training buddy who had scheduled a hefty mix of hack squats and trap bar deadlifts alongside all sorts of uncomfortable lat-building exercises. This was a few days after the fast ended. Well, I guess I had lost some strength. But what is apparent is an improvement in cardiovascular endurance (or maybe just a lighter-footedness?), which I think is something I value in a way that she’s not so concerned with. I think this is because I associate it with giving me a greater resilience in bouncing back from stressors that might otherwise have floored me. And amazing sleep.
Still, if I truly wanted the engine back that I had in some points of Corona-- when I wasn’t smoking at all and when I was out running most days, had a limited social circle and lived comfortably with my nose in a lot of books-- I’d have to go all in and throw my cigarettes out of the window.
During the week, this is mostly feasible if my recovery and stress-relief protocols are on point and if I’m not calming myself down from having just sprinted up and down a very long street like a crazy person looking for the guy who has kindly found my phone and promised to hold onto it (there are some good people out there…). Or if I’ve not been triggered too much.
The logic obviously goes that in order to do away with a bad habit, you have to find a replacement for it.
Meditation or breath-work, or even punching Nigel, could work. (Nigel is the heavy bag that lies on my floor wearing a jumper with arms I’d stuffed a few months back so as to practice submissions). But sometimes this isn’t really enough. Especially when trying to put yourself through your own regimen of exposure therapy so as to refrain from doing a Hermann whenever life hits you: I.e. running away and finding a hole under a kitchen cabinet replete with all your favourite shreds of toilet paper with the aim of living there forever.
(By the way, somebody recently suggested I struggled with an avoidant attachment style (the one that has anxiety at its gooey neurotic center.) I was so annoyed I started Googling one way tickets to Timbuktu worrying about who would stay in touch if I actually did pull another disappearing act. That was a joke. Kind of.)
So I’m instead being a little bit bendy with my health protocols at least in the early stages of project 100 dates, during which I allow myself the mushroom cloud of cigarette smoke to hide behind as I am starting to “normalize the emotional intensity that comes with dating” as someone else put it.
“Project 100 dates! Love it,” said a writer friend. “What does it entail and are you writing about it?” Well, so far, it involves meeting people at basically the same turnaround rate and with the same time investment most of my single female friends have committed themselves to anyway. Compulsive note taker that I am, I am amassing the qualitative data points about myself within this context that I just haven’t gathered enough of so far, discovering that things like developing checklists are actually quite helpful.
I never really saw myself as the kind of woman who had checklists. More the kind of woman who shows up to dates with sunny, sporty types dressed like Morticia Addams and responds to the question of “hey girl, what do you like to do for fun?” from guys on the U-Bahn with the line “strangling puppies”.
But actually, romantic compatibility is a pretty complex thing to figure out when you’re trying to approach it from the position of “who would actually fit in my life” as opposed to “who kind of makes me feel bad about myself in a way that would make me feel obliged to fix them and ignore my own needs?”
So these are the questions I’m working towards answering on the field. Will I write about it? Well, not for cheap laughs and not in a way that intrudes on mine or anyone else’s privacy or dignity. Life is far too short for any of that kind of drama. However, I will caution that anyone who doesn’t articulate the utmost admiration for the two true loves of my life -- my pet rats -- will get exposed faster than you can say “Watergate”.
A Berlin-based writer engages in the study of belonging and in-between places after years spent faraway from 'home'.