Thankfulness Thursday: Appreciate the Gift of Life

I am a lover of the movie "Titanic." Jack Dawson in the movie sums up how I hope to live my life best. He says, “Well, yes, ma'am, I do... I mean, I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what's gonna happen or, who I'm gonna meet, where I'm gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count."

Life should be about adventure, simplicity, living in the unknown but loving every minute of it, noticing every beautiful thing surrounding you, always keeping your eyes open to all the possibilities of the world.  I used to live my life in such fear of unpredictability. I needed everything planned and structured. I had to have complete control over every aspect of my life-people, events, school, my future, my past. I needed to deal myself my own hand of cards. Life could not do it for me. I never liked not knowing what was happening next. I always needed to know what plans were for the upcoming week, the next year of my life, the next ten years of my life. On vacations, I needed to have everything planned and scheduled beforehand. I could not live day by day. Where we were eating, when we were leaving, exactly what we were doing, where I would sit in the car, where I would sleep, where we were staying all had to be known in advance. When I couldn’t get answers, I was left in extreme turmoil and completely unsettled. I could not handle living in uncertainty. Unfortunately, for me at the time, that was all life was. The only predictable thing about life is that it will change every second.

When I felt a loss of control and life became overwhelming, I turned to the one thing I could control fully-food. In times of absolute uncertainty, the anorexia would appear. It became my comfort, my security, and my means of calming my anxiety. It became my obsession. My behaviors around it were compulsive-I HAD to do them or something would happen. I had to cut my food a certain number of times, eat at a specific time, consume the same food, and take a certain amount of bites. Every minute of my eating was meticulously planned and calculated. It gave me control, what I desired so much living in a life of chaos. Ironically, the one thing I turned to for control ended up controlling me and causing me to lose any trace of power I had over my life. this caused even more anxiety and made me go even deeper and deeper into the anorexia, needing to do more compulsive behaviors to try to calm my nerves and lessen the constant angst within me. It was an extremely vicious cycle and completely debilitating. They felt like an obligation. I was never told I HAD to eat at exactly 12 everyday or HAD to cut my carrots into many pieces or HAD to eat a certain brand of bread or I HAD to chew food in a set even number of bites. It started out as an innocent act and then my mind made them mandatory. I began to see that for a brief time while acting on the compulsions, my mind got an escape from the obsessive thoughts. It never lasted long however. I was always aware the intrusive thoughts would soon return, and another behavior would need to follow. I also used to act on compulsions as a way to avoid situations that would trigger my obsessions. It went beyond food too. I had to pray a certain number of times, wash my hands for a specific time and in a certain way, check things ten times before walking away from them, all items in straight lines or in height order, had to walk a specific path in my house, and nothing at an odd number. The sound on my computer or TV or the radio or the temperature on the thermostat had to be on an even number or I would get extreme anxiety. I knew they were irrational but I felt bound to comply with them to fend off feelings of panic.  

I remember watching Titanic and falling in love with Jack Dawson’s philosophy for living. I was envious of him. The OCD was inhibiting my ability to live so carefree. My need to control stopped me from adopting that way of life. When I made the decision to actively pursue recovery, my goal was to make my life compatible to Jack Dawson’s. Even in recovery, I still struggle with the compulsions. I know it is my biggest hurdle right now. They are keeping me stuck in regards to my intake and continuing to restore my body but are a definite work in progress and surely improving every day with A LOT of hard work, hope, and dedication. Each change I make has helped inspire me to make another while simultaneously improving my obsessions and lessening my compulsions. Each change brings new hope and healing in ways I never thought possible. They have their setbacks and discomfort too but the joy they have been bringing me is proving to outweigh the pain. I experience the beautiful aspects of the change and come to better accept the not so pleasant parts that are inevitable because of that. It makes everything more possible, makes me more capable, and gives me more strength.

I would say, as of today, I am three quarters of the way there to living the life of Jack. I am at the point where I am falling in love with the unpredictability of tomorrow. It is fun to wake up having no idea what the day will bring and living off of impulse and my heart’s desire. I adore living life embracing all the simple joys in life, not wasting a single moment or thing this life has to offer. I now pay attention to all my surroundings and take it all in, take a minute to appreciate it all; the caterpillar now a butterfly fluttering past me, the flower in full bloom, the guy waiting at the door to hold it open for me, the aroma of cookies filling my house, the laughter of children, the sound of the rain on my roof, the kind words of support an old friend gives me in a text. Allowing life to flow freely without my strict control has blessed me with the ability to enjoy all those little moments that bring true happiness. I have found recognizing the presence of those things are what have brought me pure joy and add up to be everything I have ever wished for. And they are things that have happened without my control, and that is a beautiful thing. It makes me want to let go even more to see what even greater things will present themselves around me as I live freely, with spontaneity, and unpredictability. I have learned to love sitting in quiet surrounded by nature and God with just my notepad and pen and seeing what comes from my mind. I have found my peace. I have found all I need. I do not need to be surrounded by noise and distractions or the drama of the world. I am content with just me being alive and paper, just like Jack.

After coming face to face with death, I see life now as the gift that it is. I wish I didn’t have to learn that in the way that I did, but I am just thankful I survived the anorexia and have gained so much knowledge from it. I am beyond fortunate that from the dark, I could find light and turn my life around. It gave me the opportunity to appreciate life more and all it has to provide, which is what I am doing more every day. I make sure that I make every single second of my life mean something. I treasure life and value it more because it was almost taken away. I am learning to grab every opportunity, to live in chaos, to live in uncertainty, to take risks, to try everything at least once, to let go, to be content with not being in control, to take life as it comes and not question or try to change it. I am learning to not let anxiety take over me and hurt myself and create a pause in my progression in the process. I am learning how to work on releasing my need for the compulsions and how to eliminate the obsessions so I can live the life I dream, so I can read the words of Jack Dawson and know every word rings truth to my way of life. I know that day will come. As long as I breathe, I have hope in reaching the life I envision for myself. In the meantime until I get there, I am going to continue to love every day and not let a minute go by unappreciated. Life is a beautiful blessing. It should be lived to the fullest.