I spent 2020 in repair.
I hadn’t fully understood just how much of myself I’d been putting out there until many parts of me crashed and burned. I’m still putting out fires, but I’ve had to be completely intentional with how I put them out…by smothering myself in love and care so that I could heal and learn from the scars I helped create.
My scars…they don’t define me. They are just another part of who I am. I feel no shame in having them, but I do feel a kind of pride because I’ve learned from them. Not proud to have them, but proud to have survived the lessons because a lot of people don’t. A lot of people get stuck in the pain and never learn that wounds heal from care, not neglect, or further trauma. You can’t pretend they don’t exist or that they aren’t as bad as they are…you have to figure out what you need to heal them and then do that work. It hurts. It can feel like you’re making it worse when really you are sitting with that injury and caring for it so that it can heal. The scar is the reminder that you were injured, and when it no longer hurts, it’s evidence of where you’ve been.
I have a lot of scars. Most don’t hurt much but occasionally the I irritate the area around the scar tissue which reminds me of my progress. Many of my scars are deeper than they should have been because I ignored them, assuming they’d heal on their own, which is its own lesson. When the wounds didn’t heal on their own, the pain spread, affecting other parts of my body…of my life, until I was so overwhelmed with the pain that I had no choice but to stop and care for the wounds I carried. I had to focus inward to address the many many things I’d ignored. I had to understand that if I was going to keep living, I needed to make changes in my life that supported that goal, and one of them was accepting that shitty things are going to happen whether or not I was watching and that I needed to stop watching if I was going to heal.
So in June I stopped watching. I stopped consuming as much media and limited my social media. I stopped writing except when I felt driven to do so and started working on offline projects. I stopped streaming completely because I needed my home to be my home and not necessarily a stage where I let people have access to me. I stopped looking at all my activities as potential revenue generators and started focusing on enjoying what I was doing. I decided to stop trying to be a brand and remember that I’m a person…a person who needed privacy and rest.
I was also so physically and emotionally exhausted that I wasn’t thinking clearly, something that only exacerbated my physical issues until they overtook my life. I developed sciatica which is one of the most painful things I’ve ever endured — and I’ve had a toothache, hernias, surgery, and been hit by a car. I couldn’t sleep, had trouble eating, every moment was agony. I had to focus all my energy on getting out of that place and to realize that the cure was an overwhelming awareness of my movements, environment, and physical state at all times and to coddle the body aches I’ve spent decades ignoring because nobody has time to cater to pain. Pain has always been an indication that something needs to be fixed so that I could go back to real life when pain is just another facet of reality. Pain isn’t something to ignore and overcome. It is your body alerting you to something that needs to change. I’ve been conditioned to ignore and push through pain when the lesson really was to stop and take care of myself. Depending on where you fall in the carefully constructed and maintained social hierarchy, your freedom and ability to stop and care for yourself may not exist. I am fortunate that I had the resources available to aid me because I used them all, and as I recovered, I realized I lived a life of little joy, by choice. I was ready to make a different choice.
Making that choice had a ripple effect through my life — something I hope will remain positive. It changed how I saw myself and what I wanted for myself. It upended all the ideas I had about what I want for my future, putting me in a kind of limbo for what’s next, because pleasure and fun could no longer be incidental or a positive side effect of constantly working. I needed to learn not to constantly work or feel compelled to produce shit — something with which I continue to struggle. Part of that process was giving myself permission to have fun, which included caring for and appreciating my body. I had to stop thinking of myself as this constant work in progress and just enjoy who I am right now. I started wearing more clothing I liked and taking more risks with my wardrobe, rather than limiting myself to work-appropriate or uncomplicated clothing. I bought outfits it would take me an hour to figure out how to put on because I’m terrible with straps and ties, and modifiable clothing.
I started playing with makeup, choosing color palettes I’d never used before and trying different techniques to see what would happen. I started just trying shit out to see if I liked it and stepped out of my comfort zone with fun results. I now buy pretty underwear and take photos of myself from a variety of angles, seeing beauty in myself that I never appreciated before. I started listening to new music and dancing again because I love moving and it doesn’t need to serve a purpose. I bumped up my sex life because orgasms are amazing and can happen as often as you want.
I stopped looking at pleasure and pampering as a time waster and instead finally understood that we need to be kind to all parts of ourselves, that this is a necessity for us to live. It was a hard-won lesson that I do not intend to forget…because forgetting is the pathway back to pain.
All of that was to share this short video of my looks throughout the year. These photos are snapshots of my trajectory in 2020. I view these as a testament to the care I gave myself during a traumatic ass year and a reminder of these lessons living becomes so much harder when I forget.
Happy New Year, y’all!
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Originally published at https://talynnkel.com on January 1, 2021.