Learning to Live Moderately
I’ve always been an “all or nothing” sort of person – in every aspect of my life. I have never once in my life eaten just once slice of cake, if the rest of the cake was available to me. When it comes to food, I either sit and eat until I’m full to bursting, or I starve myself. Usually I starve myself until I sit and eat until I’m full to bursting. I either sit down and work solidly for seven hours without breaks, or I can’t get started at all. When I was a regular gym goer, I went upwards of eight times per week… until I stopped and didn’t go at all for months. When I drink… I drink. And when I meet someone I like, I jump in with both feet, very quickly.
The relationship thing is very interesting, and telling of my lack of moderation. If you ask any of my friends, even people I have known for twenty years or more, they will tell you I am the most independent person they have ever known. A friend I’ve known since I was 16 told me this recently and for a moment I thought she was bonkers – and then I realised that to my friends, this is who I am. It’s only when I am in a “romantic” relationships that I become the most needy person on the planet. From one extreme to the other.
I always knew I had this sort of tendency, and I thought that by abstaining, I was solving the problem. No cake in the house means no sitting and eating an entire cake in an evening. No drinking means no drinking. And no men means no jumping in with both feet after five minutes and then getting hurt.
When I started seeing a man last month (we’ll call him K, for that is not his name), I had decided before the end of our second date that this was the man for me (in my defence, I had been exchanging messages with him for a few months… but still). And soon afterwards, I realised I had never, once in my life, taken things slowly. When I met S’s father, I was practically living with him within a few weeks, and was pregnant within a few months. Of course, that was partly his doing and his intention – but it was also my modus operandi, as it were. Thinking about it, the only relationships I’ve ever been in for more than five minutes are the ones where the other participant was probably just as impatient/fucked up as me.
Just recently I read in a book about the idea of living moderately. Because actually, what I’ve been doing until now – automatically doing the polar opposite of the problem behaviour – is not solving the issue. Avoiding all possibility of a relationship doesn’t mean I’ve resolved my problem of becoming too involved too quickly. Avoiding alcohol doesn’t mean I’ve resolved my desire to drink the whole bottle. Never buying cake doesn’t mean I won’t gobble it all down as soon as some appears in my house.
And so, I am working on moderation, in all areas of my life. One slice of cake. One glass of wine. One trip to the gym. Normal meals through the day.
This is really tricky for me, and requires constant mindfulness and discipline. Constantly checking in with myself: do I really need that extra piece of cake? Am I really hungry? Have I been sitting here for too long? What is moderation, any way? It changes day to day, and it’s really hard to keep a grip on. It’s easier to abstain, but abstaining is as much of a problem as too much. Of course, the real test will come with maintaining moderation in a relationship. With K out of the picture that may not happen any time soon – but I can work on getting the rest of my life on an even keel in the meantime.
As it happens, this lack of moderation is one of several symptoms of codependency. The more I read about this, the more I feel that the term very much applies to me. And so it’s something I’m working on. The first step, as they say, is awareness.
Codependence is a massive thing, and something that I now realise has dominated my life up to now. For reasons of which I’m not yet sure, I have avoided actually telling anyone about this. Perhaps because there is a certain amount of vulnerability in talking about something that is still ongoing. When I’ve written about personal things on here before, they’ve either been very much in the past, or almost over and done with. I rarely write about anything that’s not yet resolved. Something tells me this is going to be a very long, drawn out affair though – and one of those things that stays with me forever. So it feels scary to put it out there.
And yet, here I am. Doing something that scares me a lot. Such is life.