Stories for Lent: #35 Common Sense

I was told once I have no common sense, and I’m inclined to agree – I probably don’t. What person in their right mind starves themselves, guilts themselves for not starving enough, and trains until their period disappears into the ether? Surely I must need an intervention.

I’m struggling to get the words out. Help, I want to say. Help, help, help.

But I cannot. Instead, I keep my butt in the seat, sink further into the shadows, put on a normal face and listen to other people’s problems. I see everything. I say nothing. I disappear. I make myself vanish.

*

It’s dark and I’m coming home from training. Head down, hands in pockets, walking downhill. I’m hurrying. I don’t want to be out late.

The next year, coming home means an uphill battle. I’ve had to move houses – my friends have either graduated or found new roommates, and I have to make do with what is left. My calves and thighs are burning – I’ve trained for two hours, but still, I’m walking, up, up, up the hill. The road is desolate and lonely, and by all means I should be afraid. But I’m not. I’m not slow, but I’m not in a desperate hurry either. It’s almost as though I’m looking for a fight.

I’m coming home, from a session where I felt like a place-mat, to a house where people only care about me when it’s time to settle the bills. I don’t want to be at either place, but the latter is slightly more welcoming than the former. I have a door I can close. I have a phone I can use. I have a pillow I can cry into.

It’s not the first time. I won’t be the last. Over the course of several months, I’d head off to train, presumably to spend time with my friends, and then feel like crap for over two hours as I interpreted looks and wondered why nobody would talk to me. I’d come home, more miserable than I started off with. I’d write page after page in my journal, wondering why I was doing this to myself. I’d punish myself with runs in the rain, with uphill cycling, with walking home after a late night out.

I remember coming back after a party – it was around 1 or 2 AM, and there was a huge queue for the taxis. I could have waited. Instead, I put on my walking shoes and set off, under the cold winter sky, with the wind making the trees rustle above my head. I’d imagine there were zombies lying in wait to motivate myself to walk faster, but there was only so much I could do. I came home, shivering with relief.

Another night, I was cycling back, in the rain, coming home from another house party. This one from the town nearby. A couple passing me in a car, saw fit to lower their windows and yell at me for not wearing enough Hi-Viz. I lied and told them it blew off. Why wouldn’t I stay overnight? I have no idea.

Over and over again. Loneliness, entitlement, punishment. I’d push and punish, punish and push. I’d resolve to be better. I never was.

*

Kindness lies in common sense. You know the stick won’t get you far. You know it won’t. So why keep employing it? It seems counterproductive. But being mean is easier. Releasing tension is no work at all – you just find a useful target, yourself, and you let loose. Kindness takes work. Kindness requires empathy. Kindness is the hot drink you make yourself, even when you feel like crap, and the shower you force yourself to take even when you just want to spend the day in bed. It’s airing your room, making sure your fridge is stocked, and eating a warm meal. It’s making yourself walk away from situations that make you miserable and then making yourself stay away.

It’s hard. It can feel isolating at times. But it also is recognizing when you’re down and you need to rest. It’s forcing yourself to keep moving, but to also pay attention where your feet go.

It’s common sense. But it doesn’t feel that way.

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