Conquering Great

From the top of the first page
To the end of the last day
From the start in your own way
You just want somebody listening to what you say
It doesn't matter who you are

I deleted my first 127 GB of unused photographic RAW files yesterday. The ones I've never touched, where someone was blinking. I've never touched any of them from the very start of my career from some ghastly fear of something bad happening. Wouldn't you know it, here I am seven years since I started this whole game and nobody has ever cared about those old files I hoarded like Smaug's treasure heap - of fake Prada…

Then I found myself, yesterday, with a clear head, asking Paul to tell me that nothing bad was going to happen, and a few hours later just doing it, just pressing that mouse button on the words "Empty Trash…"

It was exhilarating and terrifying, like burning old love letters. It gave me a thrill not superseded by anything I've yet tried. Indeed, some find shopping thrilling - but I find purging ten times the thrill, and the lasting benefits are not to be ignored.

Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry
You don't know how lovely you are
I had to find you, tell you I need you
Tell you I'll set you apart

At first I approached all these purging ideas people were parroting as though they were dangerous little weasels about to set off the cannons of something bad happening. Then I tiptoed about one idea or two, throwing out some old tupperware and cringing and peeking out with one eye, lo and behold, nothing happened. My clothes that I had set aside rather than give to charity… sat. I don't even remember most of what's in the box anymore, but I'll probably go through it one more time to retrieve the three items I remember and toss the rest. The RAW files I had saved collected digital dust. I kept waiting for a chance to tell myself "I told you so," but none arose.

I was just guessing at numbers and figures
Pulling your puzzles apart
Questions of science, science and progress
Don't speak as loud as my heart

I imbibed some amazing advice from my therapist and from the late great Dale Carnegie's masterpiece, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Some of you might remember me blogging about The Happiness Project and a few other great literary works I've been mulling over. They've brought me the first tiny rays of true freedom, and the eating disordered thinking that's been entrapping me is slowly, but surely, beginning to unravel. Some of you who know me well are starting to see a real difference in my manor and happiness levels...

I have miles to go yet, but that's alright. I have many years to live. I still have days where I cannot shake the feeling that I am a blob of unworthy fat with not much else going for it, but typically these days there's a stronger voice calling crap on that. And sometimes that voice is even my own.

But I've always known these pounds I carry were the thoughts and feelings and weights I couldn't let go. And now that I've started letting go, it's getting easier and easier and one day soon, those pounds are going to be the thing to go. At least, I hope so.

Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
I'm going back to the start

So in the spirit of this new freedom, my approach to the new year has been a mixture of two sentiments that many people have espoused separately - the typical espousal of lists and renewal and the newness of the year leading to bigger and better things, and one involving an expletive and a dose of apathy and sometimes even just good old realism.

One might try to tell me that these things are mutually exclusive, but I'm actually finding them to work well together in the right order. There's something quite amazing about giving up, really. About realizing that your self-expectations are ridiculous and trying them by fire before throwing up your hands and admitting you were wrong about all the self-righteous personal perfection you've been spending a lifetime working towards.

And there's something incredible about what comes after that, a grand clarity of purpose that enables the freshness of a new start. 2013 was the year of looking over your shoulder and hoping that the other shoe would stop dropping - and then the shoe refused to drop. Things got better.

2014? It's the year of the Great Purge and the Great Renewal. The appellation of Great is deserving here. In the same way as we called Alexander great for his conquering of the known world, I call my purge and renewal great. I will glance at every thing in my life and judge it worthy or unworthy, from the digital flotsam I've hoarded in lieu of real life stuff to the stuff that slipped in under the radar or out of learned behaviours that weren't even mine, items sitting in boxes… So every item in my life with a physical or digital form is going to be touched this year - and most of them in the next few months as I spend my sabbatical working through them. It's a grand undertaking, but simple in a way. It stays. It goes. It stays in one form and goes in another - like the whole going paperless undertaking I started last year. I'm getting there already, actually. My paper intake has gone drastically down.

All this has led to other small freedoms. I started taking a break at Christmastime and then it just sort of didn't stop. It got more and more fun and less and less guilt-inducing.

Now I look back and it has been nearly two weeks of seeing people and then doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. In the past few days I've become almost nocturnal with few bad side effects, which is fantastic since there's barely any sunlight anyway and it's arctic out there - Paul does his thing in the daytime, I get up sometime between 2pm and 4pm, we chat and I decide what to make for what can definitely not be labelled as breakfast. I do whatever I want for the first four or five hours, which usually involves taking a break from what I want to do and spending time doing what Paul wants to do, I attempt something work-like at some point most days, or not if I don't feel like it, and at some point I look at the clock, frown, and get up and go to bed. I realize of course that I'm extraordinarily lucky to have the freedom to do things like this. So I'm going to savour that.

One night I was feeling particularly perky and I mounted a full-scale attack on our financials and bookkeeping, crunching numbers with my various helpful tools for almost 5 hours with relatively few mistakes. I was able to chisel a statue of important numbers out of the granite block of hundreds of other numbers with relative ease in that one moment - when I really probably should have been working on something else.

But I'm actually learning to use my procrastinating to do other things I've been procrastinating but look better than something else - see, there's a great variety of things I'm supposed to do, and given that reality, I'm almost always in the mood for something, whether it be finally watching that TV show I've been meaning to check out for years (in this case, Castle, which I have watched an embarrassing two seasons, or to make it sound even worse, more than 24 hours of within the last week) or number crunching tax season prep or design work for my new business handouts or culling and previews or taking control of my computer icons to help me navigate… Or simple things like scanning and sorting files.

The great variance of these things is really helpful. I'm nearly always in the space to tackle something if I have the energy to do anything at all. And it's okay if I don't, right now, so I don't always. Sometimes I sit and watch TV and that's all I do for nearly a whole day - except eat when I feel hungry and take care of the needs of my four-legged beast - however grudgingly on occasion.

For most of these things my therapist would be cheering right now, because I am anything except apologetic about taking a week to watch TV and veg out because I felt like it, because it's something I needed after a very long and hard year of work, and despite the fact that there was outstanding work that needed attending to. Honestly, I've gotten more of the rough, unsettling work done - like that financial business - since I started doing whatever the heck I wanted. I sat around, and when I had enough sitting around, I tackled something. And typically a hard, crappy something.

After all the work I did before Christmas, I'm in very good shape with everything work-wise and starting to wind down the shooting season and attack all kinds of rote things that have needed to be done for ages. Like, you know, setting up automatic minimum payments for the credit card that I should have done two years ago, or cleaning out unused RAW files, which though extremely scary is quite unlikely to have a single bad effect and quite likely to create an insane amount of hard drive space.

I've also bitten the bullet and just started completely automating a bunch of reminders to spend time with friends and family. It's really hopeless otherwise. Especially with plans to move again.

During one of the worst cold snaps in Saskatchewan history, I have fully succeeded in not leaving the house once since it started dipping too cold for living. Not only that, but I have accomplished some things I've wanted to do for ages. Paul and I made a full accounting of all the food in the two freezers and two pantries. There was a lot of food. But the best part is that the kinds of food are many and varied, and not only can they create dozens of well-rounded meals, but they've meant that with about an hour of cooking a day, we've had some totally fantastic meals and I have plans for more - after a quick trip to the grocery store to fill up on the essentials we've run out of in our quest to stay indoors. Well, more mine than Paul's. He gets antsy and needs to leave the house on occasion. But the key is that we're finally using up all the food I've been hoarding. I've confronted the food hoarding since two years ago, been as honest about it with myself as I can be, and the need to keep it around like security… well it's finally starting to wane now. Not every day, but most days.

I know something is broken
And I'm trying to fix it
Trying to repair it
Any way I can

I prefer to enjoy warm blankets, tea, and the quips of Nathan Fillion. Oh, and the new season of Sherlock with a warm soft Paul beside me, laughing uproariously. As I said on Facebook today, truths I hold to be self evident include that British fictional TV is the best, and Red Rose tea is an abomination - so clearly I have some Britishness in my makeup.

Paul bought me tea for Christmas - ordered me a whole box of my favourite Higgins and Burke Earl Grey - and when I say box I mean six of those typical tea boxes. A whole lot of cups of tea. Then he made sure we had Half and Half too. As I try to tell him often, he's a wonderful husband and a good man.

I'm a very blessed woman. I'm coming from a disordered life to an ordered one slowly, and not relentlessly ordered by chopping things and bloody cutting room floor, I've just conquered one country at a time, one battle at a time, like Alexander the Great. Maybe I'll find a way to re-title myself, not for the perfection I once sought, but for the relentless pursuit of the next best thing that started as a plague before I realized that on the other hand, maybe it could be a saving grace…

Yes, and I sin every single day,
We never change, do we?

This post brought to you in part by the effervescent truths bubbling up through Coldplay these past years of discovery. Special thanks to the band that brings me to myself as honestly as I can come to that mirror. Oh yeah, did I mention they're Brits?