Forget Me, Not: Thoughts Of A Human Houseplant

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Lately I’ve felt stuck in place. I know I am growing, but that growth is so slow I barely feel I’m moving forwards at all. If anything, I feel a part of me is travelling backwards. I know myself, and I know I’m not the person I was a year ago, or a week ago, but at the same time there is a part of me that’s so stuck in the past I don’t know how to access it.

I am called back to places I once travelled, to people I once knew, even though I am not the same person who encountered them. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the past 11 months, it is that I must follow my intuition, without fail. There was a time, two years ago, where I ignored my intuition. It started by doubting one red flag, and seven months later I was smothered in a scarlet tapestry, woven together by threads made of every question I’d failed to ask myself, every flicker of inner knowing I’d chosen to ignore. After that, I had to learnt to trust myself again. It wasn’t an easy process, and it’s taken me a year and a half to regain faith in my intuition. It hasn’t failed me yet.

Right now I have writer’s block. Except it’s not like usual writer’s block. There’s not some great big wall of cement in my mind. It’s more like I’m stuck in treacle. I can move forward, but barely. The words don’t come easily to me anymore. I haven’t written a blog in over a month, when I promised myself I would start writing every week. Editing my novel is slower than I intended or anticipated. I am going through life with the brakes on. I know where I want to be in the future, I have a vision of how I want my life to turn out. There is a quiet place I go to in my mind, a fantasy that isn’t entirely fantastical. But between the fantasy and my reality is a giant chasm, which I can only cross by taking a leap of faith. A phrase I read recently in regards to my journey was “look before you leap”. Right now I am looking, both forwards and backwards. The chasm is in front of me, and my intuition tells me it is safe, that I will land unharmed on the other side. But the logical part of my brain is telling me “girl, you are standing on the edge of a cliff. Run as far as you can in the opposite direction.” I don’t want to run that way though, I have no desire to return to where I began.

I have two goals I would like to accomplish this year. Three, really. I want to publish my novel, go back to Estonia and Latvia, and lose weight. For the first time in my life, that third goal doesn’t feel insurmountable. It’s something I’ve proven I can do. Technically, the other two goals are also things I’ve managed before. However, there was a point this week where I realised I could only afford to do one. Then I thought maybe I couldn’t afford to do either. Now I there is a possibility I can make both happen, in which case I will be incredibly happy. But let’s go back to that day when I thought I had to choose.

My book is the great love of my life. My writing as a whole is the love of my life, but I mean this series, this book, in particular. I have poured six years worth of my blood, sweat, tears, and existential crises into this novel. It’s more myself than I am. It is the one thing I would choose above else.

I didn’t make a choice. I hopefully won’t have to. But during that period of indecision, I was leaning slightly more towards travelling, and this surprised me. I thought I would choose my novel over everything.

My dilemma is: I am a university student, my life is dictated by the beginnings and endings of the academic year. If I don’t travel in December, I have to wait till April, or till next summer.I didn’t travel this summer. I don’t want to wait another entire year before I can leave the country again.

But I promised myself I would publish my novel before the end of this year. I first published this novel almost six years ago. On Wednesday, it will be three years since I started rewriting it. In many ways this new version has exceeded my expectations. It is everything I couldn’t write when I was fourteen. But at the same time, I can still see the places where I’m not as good a writer as I wish to be. I still struggle with description. There are still pages which are almost entirely dialogue, because I just don’t have the words to show how it is in my head. I am frustrated with myself as a writer, because I feel I’ll never be good enough. It would be so much easier to postpone it till next year.

Self-publishing costs money. You have to buy ISBN numbers, and cover photos/pay a cover artist, etc. It is a gamble, and it would be so much nicer to postpone it till January, or February, or 2028, or my deathbed. There is a part of me which is scared of putting this rewritten version of my novel into the world. Because this one isn’t written by a fourteen-year-old. I hated being called good “for my age.” I despised it because I wanted to be valued for my merit, not my youth. I’m an infinitely better writer than I was at fourteen, but on some level I’m scared that I’m no longer “good for my age” or good at all. I’m scared of being laughed at. I’m scared of being a failure. I’m scared I don’t have enough twitter followers and that no one will read my book because no one will hear of it. I’m scared of annoying the crap out of my friends by promoting myself and my work. I’m scared all my efforts will have been in vain. When you spend years of your life investing your time and hope and energy in something, it’s hard to let it go, to leave it up to fate. It’s hard to gamble with something so close to your heart. It’s terrifying.

My desire to run away to North-Eastern Europe doesn’t come from that fear. I’ve never been one to run away from things, but to run towards them. I don’t know what I’m running to. I have a compulsion to return to Estonia, and to Latvia. My intuition tells me it has to be December, that by April it will be too late. Too late for what? I don’t know. All I know is that my destiny is there. The chapters of my life that ended long ago were merely foreshadowing chapters that are yet to come, and as much as I’ve tried to end certain storylines, the loose ends never tie up. There have been too many plot holes in the past year, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that when things don’t add up it’s because the story isn’t over. There is something in my soul which anchored itself in the Baltic States the moment I set foot there, and I think I will always be drawn back to those countries.

Earlier my friend asked me if I feel trapped in Glasgow. Perhaps I had used the words “run away” too many times in the message I’d sent her. There have been times when I’ve felt trapped here, but it’s not quite how I feel right now. So I did what all writers do at one point or another in their lives, and I explained it in metaphor. Whilst I don’t feel trapped in Glasgow, I feel limited. I am growing, and Glasgow is this great big plant pot. I have room to grow a certain amount. But travel, for me, is like being planted directly in the ground. Particularly when it comes to Estonia. Perhaps Latvia as well. I can grow to my full potential, I can let my roots sink deep into the earth to gather the nutrients they need. I can’t do that here. My life is nice, it is comfortable, I am well looked after. But I was not made to be a houseplant, not when I am a wildflower by nature.

It’s been over a year since I returned from my travels last summer. I was so glad to return to the UK, I swore I’d never travel alone again. I was depressed, and that depression got a whole lot worse when I returned to Glasgow, because I felt like my life was not under my control. I’m in a much better place within myself now. All the heartbreak of the past year — the past two years, really — has allowed me to grow into something close to my authentic self. I’m not there yet, I’m still a houseplant, but for the first time in my life I feel comfortable in my own skin. I like myself, I like who I’m becoming. My self-esteem actually exists now. I no longer look for validation from other people. But the lessons I’ve been learning over the past year haven’t fully reached their culmination.

Life is cyclical. Old people, old patterns, resurface when we’ve learnt enough lessons and moved to a different place in our lives. Sometimes they come back to test us, to see if we’ve truly learnt from them. Other times they return to us because we’re ready for them. There are lessons I’ve learnt, themes I’ve dealt with, that are yet to come full circle. I can feel it in the air, feel it in my soul. I know deep inside that something is coming into my life, and as much as I want it right now, I’m not quite ready for it. I am impatient, certainly, but I do believe in the importance of timing. I know my life is moving slowly for a reason. I still have growing to do, there is still a little space left for me in this plant pot.

I’ve spent eight months complaining that nothing happened this year. 2017 was a year of high key drama. 2018 has been more understated. I have completely changed personality, multiple times, but the changes have been so deep inside me that I didn’t always notice they were happening. The were few major events, only one or two shocks; it was a quiet year overall. But in spite of the lack of drama, my life has been a constant series of little changes. Those little changes built up, and I don’t recognise the person I was last year.

I can’t look at pictures of myself from a year ago. I’m sure it’s largely due to unresolved body image issues. I’ve lost two and a half clothes sizes since then, and I am considerably more comfortable in my body now. But when I look at photos from last July, the feelings of unworthiness comes flooding back. But it’s more than that. My old self is a stranger to me. She doesn’t feel like my real self, my authentic self. I know she was only doing the best she could within the limited space she had. Until February 2017, she was stuck in a tiny plant pot. But it came crashing down off the shelf, and she had to be repotted in the aftermath. In September, this slightly larger plant pot was smashed again, and she was replanted once more, into a much bigger pot. Through water and photosynthesis, the plant grew. Where she had once wilted and been covered in weed-killer, she now began to grow flowers. I can’t look back at the wilted plant I was a year ago, because it is painful and pointless.

But the wildflower I am is a forget-me-not. I can’t forget the past, or the ghosts of my former self. It’s impossible, because I live in the aftermath of every decision she ever made. I owe her my growth, I owe her myself. And I’m ashamed of her. I don’t want to be ashamed of her. Especially not if it’s because of how she looked. What does it say about me if I judge my past self just because she was fat? I can’t have grown that much if I still feel that way. I don’t judge other people’s worth based on their weight, but I seem to have different standards when it comes to myself. I am harsh on all the former versions of me. I don’t always show them enough compassion. (I really shouldn’t write blogs in the middle of the night, I’m getting way too vulnerable here).

Perhaps it’s not about looks at all. Perhaps I simply don’t like my old self. I tried too hard to be liked, I didn’t know who I was, I sought external validation because I was miserable on the inside. Sometimes I read through my old writing, and I see something rough about it, like it’s too hard around the edges. Not the writing itself, but the sentiment there. I read through my old blogs when I feel nostalgic, and I don’t always like what I’ve written, I don’t always like who I was.

Last month I found myself reading the blog I wrote when I was in Latvia last summer. I had been chastising myself for not keeping a diary last year, because I couldn’t remember how I had felt about certain events in my life, and then I remembered: I may not have kept a diary for most of last year, but I did when I was travelling. Reading that blog made me laugh and cry, mostly at the irony. I certainly wasn’t in touch with my intuition back then, because there were so many “feelings” that I would now recognise as knowing. The day I left Riga, I had this strong sense of unfinished business. Given how particular storylines played out in my life, I now know that was intuition. But at the time it was just an icky feeling. I sat in the bus station, as rain poured down all around, listening to sad songs, knowing a shard of my heart would remain in that city long after I departed. Even now, when I look back at the time I spent in Latvia, it’s like something from a film, too cinematic to be real life. All my memories are in high definition, closeups of museums and artwork and tattoos and landmarks and reflections in bus windows.

I have a selective memory, I know I do, and I am often prone to look back through rose-tinted glasses. My travels were far from perfect. I was in a dreadful place within myself, I don’t know why I idealise it so. But even the Past Eliza who I can’t look at pictures of, who I dislike for many reasons…even that Eliza had the real Eliza hidden deep inside of her. She was younger than I am now, and she had given her power away to too many people. She didn’t understand her intuition or know how to use it, but it was still a part of her. My current self wouldn’t be compelled to go back to Latvia if my past self hadn’t known deep down that she had to return there one day.

It’s easy to resent my old self, especially when I look at some of the decisions she made. But I must accept her as part of myself, and choose to view her with compassion. She was a wildflower struggling to exist as a houseplant. It was not an easy position to be in, and she was brave in the choices she made. I regret some of the things my past self said, especially when I spoke without thinking, and I regret responding to people too quickly, going all word-vomit from my fingertips instead of allowing time for my brain to kick in before writing. But every uncomfortable decision I made has brought me to this point.

I may come to regret the things I have planned for the end of this year. I know I won’t regret returning to Estonia, but I may well regret going back to Latvia. I may regret publishing the rewrite of my novel. I am gambling with my fate, but I have made calculated decisions. I have weighed up the pros and cons, and there are three things I know: freedom comes from my writing, freedom comes from travel, and freedom comes from following my intuition and my heart.

Last year I didn’t know how to access my wilderness. I was a people pleaser. Lately I’ve been reading a book called “Women Who Run With The Wolves”, and it has changed the way I view myself, as a human and as a woman. The book is about folk stories and the female psyche, and getting in touch with our inner wild woman. If you’d asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought I had an inner wild woman, let alone an outer one. Wild is the last word I would have used to describe myself. I have been a “good girl” my whole life, and I’m so damn tired of it. Someone once described me as “exceptionally nice” and until a week ago I thought it was a good thing. But lately I’ve realised I’m not nice, and I don’t want to be. “Nice” is such an insipid word, and I refuse to be an insipid person. I’m not nice, I’m scheming and ambitious and downright machiavellian. For twenty years I suppressed the wilderness within me because nicety was the safer option. Being good doesn’t feel like a gamble. Until you’ve gambled your whole life away on the promise of fairness, and suddenly niceness hasn’t saved you, and you’re left to fend for yourself.

Nice is the houseplant. It is a role I can survive in, but it is not my true nature. I am a forget-me-not that has been buried under pavement, and is only now beginning to grow up through the cracks. I will persevere, I will survive, I will flourish, and I won’t fall back on niceness to get me where I want to go.

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