I’m writing this blog entry from a hotel room in Boston, in the Jordi Labanda journal I bought in the Museum of Fine Arts. I’ve come here to celebrate my 42nd birthday. The city is quaint and modern, cleaner than New York City, and the buildings are at once ancient and new. I’m here to grasp 42: an unlikely milestone in my life: 20 years in recovery.
What have I learned about myself? I don’t seek approval from others anymore. I’ve decided to throw out the rules. I have no desire now to raise the bar higher and higher, chasing impossible standards. My only two goals are to publish my memoir, and buy a co-op.
I’ve also decided I want only to work as a public service librarian until I’m 55, and retire then so I can get a job as a peer advocate, or as a job coach for people in supported employment. Though I flirted with becoming a life coach or an art therapist, more recently I’ve nixed this. It’s simply good enough, I feel, for me to do my art again.
When I got sick, I stopped drawing and painting, two modes of therapy I employed when I was a teen, in high school and college. A short-term goal is to attend the Art Students League on 57th Street in Manhattan, next spring. Though I’ll never be Picasso, I like expressing myself this way because it’s a form of meditation. The mind shuts down the verbal and cognitive forces, and the visual takes over, freeing me of my worries.
In Boston, seeing my recovery with fresh eyes, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Though it would’ve been easier to stay home and putter around my own city, or to sit on the couch and obsess about how old I am, I know it was wise to break out of my comfort zone. Here, I’ve begun to celebrate myself.
For too long, I discounted my self-worth, and the experiences that made me who I am today. I felt I couldn’t possibly talk about the hell, because it was too painful. I carried it inside like a silent poem. All these years, I didn’t want to admit when I had difficulties. I’m incurably cheerful, and downplayed the effort it took to carry on.
Now, I’m able to accept that life is struggle, and it wasn’t meant to be easy. Over the years, the symptoms mutated into something else; it’s as if the SZ manifested itself in different guises when I wasn’t aware. Yet my therapist, Max, suggested that even if I didn’t have the illness, I’d tend to be hard on myself.
Here in Boston, I’ve come closer to having a confident mind. Shut off from the daily stress, I rejuvenated my weary soul. I don’t care to rush about any more. I feel it’s time to slow down. I give myself the next two years in which to work on my goals.
I came here to rest and unwind. Max used the word “obsessive” to describe my worry. The thoughts were like shooting gallery ducks. Just as I shot down one, another would pop up. Now I understand what I need to say when I talk to myself: positive affirmations. I’m able to accept that I worry, yet can take action to reduce its effect on my self-esteem.
How? I’ve decided I can wake up in the morning and listen to some music that uplifts me: Joshua Kadison’s “Beautiful in My Eyes,” and INXS’s “Beautiful Girl;” also U2’s “Beautiful Day.” A trio of inspiring songs to power me through the day.
Self-confidence is a gorgeous thing. If I analyze the past too much, it will be like the ducks are moving fast again. If I worry about the future, it will sap the energy I need to live for today. And so I aim for a happy medium: a two-year plan.
I examine my life now: I’m at the exact midpoint. If I live to be 84, I actually have 42 more years here, so it’s like I’m at the beginning of another life within this lifetime. I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I want to make it a good one. Boston was perhaps my christening.
On this city’s streets, people walk a little slower; their voices are quieter. They’re dressed casual and smart. I like that the buildings aren’t vertical and imposing, like Manhattan skyscrapers, but human-sized. At the Common, I sat on a bench and watched the world go by. It was a blessed, sunny day. 60 degrees feels like 60 degrees here.
I’ll leave you with some recommendations before I post my second entry in this duet.
If you’re ever in Boston, I recommend:
- FNX—101.7—a radio station that plays left-of-the-dial music even though it’s on the commercial side of the radio. I liked Plain White Ts song, “Hey There, Delilah.”
- Riccardo’s in the North End—you can dine alone, be seated in a quiet nook, and not feel on display. 178 North Street.
- Riding the “T”—the subway that’s neat, clean and actually feels home-y, unlike the dirty, crowded New York City system.
- Treating yourself to a Boston tee shirt—a cheap way to remember your time here.
Published On: May 18, 2007