It’s a chilly evening, but the lounge room is warm and clean. The children are in bed, Lovely Husband is out at a class and I have the night to myself. In front of me is a huge bowl of lentil soup, my favourite food in the world.
The first bite is heavenly. Hot, spicy, creamy and thick, laced with lime and yoghurt for tang. I am perfectly satisfied, and in the very next second I feel a spike of anxiety. Eventually this bowl of soup, enormous though it is, will be gone and the pleasure will be over. Even reminding myself that there is more soup in the pot doesn’t help, because there is no way I’ll be able to eat more. Once this bowl of soup is done, it is done, and I am mourning its loss even as I contemplate a second spoonful.
You are, at this point, either nodding in recognition or thinking that I am entirely insane, and both are completely legitimate responses! I laugh when I catch myself doing it now. I used, of course, to do it with alcohol; my anxiety that there wouldn’t be enough pleasure in a bottle would almost outweigh the desire to drink it at all, which is both ludicrous and also explains part of why it is so much more peaceful not to drink it at all. I’d be watching a film, which would be coming up to the most emotional moment, but if my glass was almost empty I’d pause the narrative – and lose the tense build up – to make sure it was full again. I couldn’t possibly lose myself in the moment if I didn’t also have that glass by my hand.
I haven’t lost any of that anxiety. I still feel as if somehow, somewhere, I’ll hit upon a magical combination of fulfilling leisure and sensory pleasure that somehow satiates me completely and propels me into a new world. And when I do find something that gets close – right now it’s Pretty Little Liars and knitting – I do it again and again, every evening.
Sometimes I think that learning how to just be is the hardest thing of all.