"I look at this water and find I cannot wait to see the Black Sea."
I wrote that on August 26, 2010. Seated beside my pool in beautiful Old Town Alexandria, staring at the blue of the Potomac. Mimosa and dinner from Balducci's doubtless by my side. The process had just begun. I had no idea of the ride that I would be in for -- the months of frustration and waiting and heartbreak, of poor decisions and second chances, and saying goodbye again and again, knowing that it would never be enough.
But nine months later, here I am.
And today I looked at the Black Sea and remembered what I had written, one short lifetime ago. I remembered feeling full of fear and apprehension and excitement, and sheer desperate determination to somehow find a way out of the empty life I found myself living. Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing to me -- "Think about how many times I have fallen." How many grand plans have I laid that never saw the light of day? How many times have I given up, or been too afraid to start? Think about how many times I have fallen. But this time -- this one life-changing, crucially important time, I followed through.
The other night as I was falling asleep, I realized my stomach hadn't hurt in well over a month. I'm not talking about "normal" stomach pains, of course. I've definitely had my share of TD and one truly regrettable evening due to some improperly stored leftover fish. But this was something far worse. I affectionately called this my "morning sickness," although it had nothing to do with being pregnant. But I still woke up nauseous every day. I'm talking about the gut-wrenching, insides-twisting nonsense that can only come from being in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship. Which is exactly what being in my job felt like to me.
It's hard to believe that every day and night for over a year, I lived with my stomach in knots and my mind a stressed out, strung out mess. "Business is business; don't take things personal." That's every corporate motto, right? But being in my position, the way I was treated, made it personal. "I'm breaking up with Ursula on Friday," I said half-jokingly to a co-worker as I confided my intentions to put in my notice. Breaking up with her. That's how it felt. I wasn't leaving a job. I was leaving a malicious individual who had turned me into a living wreck. And that kind of situation is not business, good business or otherwise. That is something else entirely.
"I'm leaving you, and there's nothing you can do to stop me. You can't hurt me anymore."
And before it even got that bad, I still hated being there. That job with the horrid commute, the long hours, and overall the bullshit work. I'm not protesting my needing to work hard. But in that place, the work that I was asked to do was something that I could take no pride in. I was helping to perpetuate an ugly and unsupportable cycle, aiding and abetting the bad habits of people -- of one particular person -- that I absolutely could not respect.
I can't remember when I first started thinking of "The Meathooks," but I know it was well over three years before I finally quit. I would walk to my car in the morning, through the garage under my office building, back from lunch, and imagine I could feel meathooks sunk into my flesh, physically pulling me back into that office. It got so that I could feel where exactly they were, and their position would change from day to day. "Mmm, the hooks are in my shoulders today," I would say to myself. Or scraping under my collarbones, through the backs of my knees. Between my eyes. Dragging me, twitching my limbs like an unwilling puppet. That's what it felt like walking into that building every day. It felt like fucking torture.
Now that I am here, I have no earthly idea why I didn't pull those hooks out of my skin a long time ago. I can feel myself starting to heal. I'm getting stronger and healthier from daily walking and riding my bicycle. I take deep breaths and find that the tightness around my chest -- the tightness from non-relenting stress, is gone. And my stomach no longer hurts.