Where I Am Not ...
Today started off like any other day of late, my morning drill of bringing myself and the house to life: opening curtains, booting up the computer, deciding whether to have coffee (this morning's vote was a "nay," but this afternoon's vote was a "yea"), reading e-mail, loading my morning batch of sites, hopping on the treadmill. I allow myself a bit of Oprah so long as I'm on the treadmill.
This is Oprah's Best Life week, and I had it in my head that today was Suze Orman day, which was enough to make me not want to watch, because I really don't like her, but I turned on the TV to check and discovered that today wasn't finance day. Today was spirituality day.
All righty then. I'm all about spirituality these days. It's practically all I'm about these days.
So there I was, walking in place, which is a metaphor for my life lately: moving but not actually getting anywhere. (Just yesterday, on Facebook, I wrote, "Beth is feeling like a baby learning how to crawl, metaphorically up on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth, but not yet moving forward.") And Oprah or one of her acolytes (Oprahlytes?) said something about living the lives we're meant to live and I said to my ceiling, "I don't know what life I'm meant to live." And I started crying. But I kept walking. Because in that moment, I had to accomplish something.
Yesterday, after I wrote my comment about feeling like I'm not moving forward, one of my Jeff friends (I'll dub him Photography Jeff) added a quippy comment and then commented again to add, "I made light of your serious posting. I'm sorry. But seriously, you've done so much. I think you're actually in the middle of a sprint, but just taking a moment to recharge."
I didn't mind his quippy comment. Sometimes a little levity is a good thing. But I appreciated his follow-up comment. Not for the apology, because no apology was necessary, but for his perspective of me being in the middle of a sprint but taking a moment to recharge.
Because I sure as hell don't feel that way. People comment to me on a fairly regular basis that I have such an interesting life, that I know such interesting people and I've done such interesting things. And those comments land with a "plink!" inside my brain and I think, "Hey, yeah! I do have an interesting life!"
But here's the truth: Deep down, I feel like a failure. I feel completely overwhelmed. I feel completely adrift. I have no idea what I'm meant to do, no idea where I'm meant to be.
I've been given an extraordinary array of gifts. There is very little I try that I cannot do. And yet, I can't figure out what I'm meant to be doing. And I feel as though the harder I try to figure it out, the more elusive it will remain, like the answer is mercury.
I feel as though I am in some kind of purgatory, a cosmic grey area where I'm aware of the unrest in my life and aware that this unrest is part of a transition to a new place – it's propelling me, in fact – but I'm not yet capable of fully understanding what it all means, as though I'm seeing and hearing the future through static and I don't have the tools to sharpen the picture and sound. It's like being unable to think of a certain word. You know you know it, but for the moment, your brain won't let you access it.
Inherently, I know that I have all the answers, but for the moment, I have no idea what they are.
My mom came by today, unaware of my meltdown-in-the-making, and listened to me vent. (I have the best mom ever.) I told her how I envy those who know what they want to do with their lives. "I wish I could see that point on the horizon," I said. "Even if it was 1,000 miles away and I had to walk there. At least I would know what I was walking toward. I would get there."
Instead, I feel like I'm perpetually scanning the horizon and getting closer to nothing in particular. A spiritual nomad.
I recently realized that I don't have an answer to the question, "What do I want?" And I try not to think of it in terms of want, because "want" implies that I'm lacking and I have an abundant life in so many ways. But it was startling to realize that I don't really know what I'm looking for. No wonder I can't find it.
In Jen Weigel's book, she tells of a dream she had about her dad in which he gestures to everything around him and says that none of it matters, that all that matters are the people in our lives and love.
And in that way, I'm very blessed. I have many people about whom I care and many people who care about me.
But part of the contract of being human is existing in the world in a productive way, making a contribution, and being able to sustain a life. Money, unfortunately, is a substantial part of the equation. Many a savvy mother have said to their smitten children, "You can't live on love."
So there is a very practical side to my efforts to figure out what I should be doing with my life. I have to pay my bills somehow. But there are also the issues of fulfillment and service. I'm almost 40. Presuming my life is about half over, I feel like I should have figured this out already. A whole other biological clock is ticking.
Years ago, when I worked at the Tribune, my friend Rick left a note on my desk. We were meeting up for drink after work and when he stopped by to collect me, I wasn't there. "B," he wrote, "Where are you? Rick".
To this day, I have no idea.
Where am I? I am in my house. I am in my office. I am in my 30s. I am in my head. I am in my heart. But to the larger question of where I am in the world, what contribution am I making, I come up blank.
Earlier, my mom mentioned my compassion and that there was a time when I was going to be a doctor. Maybe, she said, I should be working in a field that brings my compassion to bear, like social work.
I said very honestly that I think I'm too emotional to do something like that. When I was pre-med, I knew I could never be a pediatrician because it would be too hard for me to be around sick children. It'd break my heart.
But I certainly would love to help people. Wouldn't we all?
Talking with mom helped. It always does. I was grateful for the opportunity to expel some of this emotion, to talk through some of the miasma in my head.
At times like these (oh, yes, I've been here before), I also appreciate my surroundings. In lieu of making sense of my thoughts, I make my bed. I do dishes. I Swiffer the floor. I organize books on shelves. I fold clothes. I apply order where I can as if that will alleviate the anxiety in my chest.
The other day, my cousin Lora's husband, Don, asked me if I suffer from anxiety. I said "No." And later, I thought, "Well, that's completely inaccurate." But I found it interesting that my immediate answer was "No." Did I not want to admit it? Or do I not view this as anxiety? And if I don't view this as anxiety, what is it?
Many years ago, my friend Mark told me to ask myself when I'm worried, "In this moment, am I OK?" His point was that while we may be concerned about money or a relationship or something external, in any given moment, absent imminent mortal danger, the answer to "In this moment, am I OK?" is "Yes."
From that perspective, I am OK. And since all any of have is this moment, that counts for a lot. But I wish the answers would come. Then again, maybe they are. Maybe I'm expecting them to appear overtly and they're showing up subtly. Maybe I need a different perspective.
Or a Xanax.