Our Crap Follows Us
I lack any word more eloquent that would express the true sentiment of what I feel other than "underwhelmed."
That's all I can think of when I'm standing atop the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth. There's a strong possibility that I'm actually dead inside because I just don't feel anything.
I stand there and I look.
I hike a little higher, and look again...squinting a little. Nothing.
I think I left my soul in my carryon back at the hotel. It's definitely not on this ledge with me.
I'm a woman searching. Always searching. Like...lost a contact in a windstorm, and I can neither see to find it, nor see to stop looking...searching.
All of the places I've searched have simply left me as underwhelmed as I felt on those Cliffs. I suppose I might be slightly less disappointed if I knew exactly what the hell I was looking for.
It just seems that sometimes when you look very hard for something, the universe conspires to hide it from you. Think about the last time you lost your car keys.
Worse than the desperate search for a thing I'm not sure I've lost, it's possible I have spent a large portion of my glorious 34 years running from something.
I just keep showing up everywhere I go, and it's getting kind of old. The really annoying part is that the more I run, the harder the shock to my system when my shadow side catches up and hits me like a boomerang in the back of the knees.
Everyone has this shadow, so I feel less alone, and definitely less likely to lay in bed wallowing in sorrow. Or GrubHubbing Chinese food.
The crap I keep trying to run away from has a way of leaving me feeling more than a little flat. Frustrated, maybe. Resoundingly uninspired. And there really are few more disheartening feelings than waking up uninspired. Or, for that matter, getting up to slog through the nitty-gritty of your 9-to-5, and waking up from your post-lunch nap somehow more uninspired.
I've felt this before. I keep looking for the thing that will make me, well...me. My search is cyclical, like the phases of the moon...or a good season of Law and Order: SVU. I'll find a "thing" and that's the new me. One time it was law school. Twice it was moving to Colorado. One time it was buying a house in the country. The next time it was selling the house in the country. On more than one occasion it's been a new jacket that makes me feel fabulous. Sometimes it's being a caterer. Or a lactation counselor. Or a doula. Now I'm a writing catering lactation counseling doula, that does weekly podcasts. For years it was getting on a plane once a month and going to a new city for work. Now it's wanting to travel the world.
There's no more painful truth than hearing that my getting on a plane and flying half a world away was easier than being able to sit in a room facing myself.
That truth, echoing off the concrete stairwell walls, was almost a harder pill to swallow than the recognition that I'm officially no longer the older/wiser friend.
I've found that my reflections in these mid-winter afternoons are just about as cold and dark as the alley behind my apartment. In the summer, the place sings with kids playing, and the occasional colorful vagrant screaming the F-word, and a lot of birds singing in the sun.
Now, with the time change, the sun goes down at something like 10am, and I'm left with a lot of time to think. This is never good for anyone. What did Anne Lamott say? "My mind is a bad neighborhood I try not to go into alone."
There is only one theme of the questions that finds itself forming on my lips in my bad neighborhood mind: Why?
Why do I keep doing the same things that I know I don't want to do? Why do I keep making the same choices? Why does it feel like I'm missing a piece to the puzzle? Why is life so freaking hard?
We think we're keeping ourselves safe if we don't ask ourselves the hard questions. Really, we're just stuck in the mud, spinning our wheels. Sometimes we spin our wheels in numbing how much it sucks to be stuck. All the wine and sex and heroin and yoga and food and obsession over accomplishment are all temporary vacations from yourself.
The same wise friend who blew my mind open with the whole "stop-running-and-face-yourself-dummy" crap above also said that you can't be blown away by joy/beauty/inspiration until you can look at your face in the mirror every day and be even mildly ok with yourself. The part we're not ok with will find us no matter where we go, so stop running from it. That's the bad news.
The good news is that when you're even mildly ok with yourself...with all the bumps and bruises; with all the choices you wish you didn't make, and the ones you lay awake wishing you did; with the text you regret that ended your relationship; with the thing you did with your friends that made you feel a little less than holy the next morning; with the time you cancelled on a friend because you were too anxious to get out of bed; with the time you just couldn't hold your crying baby; with the shame of not being able to "get over" your depression....just mildly ok with it all, that's the real work.
And it sucks. But when we face it, and like, really face it...when we let it get raw and ugly and uncomfortable and weird, that's when we're able to connect to the beauty in front of us. That's when we can see those Cliffs and feel anything other than the cold snot running down our nose.
I haven't quite stopped running, but at least I see that I don't need to. There really isn't a magical job or hobby or pill or drink that will make me better. There isn't a country in the world that I can hide in from the parts of myself that make me feel less than whole. The romanticism of the vacations from myself are a lovely break, but they're not sustainable. Even if I sold all my stuff and got the heck outta Dodge, the romance wouldn't last.
Even in these pre-holiday gloomy days, I know the springtime exists. It exists in the alley with the kids and the vagrants and the birds, and it exists in the shady neighborhood in my mind. I've seen it. Everything is temporary, even the bad things. Even the best things. I know that the winter only lasts a few months, and all of the sides of me be out having DeFazio's in the park before I know it.