I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m just plain terrible at this ‘blogging’ thing. I revived this poor ‘ol blog over a year ago, only to let it languish in obscurity for 14 months. I could list the reasons why (I’m too busy, I’m distracted, I don’t have anything to write about, blah, blah, blah) but the truth is, well, complicated.
Before I was a “writer” – that is to say, a paid, honest-to-gosh, this is my career, writer – I used to think, “If only I could find work in my field, I’d feel centered and inspired to write”. But now, having spent the past two plus years as a “writer”, I go home at the end of a day and find myself thinking, “I’m so tired. I wrote all day, I don’t think I have it in me to write anymore today.” In the past year, I’ve started to realize that my being able to write was never really about ‘being a writer’ or ‘not being a writer’, but rather, ‘was I happy?’ ‘Could I be content with what I have?’ The answer, so far, has been “Not yet”.
I’ve been an extremely goal-oriented individual ever since I was planning my university career in primary school (you think I’m kidding don’t you? But I’m not). Since I completed grad school three-some years ago, I’d set myself little goals that I believed, if completed, would make me ‘happy’. Shannon’s Three-Step Path to Contentment:
Well, I checked the ‘Career’ box two years ago when I first started ‘writing professionally’, but the other two have been a bit more elusive. Little setbacks – like taking five years to complete my undergraduate instead of four, or being two percentage points shy of distinction in graduate school – have a tendency to haunt me for years after the fact. For example, I recently (finally) forgave myself for/came to terms with not finishing my undergrad in the expected four years, but realized that I was only able to do so when I could console myself with the fact that I received my graduate degree at the age of 25. It’s a balancing act, and I know it. Trouble is, when things like not yet owning my own home, or not having achieved as much as I thought I should have in my career, enter into the equation, my scale tips.
The thing is, I’m not so much comparing my life to others – though I can’t help but see my own life in contrast to my married, childrearing friends – but rather to what I expect of myself. The worst part is that I’m not entirely sure where those expectations come from. For the past six months, I’ve become increasingly discontented in my job. There are a number of reasons, but I’ll admit that many of them have to do with a lack of balance on my internal scale, and this negativity is beginning to bleed, as it’s prone to do, into my personal life. I feel like I’m in a constant state of panic – like my body is humming with some awful anticipation, just waiting for the next wave of stress/impatience/worry. Humming keeps me up at night, makes me edgy, turns poetry into ash on my tongue and frays my emotions into raw, tangled strands. It’s not a pleasant feeling. When I consider my state, and try fruitlessly to put it into words, only one rises to the surface – lost. I feel lost.
I know where I am – I have a family who loves and supports me, and knows I’m struggling; I have wonderful friends who listen, nurture, console, uplift and, inevitably, distract; and I have my faith. I’d like to say it’s been unshakeable, but I don’t know if that’s true. When I was young, I felt so connected to my faith, was active in my faith, and now I fear that my perpetual state of feeling ‘lost’ isn’t so much that I’m lost in this world, but that I’m lost from Him. And that kind of terrifies me.
But in finally writing those words, I’m able to come to my point. I’ve realized recently that I’ve spent so much time looking for something externally – validating my life with achievements and successes that can be benchmarked by a society that doesn’t really care if I’m lost, as long as I look the part. I’m out of balance, but it’s not my internal scale of ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ that I need to balance, but rather everything else. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine started a journey to reconnect with herself. She was brave enough to share that journey with the people around her – those she knows and others she’ll never meet – and I’m certain that her bravery and honesty has been inspiring to many besides me. Around the same time, I reached a small breaking point at the office and decided I’d had enough, just for that moment. I left my desk, went outside on the first truly nice day we’ve had in some time, and sat. I sat silently and listened to the breeze filter through the leaves of a nearby tree; I closed my eyes and breathed deeply the smell of spring crawling its way out of the cold; I waited for the panic to pass so that I could move forward and do what I needed to do that day and that day alone. And it worked.
Well, it worked in that I got through that particular day. But I felt happier. Lighter. And so the next day, because taking 20 minutes for myself felt like such a great reward, I did it again. And a few days later, when the sun was high and warm, I did it yet again. Looking back, it amazes me what a difference 20 minutes of silence in an otherwise hectic day can do for your soul. It’s been a week since I made time to sit, breathe and wait, and I feel not unlike a torn electrical cord, jumping and sparking against anything and everything, humming with frustration. So after several weeks of thinking, planning, humming and considering, I’m going to take Valerie’s lead and challenge myself to sit. Everyday. For a week. After that week, we’ll see. Maybe another week? And then another? One month? Two months? Six months? I don’t know.
I’m still panicking – about money, my job, my personal life, my inability to find myself in a state of calm that inspires me to write (Oh, to be a writer who cannot write!) – and I don’t know if this is my path to peace. If anything, though, it may help teach me to be patient, with myself and the world around me, if I can be patient enough to sit and give myself the time to learn.