This past weekend, I was presented with an opportunity to attend one of my favorite local events totally alone. No schedules, control over my own time, the opportunity to make my own decisions, no conversation – just me and my thoughts left alone with some of my favorite things – art and music. I jumped at the chance to dig into this afternoon because I hoped it would remind me of who I am, because lately I haven’t been able to find her.
As luck would have it, it seems as though my mid-life crisis has decided to coincide with the pretty bleak state of the world that we currently find ourselves in. I know that people will say that I’m not technically mid-life. That I’m too young for a crisis. But I disagree. I can do math (sorta kinda). 37 + 37 = 74. And I’m fairly certain that’s right around the average life expectancy.
I also know that people will roll their eyes and tell me that the world isn’t that bleak. That we’ve been here before; we’ve dealt with all of these things (racism, insane politics, terrorism, inequality) before. That this isn’t anything new or worse, we just hear about it more. Maybe. But, I wasn’t here before. This is new to me. And it seems pretty darn bad (to put it very mildly).
And I suppose to some that I will come across as a privileged, whiny, white woman in her 30’s who has it all and doesn’t know how lucky I am. I’m not saying I disagree. But I think that even I get to have feelings, as long as I am mindful of the space that I occupy.
Life changes. That’s the beauty of it, right? That it adapts, grows, morphs. Each chapter is new and different, a chance to grow, and to learn. We journey on, accepting this and welcoming the change. But this time, the change seems to have me stuck in the mud. I find myself in this holding place, unsure of who I am, where I’m going, what I want, and what is next. My senses are alert, more aware than ever of mortality, of time, of purpose. I can’t seem to shake it and just let the change flow over me like I think I should. It seems that I’ve tasked myself with staying in this space and figuring it all out first.
Which, in a word, is frustrating. I yearn to be a go with the flow, throw caution to the wind, and keep the compartments of my life out of boxes sort of girl, but I have to accept that I am just not her. So here I sit, unable to focus on virtually anything, while I obsess over what is making me feel so…unsure…so that I can accept it and move on to the next chapter without any baggage, but with lessons learned.
So I wandered the Wide Open Bluegrass festival in Raleigh on Saturday with a smile on my face, my until recently tossed aside camera in my hand, and a head full of thoughts to sort out. And here’s what I came out with…
I’m feeling like I have no real purpose lately. Or at least that it’s changing and I don’t know what the next one is. And the worst part is that I know I’ll feel this way a few more times in my life, it’s not like once and done. My son is starting to really grow up, and we are entering a space where he needs me less and less. To that end, I find myself with a lot more free time. Free time to write, to create, to bake, to garden, to volunteer; this is what I’ve been waiting for…but instead I think that I’m just in mourning that the time exists at all, and I waste my newfound freedom on hours and hours of Netflix. I wonder when I’ll get off my ass and stop wallowing. I want to, but if I wanted it badly enough I know I’d just do it. Maybe I’m not there yet, and I think I need to be a little kinder to myself about that.
My job is amazing. Like crazy, wish for this life, amazing. Sure it can be exhausting, but it fulfills me, and sustains my family, and most days it leaves me really inspired. But when friends visit who are basically nomads, or weekend trips that spill out over four days find me in quiet, beautiful spaces, or when traffic is just so bad, every single day, I cannot push that voice out of my head any longer. You know the one. She asks the loaded, evil, thought-provoking question. Is this it? Is this life? Ugh. Half of me wants to shove her off of the mountaintop she beckons me to, and tell her to stop sabotaging a good thing. The other half of me is drawn in by her wiles to that tempting imaginary dreamscape, where I have every crazy wish I ever wanted because I took a giant risk. I think I’ll be fighting her off for the rest of my life, but that’s just a premonition. Or maybe I’ll accept her golden ticket someday. I just don’t know. Maybe the dream of her is the actual dream. Hmm. I’m going to sit with that one for a minute.
And then there’s the world. What in the hell is going on?! I’m a pretty empathetic person, and often feel burdened by the weight of it all. The sadness, the grief, the disbelief, the hate. It’s just too much. It makes me want to run. It makes me want to scoop up my family and say let’s go – and run away and be with nature and breathe in the air and just love. Let’s escape it all. But the reality is that you can’t, it’s not feasible (maybe this is connected to my last thought), it won’t help anything. The world will still exist, the hate will still be there. I need to find a way to concentrate on the love, and let it shine through me so that I can pass it on to others. I want to find a way to stay and help fix this mess. I’m just not sure how yet, or what part I will play.
I left that wonderful afternoon seeing these thoughts with a little more clarity. I can see the obstacles now, and even though it’s not as clear as I’d like it to be, I can see the pathway to the next big thing. I think maybe, learning to be ok with not knowing exactly who I am, or why I’m here, or what’s next, is an important step for me to take. And maybe the lessons learned are disguised as baggage, and perhaps they can come along for the ride.