Coming here makes me feel sad.
I used to write. I used to get paid to write (crazy, I know). I used to get paid to write and have ideas and share those ideas and then work with wonderfully passionate and talented people to bring those ideas to life. And then share them with millions of people, hoping to strike a spark of inspiration, offer a moment of company and commiseration.
I used to think I could make anything happen in my life, with the right amount of intensity of focus and hard work and praying and pushing and just leaning into it. (Not the Sandberg kind, thankyouverymuch.)
I used to have a mother and a father, whose role in shaping me and leaving their marks, both good and bad, on my developing self was still an alive and developing thing.
I used to think I had firm ideas about who I am.
But apparently we are shaped by circumstance and situation and geography and employment and current relationships and current events and things we didn’t plan for and events seismic and small that shape our daily living.
I used to be a self-made woman. (And I’m typing that with a bit of a smirk on my face, because I love the 1970’s “Enjoli” vibe of it: you know, bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, never let him forget he’s a man.)
The self-made me was a fantastic creation of will and imagination and hard work and certainly a lot of luck. But above all, that self-made me was certain. About anything and everything. I had opinions for days, could make very challenging decisions quickly, ran on instinct and a friendly hubris… and thought maybe I was headed toward the “safe place,” the fantasy place where relatively stable and predictable vocational, social and emotional patterns become regular enough we are momentarily lulled into a sense of safety and permanence. A sensation that our life is “in order.” And will therefore stay that way.
Now I’m the unmade me.
And I’m not just talking about the losses upon losses. I mean, holy hell, my parents died 7 years ago!! How is that possible? I stopped running Redbook seven years ago! Now longer than the years I worked there. Seven years ago is forever ago, even though everything I am right now is because of those years.
I’m the unmade me because I’m living in the wide open. There is no firm career creating my identity. My brothers and are I not doing a great job of figuring out how to redefine our family without our parents’ lives and our parents’ house as the hub of how we connected. There is no sense of financial stability and progression. My son doesn’t need me the way he used to, now that he’s 13, and that’s both a gift and a loss. I’m the unmade me because I’m still working on making friends for myself up here in Garrison. I’m the unmade me because I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m the unmade me because I’m no longer exactly even quite sure in what direction I want to be headed.
That is a really big change after 41 years of writing my script and then living it.
I have ideas for myself, different ones every month, and, yes, there are some popular ideas that keep coming back around.
But I feel like I’m still working on…. just living. I still feel like I’m holding my breath and waiting for some signal that I’ve moved from Transition into Order.
Order I work on. Every day I wander through my house arranging and rearranging, putting away and reorganizing, clearing out and cleaning up. I made order of my artwork, my books, my closet, my kitchen cabinets. I make order by moving my office to the conservatory, by deciding the surprise of pink in my neutral living room will delight me, by giving away furniture and rugs and dog-eared books and Legos and anything that’s not nailed down.
I am trying to get lighter, but it’s not working; inside I’m hunkered down, holding on, leaden and uncertain.
And afraid sometimes. I never used to be afraid. Of anything.
Was that youth? Was that my instinctually honed reaction to the volatility in my growing-up years? Was that willful ignorance? Yes and yes and yes, I’m sure is the answer.
I’ll be 48 soon. The numbers please me, one of the very few even numbers I have any affection for. And the years don’t faze me. But I do wish I had a vision for myself for the future. It feels totally strange not to have the constant push of ambition welling up inside me.
My ambitions for myself are different, though. Peace. Reflection. Purpose. But I do miss certainty and energy and being in the flow of a busy pace that made pausing to wonder if I were even in the right place utterly beside the point.
I wish I still felt like a writer. (But a writer has to write, says a voice.) I wish I felt like I were overflowing with ideas. I wish I recognized more of myself in these days I am living one after the other.
I’m lonely for me.
Maybe I always have been. And this is something I am only now seeing clearly for the first time in my life.
Yes. That is it. I’m lonely somewhere down deep inside, and it’s probably always been there.
So, fine. I’ll be lonely for a little while. I’ll straighten the books and fluff the new pink pillows and arrange a beautiful vignette of miniature fluorite pyramids and a big glass fishing float next to my Buddha statue on the lovely, old wallpaper pasting table I drove to Rochester, NY to pick up from a dealer, and have turned into a pleasing sun-drenched workstation. I’ll do all that and cook delicious meals for my son and hate working from home even though working from home is the greatest thing ever, and I’ll have good days and bad days and blank days and joyful days. I’ll do all that while I’m being lonely while at the same time being known and loved by plenty, and I’ll wait until I’m finished emptying all of that out—those years of lonely I lived and never, ever felt.
And maybe that is when I’ll feel like I get to start living the next stage of “And begin again…” and come to know who it is I’m becoming in the absence of certainty.
I want to be a breath of fresh air. I want to be able to come here and write of beauty and peace and transformation. But first I have to stop holding my breath.
And the unmade me simply can’t remember how.