Living in the Drift…

Drifting in the Adirondacks, drifting through life

There’s a difference between being stuck in life and being in a drifting phase, not knowing necessarily what you’re doing next. (And sometimes even what you’re doing today.)

This is where I am: in the drift. And I can’t say I particularly like it. Turns out that I’m one of those people who stayed overscheduled for a reason: to keep me on task, moving ahead, getting things done. And also: to keep me out of my head, where time just disappears in a flash, and I turn my head, blinking as if just awakening, when my son flies through the front door at the end of the school day.

These months since I finished with the day-to-day work of helping my parents die and wrapping up their estate have passed in an undefined blur. You think that would mean, therefore, that I’ve been going to the gym every day, am cooking healthy meals for my family, am all caught up on my bills all the time (even with the mounting fear of them), and have handed in every writing assignment I’ve taken on in this time exactly on schedule.

Uh, no.

Instead, I’m in an endless state of wondering. Wondering what kind of job I should look for; wondering if I can go out on “my own” and not get a job; wondering if I should still be living in New York; wondering if it’s grief that’s keeping me from action; wondering if I’m afraid to leap back into the job market; wondering if I could figure out how to get a job abroad; wondering how my son would react to a big move; wondering how I’ve gained so much weight in the last five months of sitting right next to my kitchen all day (ah, one mystery solved, at least).

I was one of those incredibly focused young children, who knew what she wanted to do from a very young age. I was going to be a magazine editor (check), who lived in New York City (check), who lived a stylish and busy life (check, check), who never married (woops), had a child on my own (sort of; does divorced count?), and lived an exciting life full of adventure (check, check, check). So I merely figured out the pathway to get there and achieved the goals in a specific and driven order. Check, check, check. I know: Lucky me! (And believe me, I *was* lucky. But I was ready for the luck.)

That’s why this state of drift is so hard. I feel fear sneaking in from the sidelines on a daily basis: Am I good enough? Can I make a new path for myself and my family? Am I going to fail at whatever I do next? Should I be doing the “safe” thing? And what is the “safe” thing, anyway, these days, in this world that’s halfway undone?

So I have to keep reminding myself: the drift is different than being stuck. To be stuck is not to see, not to move with the tides, not to have your head up and wondering; instead, to have your head down in fear, hoping nothing around you changes. To drift is to trust that life will lead you where you’re going—as long as you show up with your instincts and attention at full alert. (Note to self: I think spending hours adrift in the internet probably doesn’t count as being at full alert.) In my heart, I believe that trusting life, experience, and intuition is what we are supposed to. It’s just that many days, I’m afraid of merely drifting away, and never fully coming back to myself. But I’m in that boat, taking my long, slow paddles, and waiting for the clouds to part and for some answers to become clear, clear like the bright, blue sky in the photograph above.

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses. Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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12 Responses to Living in the Drift…

  1. Caroline says:

    Sounds like we are on the same page right now. My law firm, where I worked for 10 years and which asked me to stay on a contract basis when I moved away, just closed its doors. Trying to decide what to do next has been a little daunting, but it has only been a month. I’ll let you know what happens. 😉

  2. Such a fantastic post! I commend you for not only being so very honest with yourself, but also taking the time (and the strength) to share it with the online world. I am in the midst of a drifting state as well & can deeply identify with EVERYTHING you wrote (minus the divorce & child). Sometimes, I feel extremely free & open, but mostly, I feel lost & confused about what I am “meant” to be doing, yet also afraid to do anything out of fear of failure/wasting time … so instead of using my time wisely, I just don’t do much at all; I’m not sure what’s worse!

    • stacy says:

      Agree with you completely about the not sure what’s worse. It’s been terrifying to see how quickly days unfurl and fold into each other…

  3. Liadain says:

    Great piece. Thanks for writing. Very drifty right now, myself. Late 30’s, yet feeling as though I’m in my late 70’s, as I’m living and helping to care for my parents. It’s a strange, somewhat frightening, or more so, odd & sometimes disheartening time. I don’t feel “stuck”, but am rather, as you quite aptly put….drifting.
    Wishing you very well.

    • stacy says:

      (First off: most beautiful first name ever?) Second, I was so recently there, helping care for my parents last year as they were dying. (See for more on that.) And yes, I remember feeling exactly like I’d been pulled from my life and plopped somewhere else—not even in their lives, because everything had changed so quickly. And suddenly I realized that so much in their house was…. old. When had we all aged? When had everything aged? Wishing you luck and light on your road with them.

  4. Miss Britt says:

    I think I’ve felt something similar. I don’t like it and, for me, it’s extra scary because I’m never quite sure if drifting is a sign of depression creeping back in or just the normal lull between goals.

    • stacy says:

      Wise words, Miss Britt! You seem like you know that depression and drifting are next door neighbors! My canoe gets caught in the eddies of depression sometimes, and I have to paddle backwards to get the heck out!

  5. Tara Berson says:

    It’s okay to drift, Stacy. You’re just so used to paddling super-fast that this lull is a little jarring. I KNOW that you’ll arrive at the next place safe and sound. And we’re all here to support you on your journey! xxx

  6. David Rensin says:

    Got here via mutual friend David Handelman. You beautifully put into words what’s been going on with me for a couple years, and always want to write about but don’t. I am now pulling up and out. I hope. My dream book came out, my kid went to college (a whole other story), the utility bills are more than the mortgage and it’s time for the wife and I to downsize, book advances plummeted as my interests became more focused — but on what I don’t want to write about rather than what I want to write about. Plus, I speak with my hands when I can’t remember a word. Thank goodness I can still type. This much I know: after a stressful run (book, job, death, moving, etc.) one must have a breather in order to clear the mental palate and let life’s tastebuds revive. In the meantime, nothing seems appetizing, even stuff you know you find delicious. Give it time.

    • stacy says:

      Many thanks for this, and always happy to hear the story of a fellow traveler. We spend so much time in this world focusing on the ladders—the seemingly inevitable steps up, or the dramatic declines. I started this blog to have conversations about the muddied, lateral middles. I suspect more important work and discovery happens here than in either of the predictable ups and downs, and I’m so pleased to have others join in the convo. Thanks, and cheers, and congrats on the book and the kid in college. The utility bills? Well, summer’s not even here yet, dude. Imagine what happens when the AC goes on!

  7. I read your book “Falling Apart in One Piece” and LOVED it. I’m so, so sorry to hear about the deaths of your parents. I’m 38, my mom died when I was 25, and my dad died last year, so I know exactly what you mean about drifting. I’m not married and don’t have children, and now that I’m not a daughter anymore, I feel sort of — untethered. Even though I have a great sister as well as cousins/extended family who live further away, being an ‘adult orphan’ can really make you feel adrift. I’m back in graduate school, and when I went on an informal interview for a practicum, my future supervisor, just making conversation, asked me, “Do you have a family?” I stopped short because I didn’t know how to answer. I’m sure he was thinking along the lines of partner and/or children, but what popped into my mind was, “I did have a family, but now my parents are both dead and my sister & brother-in-law live out in Jersey.” (I didn’t say that, of course — got to fool him into thinking I’m “normal,” at least until we start working together! ha ha). Keep the faith. Drifting for a bit is completely understandable.

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