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.
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.