20 September 2006

Driftlessly Contemplating the Inevitable

It's been one of those weeks as of late, sort of a rollercoaster of ups and downs, full of all those twists and turns that we all must navigate through. Some days have been jubilant, some have been anti-climatic, and some have just went by a little too easily. All of them, unfortunately, start to blur into one another after a bit...a fact that I am sure that I will ponder when I do not so easily take them for granted.

First, an apology...but not in the traditional sense that you would normally read and/or hear from me. I've been stuck a bit lately...arguably for the last few months, really...but recently the quicksand has pulled me in harder and with less resistance on my part than usual. It's not that I'm not thankful, I am. It's not that I feel badly again, because I don't but have had a few scares recently. It's instead just a general malaise of spirit, not a depression per se, but more like an apathy, perhaps even a bewildering disdain, for what I do on a daily basis. It's like now that I'm pulling out some of the issues I've shoved under the carpets for years and actually dealing with them...I realize that what I've convinced myself was a good life that I really loved has instead been a bitter, unfulfilled mistress that I've just tolerated all this time rather than leave. In short, I have been my own best/worst snake oil dealer.

I've been trying to find the words to communicate this here in the blog, but the words don't come exactly. I've been trying to get in touch with these disembodied emotions through music or poetry, but the verses and the rhythm are off meter. I vowed to myself last week sometime that I wouldn't post here again until I could better express myself, be more positive, 'analyze and then empathize' the mantra. Problem is that was a fool's promise...that I could not see the therapy in actually going through the process here, that I could not fathom not having all of the answers is generally not a reason for a humiliating death. I try to think of myself as witty, maybe a bit crude, maybe a bit smart on other days...but never without a plan. Not only do I now fully acknowledge the lack of a plan, but even a good sense of direction. And yes, that scares the holy hell out of me.

I'm not sure when it happens to other people, but for the past few years I have had an ongoing internal panic about what my life has become. Or rather, what I've let it become. At some point back a few years I woke up in the middle of a winter's night, cold, frightened, heart racing. In one of the most vivid dreams of my life, I had dreamed I was sleeping and then woke up, only to voluntarily go back to sleep 'for a few minutes more' but then die in my sleep. Not something horrific, like a car crash or shark attack, but waking up and then choosing to go back to sleep in some sort of stalling tactic and then dying for real. Psychology degree holder that I am, I searched for weeks afterward for an answer or interpretation of the image; and when I wasn't doing that, I was in denial about the whole issue about death, and specifically, mine. While I'm not particularly religious myself (and actually have many deep issues with several religious 'establishments'), I am the proud offspring of two Southern Baptists. I prefer to think of myself as a deep believer in the overall product, but just loathe the salespeople you have to deal with along the way. At some point, though, after all of my scientific research and temporary evaluation of the religious texts I have somehow escaped all of these years, it hit me and I came to accept it: what we have is now, and one day we won't even have that. Death, dear friends, is inevitable so make sure you've led a life strong enough to help you survive the final trip home.

So I find myself buckling the seatbelts each and every time now, not so much for fear of a hefty fine, but 'just in case' of an accident. Whereas before as a teen and early independent woman I would work for the love of a job no matter the pay, I now work for the love of the money that will pay off my bills instead. In one of the sickest levels of my adult life, I've taken to planning my day and job goals with a calendar and appointment book for maximum efficiency...because, as we all know, it's vitally important to keep yourself on track when you're doing things you secretly hate very, very much. When contemplating what new skills I want to learn, it's no longer about what I would 'like' to learn, but instead what I 'should' learn for the sake of getting a better job, with better pay, doing something I don't like. I'd change that whole scenario except for one major hitch: I can't say there's a helluva lot of anything I'd like to work at anymore.

Truly, this is absolutely a horrible state to arrive at: after seeing the light now at the end of the tunnel with my bills (I grew up poor, so there's never been a time before in my life when the bills were paid and the savings account actually growing), I realize I wasn't working because I liked it or even wanted to, but instead only because I had to. As I've cleared some of the brushwood away, I am only now fully understanding the condition of the land beneath. And here's the absolutely shocking part: for whatever reason I cannot fully express into words still, I find myself wanting to replace that brushwork...i.e., return back to my comfortably cluttered challenged state of affairs...rather than do the real hard work now required to clear the land.

Which brings us to the deeply nagging questions: what else do I/have I done just because I 'had' to and not because I wanted to? When did I start to take the easy way of falling in line with the other lemmings to the sea? When did life ever get that hard for me (and it never has really) that being 'safe' became the answer? And, now, faced with taking on some challenges and meeting them head on somewhat, why am I so fearful of having that old routine pulled away? Or, more importantly, why am I so eager to sabotage myself and the dreams I've never explored?

There's a fabulous song by Bruce Springsteen called "The River" in which he laments a life unfulfilled due to an untimely teenage pregnancy, complicated further as the couple later just 'settle' for their disappointing outcomes. In perhaps one of the greatest lines ever penned (and Lord knows Bruce has penned several over the years), our lifesick hero asks:
"...Is a dream a lie if it don't come true?
...Or is it something worse?"
While I've never remotely had a hard life compared to so many and enjoyed the adoration of two great parents from birth, I can't help but feeling some deep connection to the protagonist here. Like so many of Springsteen's songs, it's not their grandiose layers that stick with you, but instead the 'common man' element as you 'know' the characters who populate his songs, and unfortunately, too often frequently, we are those same people. There are so many of us with dreams so vivid and glowing they practically breathe on their own, but yet either intentionally or otherwise, we won't allow ourselves to go for that golden ring or rebound from our previous mistakes. It's not guilt nor ambition nor greed that stops and/or propels us, I think, it's fear. And frankly I'm so very, very tired of living in my own fear-induced state. Problem is, though, I'm like the Cowardly Lion in that I don't know how to find my much-needed courage.

I have to wonder (and it's driving me wild): when nothing is motivating in and of itself anymore, how do you create the needed inspiration all on your own?

With one eye on the ever-rapidly dwindling hourglass of my life, and the other down the road at the Kingdom of Oz, how does one find the confidence to actually take a step out on the Yellow Brick Road...especially when it just feels so safe to stay in the woods?

I've gotta stop waiting for Dorothy to come by and save me from myself.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hi Marquise,

I stumbled upon your blog while searching for the lyrics & chords for Welcome To The Boomtown (as you do), and would have moved on but for your confessed interest in Australia (greetings from Melbourne) and link to 2GO(?! - I grew up in Woy Woy). So I hung around for a few minutes and then saw you asking those fundamental questions that would make the world a better place if only more of us asked them. Bravo. Just thought I'd chuck in my two bob's worth...

I agree that the word "fear" nails it for most of us. Fear of mortality, of rejection (a reflex in Oz against anyone who dares to be different), of failure, of success, of poverty, whatever. I see an awful lot of people trapped in their games of social competition that compel them to "stay on course" - I'm not sure whether insecurity motivates them as much as the challenge of the game itself, and I reckon a good many of them are happiest if they stay put.

The answer for me is to use the fear as motivation. My greatest fear is that I'll get to the end of my life and wish that I'd had more courage. In practice that makes my life a series of calculated risks. I wouldn't dream of driving without a seatbelt, because I'm risking injury or death for nothing. But I wouldn't hesitate to quit my job and move to the other side of the world (done it once, would do it again). If one of those calculated risks takes me out, I won't complain; better to die trying than never having lived.

One piece of good fortune I had occurred in my early twenties, when I was studying people who seemed to me to be happy. Two of them said exactly the same thing: "I've never been in debt". I followed that advice and it's given me freedom that I don't think most people can comprehend. For Satan's sake, girl, get off that treadmill, and stay off it. Somewhere I read something along the lines of "being rich isn't about having everything; it's about not needing anything". What do you need?

Cheers
Mike