The oak door is menacing with its bulky, chunky wood panels. I study the grain of the wood, split is some places and splintered. Do I like this door? What does it hold for me on the other side? What tale will it tell? The entryway to my past life is always met with a different receptacle. This time it’s a square oak door. The knob is an old brass one, tarnished and cold. The knob turns easily, which is a good sign I suppose. A life I’m supposed to recall for some reason. I suppose if the door was locked, my experience back then wouldn’t be ready to be revealed. I look down at the carpet which is wall to wall, primarily red with a pattern of blue and gold – standard law office carpet. Of course it would be a law office. I’m entering my office. I loved this office. My life was surrounded by mahogany bookshelves lined with lawyerly books. My desk faced the doorway and two chairs sat in front of the desk covered in green leather with studding around the seat base. I was honest. An honest lawyer who used my powers for good deeds and upstanding work. I was the law..had no personal life outside of it and gave my emotions to every aspect of my work. I was well rewarded but it didn’t matter because I didn’t care about that. It was a life of helping others but not myself directly. Helping others was what fed my soul. I lived and died in that office and regretted when my time was up. I had a great set of windows with beautiful trees outside. I don’t think I even cared about the trees. I longed for nothing in the outside world apart from what could be found in the books in my library. I was content and without any urges for anything more. Totally immersed in my work. To others it was exhausting and boring. To me, it was my life breath. In my current life, I’m tired of the confines. I see the value and considered that path but thought against it in the end. I want to be consumed by no one thing. I want variety and life outside of wood paneling. I want to see the trees and feel the warmth on my shoulders on a hot summer day. I want nothing more from my desk at work than the paycheck it provides. I lived a happy life then and I’m content to leave it there in the past and keep the door shut.
I opened the door onto the desert floor of sand and rock – orange and brown reflecting the sun’s rays. Almost instantly, my forehead beaded with sweat. My white tunic was blindingly reflective against the sandy and harsh backdrop of the environment. Hot grains of sand embedded in between my toes and my sandals did little to shield my feet from the burn of each grain. I felt empty and alone and soon realized I was in fact alone in the desert. Scanning the area, I took notice of some of my fallen comrades. I had arrived too late and had missed the battle. This, however, I knew was a blatant lie. I had missed nothing – especially my own cowardly behavior. Fear of confrontation. Fear of death. Fear of life had made me a coward in more ways than one. I purposely missed the battle – purposely arrived post slaughter because I was in fact a coward. And now here I was facing the carnage alone. Some could say that I chose to survive, that I chose life instead of an inevitable death. I say I chose to be a coward and now as I am too much of a coward to take my own life, I must live with my choice. I must face myself everyday knowing that I am afraid. Hiding from fear, not facing what makes me the most afraid is ultimately the worst kind of living there could be. Knowing that those lying before me with crusty, dried blood staining their leathery flesh are better men than I with my beating heart and black hole of a soul. It was not I who chose life, but my fallen comrades who through their demise understood what it really meant to live.
I couldn’t see past what I had done, or not done as was the case. I had no direction, no remnant of a thought to propel me into action. So I sat in the burning sand against a blazing hot rock, which instantly seared its impression onto my back as if the pain of the burn could possibly be adequate punishment for my lack of courage. Nothing I did now would matter. It stood to reason that when my presence was needed the most, I hid in fear, shaking like a fool. I could not redeem myself now or ever.
And this is the problem with regret and cowardice. At the end of the day (or the battle) when my small space in the world is finally quiet and dark and it’s just me and my uninterrupted thoughts, when all I want is peace and sleep and a break from life, I realize I am not alone at all because regret and cowardice fill every atom of my being, preventing any hope or glimmer of solitude. It eats at my core and remains a constant, nagging distraction.
How does one remedy such an injustice to humanity, to life? How do I make amends? One doesn’t. I don’t…can’t.
As a child, when my crabby negativity reared its head, my mother used to say I had a B.A., which was short for Bad Attitude. I freely admit that my outlook can be quite negative, but I don’t necessarily feel it’s always without merit on my part. This is no excuse for maintaining a dark demeanor, I know. And, since I recognize when my bad attitude has arrived, I also know that I have more than one option in how I want to handle my guest. I can shrug him off and decide to shut the door in his face or I can pull out an extra pint glass and invite him in for a drink. Since I’m at work today where drinking is generally frowned upon, I’ve decided to just hang out with my bad attitude and treat the occasion like a bring your child to work day. He’s presently sitting on my desk, rummaging through my pencil cup and untangling my paper clips.
My B.A. was brought on by the classic one step further, two steps back situation which today involved money, as it usually does. There is a pattern that has evolved throughout my life around money and I can only assume that whatever lesson I’m to learn hasn’t quite nestled its way into my brain, as I continue to be plagued by this problem again and again. But this isn’t about money. It’s about my attitude.
What’s interesting about hanging out with my bad attitude is that once he’s acknowledged and I spent a little time with him, he starts to fade away. He finished arranging my post it notes and refilled my stapler and now he’s bored and ready to spent time with someone else for awhile. He’ll return though, as he’s apt to do. I read a book once about a man who went through a long and dark period of depression. Depression to the extent that he couldn’t get out of bed. Depression to the extent that concerned friends would come over and do things for him while he was suffering in his incapacitated state – things like washing his feet (a little weird, but I can actually see the thought process here as I often feel divine after a good foot washing). The man stated that when dark periods arrive, you shouldn’t necessarily try to run away from them or pretend they don’t exist. If you can’t get out of them, you should get in them – sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally. Accept them, sit down in them and feel them with every atom of your body. Really experience and acknowledge them and, when you’re ready, you can move past them. I don’t remember much else about that book but that advice has always stuck with me. When my B.A. comes for a visit, I don’t try and pretend he isn’t there. I make a point of reminding myself to acknowledge him, feel him, and wallow in him. And after a drink or two or a brisk walk outside, I wave goodbye and decide to move on.
A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another. I pulled that definition from Wiki. Outside of the traditional forms of what are considered rites of passage, there exist so many day to day examples that my personality fluctuates wildly between feelings of harmonious oneness with the world to a giant, throbbing, red sore thumb, visible for all the world to see.
There are many ways to change, both internally and physically. Some prefer modern methods – a hair cut, a wardrobe change, a new style. Some look for divine intervention – a church revival, a seance, a walk into a park or forest – communing with nature. Some don’t realize how their attitude will be affected by certain events until they are unexpectedly hit or are forced to take action – or not. It’s what you do with the experience that sets you up for the next stage – for Acts 2, 3, 4, etc.
In your final scene, a synopsis is often reviewed and recapped of the play. Recall in Act 1 that the character (you) experienced this major trauma; long forgotten, but nonetheless, it molded and sculpted your life. Had you been earlier reminded about it, you may have altered your entire being and lifetime. It’s ok though. You ended where you ended. You survived. You experienced fun, joy, pain – a life. The entirety of it all is a rite of passage to the next play, if and when you choose to audition.
Today’s topic presented itself to me after a bad haircut. My intention was to write about silly things that happen to us that humiliate some of us who are probably more sensitive about things that in the big picture of life are petty and ridiculous, like a bad haircut. I was going to delve into other rites of passage that I, along with my other middle class, white friends experienced while living through puberty and moving into adulthood. A favorite rite of passage example of mine is the experience of owning a shitty first car (which I still believe everyone needs to do). You can’t compare funny, shitty first car stories with the new friends you make as adults if your first car was a Chevy Tahoe or a Lexus. It just doesn’t work. You can roll your eyes and pity the poor soul who had a nice first car because they didn’t have The Jefferson’s experience of “moving on up” when the time came to trade your shitty car in for a nicer model.
A bad haircut is another rite of passage and, even at 40, my ego and self esteem were bruised when I returned home a few weeks ago with a crappy haircut. I was embarrassed and upset and wanted to hide on a deserted private island for the next year until it fully grew back. In response, the universe presented me with HBO’s weekly documentary series about a hair salon in New Jersey that opened its doors once a month to offer makeover services to women battling breast cancer. These makeover services included shaving the hair off of the women undergoing chemotherapy and providing hugs and smiles and general support to these ladies during the process. As the buzz razor touched the scalps of these women, I watched tears well up in their eyes as they watched their hair – what many women consider part of their femininity – fall to the floor. I can only assume that the tears may not have been as much for their hair as it was for what else they had or were going to loose in the process. The universe reminded me that I was acting like a childish douche bag and that my hair meant nothing. So what if it looks bad. Nobody cares, least of all the women who had to get theirs buzzed off. If my biggest problem on Monday, September 30 was a bad haircut, then my life is pretty good. Despite its definition, rites of passage aren’t just about attending a ceremony or an event that transitions you from one status into another, they are about experiences that teach you something about yourself and your behavior.
For years I searched, while on vacation, while soaking in the bathtub, while meditating, while lying in bed, walking the dog, sitting in the park, reading books. What was I searching for? Enlightenment. For quite sometime, I searched for a euphoric “ah ha” moment where my life’s purpose would be presented to me in the fashion resembling that of a queen accepting her place on the throne with a bejeweled crown and scepter. My existence would all make sense; my struggles justified and fully understood for my purpose was here and now, front and center. Doubts were no longer permitted to enter my space. I was fulfilling my destiny.
I think that actually might happen for a select few – a personal big bang experience. I think this because I’ve questioned people about what prompted an abrupt change in the direction of their life because I knew, I just knew that some one event happened that catapulted them into their life’s purpose, and I was right. Usually, it was a catastrophic event of some sort; an unexpected road block that forced them to detour onto a dirt road or off into the woods where they had to forge their own path armed only with a dull edged machete and a failing flashlight to lead the way.
Enlightenment and finding one’s life purpose are really two different things. I tend to want to lump them together which was and probably is my biggest mistake. When I consider enlightenment as a word, I associate it with the Hindu reference that defines it as a state of transcendent divine experience. It sounds so inviting, doesn’t it? I think of monks meditating on some remote, Asian hillside commune, all peaceful and at one with nature and all things natural. I used to believe that if I found my true calling in the world, I would be awash with the overpowering understanding and acceptance of my true being and that I would be one with and in the world. I would be calm, definitely cool and collected at all times. I would be a sage. I would go forth and spread wisdom akin to Johnny Appleseed planting all of those lovely trees.
I guess I felt like in order to remain in a state of enlightenment, I needed to find a career that kept me snugly in that box of heightened awareness, and so began my association with life purpose and enlightenment. The two words became enmeshed in one another. In an effort to locate my life’s calling over the years, I consulted with a variety of spiritual teachers, tried meditative techniques, researched going on my own vision quest, looked into signing up for a sweat lodge ceremony and was convinced that if I could just travel to Turkey and see the Whirling Dervishes, I would be granted my answer. My answer never came. I was at most times awash in despair and lamentation for this desire to find my calling was exhaustive and without relief. It was like poison ivy that never subsided, always itchy, always red and always there, oozing a thick yellow resin yet crusty at the same time.
Over the years I had read and disregarded (remaining convinced that my answer was still viable yet undiscovered) that enlightenment simply meant being present in your daily life; accepting that where you were at that moment on that day was exactly where you were supposed to be, that despite all the wrong in the world and in your life, you are where you are meant to be and everything is as it should be. It didn’t mean that you should sit back and do absolutely nothing with your life, but that you should follow the things that interest you, walk down the road that appeals to you and be content that you are living your life as you should at that moment. Even if you’re bored out of your mind or think that the path you chose was a colossal waste of time, accept that you had that experience for a reason, a reason you may never understand or determine. You shouldn’t expend a lot of energy dwelling on the things you have done wrong in the past, but seek to make your encounters and experiences more meaningful and fulfilling in the present. The future? Well, you have no control over that and should stop focusing on where you perhaps should be five years from now and instead focus on where you are today. Set goals for yourself, sure, but understand that goals change and where you want to be in ten years may be very different from where you end up. Ask someone a few decades your senior. Many people never expected they would have ended up where they did.
While your life is very singularly your own, and you should not live it for others, actions and words, especially the nasty ones, can have a profound influence on others and I try to be mindful about what I’m putting out into the universe. If my mood is sour, I try my best not to project my internal nastiness on others; they probably don’t know what’s happening in my brain and won’t understand what they did to invite such unwanted darkness into their personal space. You never know what someone went through or may be going through in their own lives and most of the mean and hurtful things people say and do (even if they are directed to you personally) have nothing to do with you or what you did. Attitudes are contagious though; be careful.
So that thing I read about enlightenment and disregarded time and time again eventually started to sit well with me, started to resonate with me and its message, while gooey and maybe a little new agey, slowly began to fill in the voids of my conscience like oil in a frying pan, slow to spread at first until the surface heats up and it becomes less viscous. This is the life path I’m traveling on at the present but I have no expectations for tomorrow. If the Whirling Dervishes come to town, I’m sure I’ll buy a ticket.
When no one is looking, what do you allow yourself the pleasure of?
When I’m alone in my kitchen, cooking or waiting for the microwave to beep, sometimes I’ll steal a few seconds, place my hand on the countertop and assume first position, feet pointed in opposite directions, stomach in, butt in, tall posture. Then I’ll go through plies and grand plies, bend forward and bend back with graceful arms and then move on to second position and repeat. I practice basic ballet postures that I lived and breathed for six years as a little girl. I loved ballet; loved the wooden floors in the studio, the resin box in the corner, the shoes with their sewn elastic band, the leotards, tights and costumes and my beautiful, blonde, lithe instructor who I wanted so much to impress. It was so much a part of my world that almost 35 years later, I still practice basic bar moves in my kitchen. If anyone saw me doing it, I’d feel ridiculous and wouldn’t be able to explain myself properly, and really shouldn’t have to. I do it for no one but myself.
Practicing ballet in my kitchen brings me back to my first home. Not home in the physical sense but home in the sense that one is comfortable with who they are and what they’re doing. You don’t feel out of place, don’t feel like an imposter or someone trying to fit in where they clearly don’t. You are one with yourself and understand what your self needs. I was a serious child and I was serious about ballet. It was my everything; it was my first love and it was all mine. I did it for myself and was fortunate that I had parents that supported and funded my dream.
I can easily recall some of the reasons why I stopped dancing. I grew tired and bored of the repetition. I eventually wanted to wear my hair a certain way which didn’t coincide with that of dancer’s hair. I wanted to try gymnastics. Deep down though, there were other reasons. Reasons that don’t matter anymore. And though I’ve considered going back to take classes as an adult many, many times, I can never fully justify the reasoning behind it. Would I just be returning to the studio to try and find someone that I left behind years ago? Because you really can’t go back. And you probably shouldn’t go back, unless it’s for the right reasons. And, I really don’t need to go back, because if and when I need her, that little girl is still there, but instead of standing in a studio, she’s standing in the kitchen in first position – at least until the microwave beeps.
…every little step she takes” I’ve seen one musical in my lifespan (Annie when I was a pre-teen) and while I remember really enjoying it, I’ve never been interested in musicals and have never seen one since. I certainly have never seen A Chorus Line but this line from a song in the musical rang out in my ears this morning as I prepared myself to hit up the gym before work. I was thinking about the conscious decision making efforts it takes to commit yourself to an active lifestyle, one that involves regular, if not some sort of daily exercise regime. Some days it almost takes an act of Congress to engage in physical activity.
Part of being successful in life (whatever your definition of success might be) is just the act of showing up for your life and engaging in events and things that interest you. This doesn’t mean that you will always be enthusiastic about the process it takes to get there. You may love to paint, but painting, like any other hobby or interest involves a lot of preplanning, like going to the store to buy paint supplies or a new canvas or new brushes. Then you need to find an appropriate workspace. Then you need to set up your workspace and decide what you’re going to paint. Then you have to consider the clean up involved when you stop painting for the day. The sheer amount of prep work that’s normally involved in showing up for life can be staggering, exhausting and can put the breaks on what seemed like a breezy, fun idea. It’s entirely too easy to talk yourself out of showing up for just about anything.
I typically head to the gym at least twice a week in the mornings before work. One Monday morning, I commented to one of the regulars that, “Ugh, It’s Monday,” and my workout had been less than stellar. His comment was, “Hey, at least you showed up today.” How true that was. It was a simple comment but really meant a lot. It would have been easier if I had stayed in bed an extra hour, easier if I didn’t have to preplan my outfit for the day and lug it and my toiletries to the gym, easier to have lingered over a second cup of coffee with breakfast. But I didn’t. I showed up and I did what I could for the benefit of myself.
Some days you need to pat yourself on the back – just a little tap to remind yourself that when you make the effort to show up for your life, you are a singular sensation with every little step you take to make you a better you.
After the heaviest part of the storm passed, Ellen slipped on her raincoat as quietly as nylon would allow and ran out the back door into the alley. The great thing about city alleyways was that there were usually several options for escape. She chose the closest access road and sprinted down it, her heals digging into the muddy gravel puddles, splattering her jeans with brown streaks. Once she reached Main Street, she slowed to a fast walk and then settled into a comfortable pace a few blocks later. She could breathe a little easier now. Her heartbeat began to even out and pump more consistently. Her raging headache even slowed to a more manageable drumming. It was early. The obnoxious blue light on the nightstand alarm clock had prominently displayed 4:13 when she was quietly groping for her clothes in the dark.
She turned off of Main Street onto a nearby but less traveled street. A softer, steadier rain fell. It was comforting, like an old friend. It had been raining in varying degrees for the past 24 hours. Ellen turned her head to the sky and opened her mouth. The cool raindrops moistened her dry, thick tongue. She would need a gallon of water to even come close to being hydrated.
The thought of having to make a plan drifted into her mind as she continued to walk. She hadn’t considered a destination when she fled except to get as far away from the apartment as possible. Food. Hunger pains were becoming more and more prominent. What was open at 4:30 in the morning? Damn. The Diner was open but it was in the opposite direction. She walked north a few blocks and then backtracked east. He was too much of a snob to hit up the Diner anyway, so she wouldn’t have to worry about him looking for her there. He wouldn’t look for her anyway, except maybe in retribution for cleaning out his wallet. It would be at least a few hours before he woke up anyway. This rationale sat well with her and she continued the three mile walk to the Diner. He didn’t even know her name, at least not her real one. Had he even asked her name?
It took her about an hour to reach the front door to the Diner. The first thought that struck her as she slid into a corner booth was that the only difference between the patrons of the Diner at 5:30 a.m. and the clientele at the institution were their clothes. White and blue hospital issued scrubs and non-skid socks were replaced with short sequin skirts, tube tops and hooker heals. Aside from that, the facial expressions of the patrons who just closed up the local bars and clubs and the ones at “the wellness center” who were deliberately off their meds looked comically familiar. Crazy, defeated eyes, drooping from insomnia were held open only by the resolute will of the soul refusing to give in, refusing to succumb to the call of slumber. Sleep meant forgetting the night, forgetting your life, accepting sound reason, even if only for a few hours, 20 minutes, whatever. Sleep was the enemy to maintaining your edge. Sleep left you vulnerable, but lack of it left you crazy. A vicious cycle.
A Southern breakfast was in order that morning, which in Ellen’s mind meant a serving of grits with a pat of butter, a strawberry waffle, scrambled eggs, orange juice, coffee and 3 Advil to kill the remnants of her headache. As her hunger pains dissipated, Ellen began to focus on the conversations happening around her, a favorite pastime. As the majority of the diners had stumbled in from clubbing or the bar scene, the conversation was all too familiar. The tan blonde girl sitting in one of the booths with the unbearably squeaky voice, heavy makeup and the highest heels had gotten the most phone numbers that night from horny college guys, much to the dismay of her two girlfriends who relinquished their cash and bought her breakfast in defeat. Apparently her winning streak was beginning to create a rift amongst the group and Shelly, the most demure of the three quietly commented that she was growing bored of the game and didn’t think they should do it anymore. Despite the fact that Shelly was actually more attractive than her friends in a bookish sort of way, she would never win that game and although she was probably smart enough to know that she had more to offer than her friends, her self doubt had pulled up an extra chair and sat prominently at the table with her which would explain why she kept glancing to the empty chair to her left. She knew doubt. She invited it along wherever she went.
My local YMCA has a yoga class on Thursday mornings at 6 a.m. As a new work week dawns, I approach it with steadfast determination. I don’t approach the 8:30 – 5 part of my day with determination but I’m steadfast that this is the week I’m going to make it to the early yoga class. Somehow by the time Wednesday rolls around, my determination wanes into a million reasons why the early yoga class is a bad idea and I admonish myself for being the kind of person who can talk herself out of anything so easily. It’s not as if I’m talking myself out of a night of ill repute. I’m talking myself out of yoga.
This past Thursday was different. After my 8th month of membership at the Y, I finally found myself sitting with cross legs, hands on knees, breathing deeply and intentionally on a yoga mat at 6 a.m. I can’t say why this week was different. Maybe I finally grew weary of breaking promises to myself and didn’t want the guilt to follow me into the weekend.
Something strange occurred after Thursday though.
It happened that I had Friday night all to myself and there was a 6 p.m. yoga class at a local nonprofit yoga studio, Project Yoga Richmond . As Friday afternoon waned, the thought of driving anywhere but home at 5 p.m. made me cross and cranky. First, I’d have to change clothes, then battle downtown traffic and intentionally drive away from the destination of my couch and television. Was I coming down with something? Maybe I shouldn’t go. Maybe I’m catching a cold? It probably wasn’t a good idea for me to be around other people if my immune system was compromised. Maybe I suck and just need to stop being such a slacker.
At 6 p.m., I found myself sitting with crossed legs, hand on knees, breathing deeply and intentionally on a yoga mat. At the end of the class, while we were lying on our sides, totally at ease and in the moment, the instructor made a comment that really struck me. She said that the way we were feeling at that moment (which for me was completely at peace, relaxed and content with my being, my body and my mind) was the way we were meant to be at all times. This was our true selves. I was surprised to hear this and began wondering if she was lying. Really? Is this true? What if I felt like this all the time? It would be like lying on a cloud, watching the world pass in slow motion while eating comfort food, like macaroni and cheese and ice cream without the guilt. Huh. Witchcraft I tell you. I think she was spewing some sort of yoga witchcraft. But the spell was cast and with lovely thoughts, I drove home in an altered state of being.
Not wanting the euphoria to wear off, I woke up Saturday morning and went to a 10 a.m. yoga class at a Y down the street hoping to stay in the moment of bliss and contentedness.
What’s happening to me? 3 yoga classes in the span of 3 days. It feels as if there’s some sort of nagging, gravitational force that’s pulling me in. My physical body is yearning for a certain type of attention. It needs certain movements to fulfill its destiny, to enhance its well being. It needs to be flexed, pulled, and pushed around, like a Stretch Armstrong doll. I think the secret to aging gracefully lies in our flexibility, not only physically but mentally as well.
Someone once asked me what my number one goal was in life. I’ve had two actually, but not simultaneously. When I was a teenager my #1 goal in life was to move out of my parents’ house as soon as possible, get a simple job making about $30-$35K a year and be content. I approached this goal with unrelenting tenacity. I planned and prepared for years. I scoured IKEA’s catalog collecting items for my future apartment and storing them in my closet like a squirrel collecting nuts for the winter. Moving out took top shelf in my list of priorities. It was my only priority. Later, much later, I realized that this really shouldn’t have been considered a goal – this, unless I had suffered from some clinical psychological distress or had some sort of other physical or mental impairment, is just considered “growing up” and becoming an adult and to consider it a “goal” is on the same level as the “goal” of learning to tie your shoes. In my defense, however, I was in survival mode during that time so I’ll cut myself some slack.
I made the mistake, however, of thinking that once my goal was met, I’d be smiling ear to ear and humming a happy tune. And while reaching that goal did solve the issue of living in my parents’ home, I never fully learned the chorus of that happy tune. The content part, at least in the career sense or in many other parts of my life never caught up with that simple goal of reaching adulthood. It was around this time that life goal #2 entered the picture and it’s a goal that I’ve not yet conquered. Goal #2 begs the time honored question, Why am I here? What is my true purpose – my true intention in this lifetime? What am I here to accomplish? Why do I walk the Earth? I have put 110% effort into this puzzle. If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, I am an expert in soul searching. I should have half a dozen master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s in soul searching. I should know everything there is to know, conduct seminars and be the world’s leading authority on the subject. But, I’m not. I’m still floundering and searching, reading books, taking classes, consulting spiritual guides and guidance, polling people, seeking the truth and finding time and time again only a pocket of lint and an old tissue.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons I dislike Thanksgiving and Christmas so much. There’s such a monumental build up to the holidays. Take Thanksgiving – after 10 hours of cooking, the big turkey reveal is suddenly over and after about 20 minutes your plate is empty and you’re hunched over feeling not only bloated and disgusting but also hot and irritated at the lame, I’ve heard it all before table conversation. And just when you think you’ve survived the worst, Oh but wait! There’s still the pie portion of the meal. Ooooo! Ahhhh! Look at that pie that you spent 2 hours on – peeling apples and cutting butter into flour to make the pie crust. Whipped cream? Ice cream on top of that? Coffee? Yes, yes, pile it on so that you can carb and sugar load to prepare for the next 2 hours of clean up which involves dividing all the leftovers into plastic Tupperware containers or plastic baggies which is totally gross to have to fish stuffing out of the next day. And if that’s not enough, get ready to agonize, stress, repeat a month later when Christmas rolls around. And what about Christmas? You spend perhaps months or weeks pouring over catalogs, websites, and shopping malls looking for that gift that’s really going to be the perfect one and then you should really present it in a classy fashion which means wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, blah and then all the shit gets torn up and thrown out in a big black trash bag come Christmas morning. Awww, look at that beautiful tree that was chopped down from the woods and decorated so nicely, surrounded with shit that you don’t need that I bought for you at the store. Do you see this nice display? Take a picture because in about 30 minutes all of this lovely wrapping paper will be trashed and in about a week this tree – once a happy living tree in the woods will be hitting the wood chipper. Goals, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, can sometimes feel like big disappointments. You wait and prepare and plan and the big crescendo finally reaches its climax and it’s over – just like that – like a firework that fizzles out in seconds right before your eyes.
Seriously though, goals are really about improvement – improving yourself in some way. Lose 10 pounds, read more books, learn how to sew, pay off debt, exercise 3 times a week, get organized. Improvement is good, it’s certainly better than the alternative, but sometimes I wonder if goals are meant to improve ourselves or to impress others. Or maybe they’re there so we have something to talk about with other people. Some small talk to fill in awkward gaps during conversation, like when you’re waiting to use the microwave in the lunchroom at work. “So I have a goal this month to fit more vegetables in my diet.” See how that works?
Having one main goal is life might be dangerous because after it’s met (if it’s ever met) are you just left with 2 hours worth of clean up and an empty plate? Sure, you’re full, but in a few hours, a small space will free up in your stomach and the hunger will return – the euphoria that you built up your whole life wore off entirely too fast.
I don’t know whether I will ever see my #2 life goal come to fruition but what I do know is that in trying to complete the task I have in many circumstances prevented myself from truly living my life and doing some of the things I have really wanted to do. I’ve managed to extract fun from many experiences because I have placed too much expectation on hoping and wondering if this fun I’m having at this particular moment is a key that will unlock my life’s “passion”. Passion – a word I’ve come to despise. And maybe I really don’t want to reach this goal because I’ll just be disappointed when the euphoria wears off.
In all honesty, I’m not a go-getter and I’m not a goal-getter. My number one goal in life should be to simply be content – content with all the choices I make, content with not being a go or goal getter. Content with being who I am and not comparing myself to others who I think have better lives, better jobs, better personalities. My number one goal in life should be to have fun and find laughter whenever possible – to not turn every experience into the great expectation of finding my true, hidden passion. When you finally realize that the things you’re sacrificing to achieve your goal are making you wildly unhappy, it may be time to walk away and find a new goal…or not.