Note - In my last post I said the pity party was over, but here's another angsty rant I wrote about a week ago. I didn't post it right away because I feel like I do a lot of complaining here on my blog. I also feel like a complete jerk when I complain about my life because there are other people out there with real problems and hardships and painful memories that make my life look utterly perfect. But what the hell. I started this blog to purge all this stuff so I wouldn't spew frustration and misery all over my family. I'm happy to say that since I started writing this blog all of the relationships in my life have significantly improved. I feel happier and more fulfilled than I have in a long time. If writing daily complaints on my blog helps with this, then so be it. Furthermore, this post deals with my Quote of the Day (to the right on my sidebar). I'd like to change it, but I was holding myself to some silly promise that I wouldn't change it until I'd analysed it's contents. What has prompted me to finally post this rant was a great quote left by Jennifer in one of my comments today which said:
"A work of art is good if it has grown out of necessity." -Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke
I love great quotes and I want to post this in my Quote of the Day, so I must move on with my angsty rant. Here it is:
A while back I wrote a post about Elizabeth Gilbert and how she said a bunch of things that got me thinking about a bunch of things. At the end of the post about the bunch of things she said, I said I would proceed to examine a couple of things in my life that related to the bunch of things she said. In particular the things she said as they related to my happiness.
And if you understood any of that, congratulations, you passed the test. That was the hardest part.
So here I am, back at examining those things.
I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about this, but I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m not happy right now. I know a lot of it has to do with stagnation. I’m not proceeding forward. I’m asleep at the wheel of my life. I’m not making plans.
And it’s frustrating. I'm frustrated. In fact, I'm more frustrated than I am unhappy. Luckily I’m not as bad as I was a few months ago (pre-blogging, or PB) but I still feel frustrated or angry about my life on a regular basis. Or, even worse, I feel apathetic. Indifferent. I can’t be bothered to make a change because I really have nowhere to go. I’m stuck. And sometimes I’m not sure I care to get myself unstuck.
There’s something about the word indifference reminds me of a phrase I absolutely hate:
I’ll never forget the first time anyone said this to me. It was a guy. A guy I had dated for an entire summer. At the end of the summer I was leaving on a trip to Europe and the impending trip left our relationship in limbo. It wasn’t a super-serious relationship, so I wasn’t too sure where we would stand when I got home again. The night before I left to get on the plane, the guy and I spoke on the phone. I quite liked him and hoped he would say something about looking forward to seeing me when I returned, but instead, when I asked him if I should call in six weeks he said, “suit yourself.”
I was gutted. I would rather have had him say, “No. Please don’t call me because you’re stinky and kissing you reminds me of kissing my grandmother.” But instead he said, “suit yourself.”
In other words, whatever. You leave no impression on me whatsoever, so I really don’t care what you do. How much does that suck?
Well, that’s how I feel about my life right now. I feel like I am leaving no impression whatsoever. I feel like my life is talking to me over the phone and if I asked it whether or not I should get out of bed tomorrow and take on the world or if I should mope around all day in a state of apathy, my life would say, “suit yourself.”
Whatever. I don’t care if you do or if you don’t.
But shouldn’t I be making an impact? Shouldn’t I be leaving an impression? My psychologist always told me that we should banish the word “should” from our language because there is too much guilt involved when we say it. "Should" implies duty instead of inspiration. So maybe I "should" turn those questions into declarative statements: I want to make an impact! I want to leave an impression!
But how? How now brown cow? And did you notice I still said should, even when I didn’t want to?
I keep telling myself that the life of a stay-at-home-mom is not full of the same go-go-go that my life used to be. And I’m desperately trying to be okay with that. But I’m panicked. I feel like there is so much more out there for me to do and say and write and read and see and think and yet here I am sitting in my house, stagnating. Sitting on the sidelines. Avoiding life. Or maybe life is avoiding me.
Whatever it is, this upsets and frustrates me. I want to be okay with waiting out this part of my life, that I chose, until the next big adventure starts. I don’t know why, given my vivid imagination, that I have such a hard time imagining or embracing the idea that I’ll have to wait until Csilla is much older before I have the freedom to take on anything new or exciting. I’m extremely impatient. I don’t want to wait.
Do you ever have this idea that you are meant for something more? I’ve always had these larger than life ideas of myself. Delusions of grandeur so-to-speak. I call it the "The-Oprah-Syndrome". I think so highly of myself that I imagine sitting on the set of Oprah being interviewed by her about some amazing, human-consciousness-changing or life-altering thing that I’ve written, said or done. And I get panicked when I see my life passing by without ever making it onto her stage. Am I the only one who imagines that I belong on Oprah?
I’m speaking metaphorically of course. I don’t actually think I’ll ever be on Oprah. Or maybe I do. I guess I’m frustrated because I don’t know how or what I need to do in my life to become so extraordinary that I’d end up on Oprah. I have greatness in me. I know I do. I’ve seen glimmers of it in my life so I know it’s there.
My biggest fear in life is not living up to my own potential.
I am terrified of reaching the end of my life having wasted all of my gifts and talents on meaningless, immature or unimportant pursuits. And wouldn’t it be an especially painful tragedy if I ended up on Oprah for being pathetic? I can hear it now…
“Monday on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Pathetic people living apathetic lives… how not to end up like them.”
What do I do to avoid being the main event on that episode? But here’s the thing. I feel somewhat unwillingly trapped in my own apathy.
First off, I’m sitting in The Second Kid limbo. I don’t want to make any huge leaps because we’re trying to get pregnant and another baby would certainly put any grand plans on hold for a while. But even if we do have another child, I still want to get all my ducks in a row and figure out what my next move is.
Secondly, I have all sorts of ideas about what I want to do, but they all seem, well, too small. I’ve talked about this graphic design stuff, which I love, but when I get right down to it, I’m not sure such a career would have enough impact for me. It doesn’t feel significant enough. With all due respect to graphic designers, I feel like I’d be wasting myself if I did that for a living*. Furthermore, I am a people person and isolating myself in front of a computer all day would be a mistake.
This reminds me of a great analogy I once heard from a career advisor. She told me to write my name on a piece of paper. I did. I wrote with my right hand, because, well, I am right handed. Then she asked me to do it again, only this time, with my left hand. It was awkward. I felt clumsy and it looked ugly. The career advisor told me that if I wrote my name with my left hand for the next twenty years I would probably get good at it; that my writing might even look beautiful eventually. But it would never feel effortless. I would always feel like I was writing with the wrong hand. I was right handed and I should never fight it.
This is how I feel about being a people person. I could do a job that would require me to be isolated from people; and after twenty years I might even get good at it. But it would never feel natural. I would always feel like I was fighting to restrain a part of myself that must come out. I am a people person and should not work for a living at something that isolates me from that very fundamental part of my personality.
I’ve also toyed with the idea of getting into interior design, and although I would be interacting with people to do this job, I always come to the same conclusion. It feels too small. Wasn’t I meant for something more? How can I have real and lasting impact on the world while picking out paint colours for people? Again, with all due respect to people who choose those pursuits as professions, but what if I want a bigger life than that? Doesn’t it make me incredibly arrogant to think I deserve more? Who do I think I am?
And even if I did find some huge and meaningful way to impact the world, what would it look like? And how would it fit into my life? I should probably have an idea of what it looks like if I’m going to create it for myself.
I know I’m asking more questions than I’m answering right now, but this is part of my process. I guess.
And here’s the part where I return to something I wrote at the start of my post. The Elizabeth Gilbert thing. When I wrote about Elizabeth Gilbert before, I mentioned that there were perhaps some answers to these questions in my Quote of the Day. (You know, the one that hasn’t changed in over a month up there at the top of my sidebar.)
I told myself I wasn’t going to change my Quote of the Day until I’d had the chance to fully analyze its contents. Here’s the quote, in case the font in my sidebar is too small:
I’ve been letting ideas percolate on this quote for over a month now. What makes me come alive? What makes me come alive? What makes me come alive?
I often pose my brain questions and see if my subconscious can sort it out while I’m sleeping. Sometimes when I do this I find that answers will just pop into my head out of nowhere. My writing is like that too. When I’m scrapbooking I’ll often leave the journaling aspect of a page until the end and if it doesn’t come to me I’ll walk away for a day or two. I often find that the words I’d been so desperately trying to find just a few days before will often arrive in my head fully formed with little or no effort whatsoever.
That’s my subconscious. Doing the work for me.
I think déjà vu is all part of this too. When I experience déjà vu, I believe it represents my physical reality catching up to what my soul already knows. It’s as if my subconscious has already experienced my entire life and my physical self spends the rest of the time playing catch up. But every so often, my soul and my reality fall into sync and that’s when I experience déjà vu. My soul has seen this before and for a brief and fleeting moment I was in touch with my future self. I try and pay attention to moments of déjà vu in case there is some deep, important meaning hidden in the moment, but it’s usually too ethereal and fleeting to capture. Or, even worse, I don’t recognize it until it’s too late.
But, once in a while in moments of déjà vu I am able to snatch a piece of my future, shed some light on it and recognize that I am something special and amazing. In those moments I feel it.
This is why I feel so strongly that I was meant for something more. Because in quiet moments where my soul’s purpose is in alignment with my authentic self I feel it is true. There is greatness within me.
But what if I don’t recognize my own greatness until it’s too late?
Am I making any sense? I’m just working stuff out here… seeing where these rambling thoughts will lead me.
So I’ve been letting my brain work on this Whitman quote for a while now because I want to know what makes me come alive.
I don't know. Or at least I'm not sure. I truly don’t know, concretely, what makes me come alive.
I'm very good at many things, but I’m not excellent at anything. I have hints of greatness, but I’ve never done anything truly great.
Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who knew what my passion was from deep within my soul. I have a friend who is an extraordinary actress. She’s won many prestigious awards in Canada for her work both on stage and on screen. Sometimes I feel jealous of her because her path is so clear. She knows what she wants and what she needs to do to get it. She knows – really knows – what makes her come alive. But her struggle is perhaps even more difficult than mine, because although she is amazing at what she does, she still has trouble making a living at it. Would I be even more frustrated to know what makes me come alive, but couldn’t actually be monumentally successful at it?
It seems like there isn't enough room for us all to be extraordinary. Even for the ones who actually are.
Meh. I know this isn't true and there's some quote about "scarcity" that would help me right now but I can't seem to put my finger on it.
I’m dodging around this issue. I still don’t know what makes me come alive.
It occurred to me that one way to get to the bottom of this question would be to examine some of the peak experiences in my life. I have a few things that stand out that I might want to look at, perhaps over a few short posts instead of one long and verbose ramble.
And in no particular order, here is a list of things that I am, or was, truly good at, or have a passion for, or which fall under the category of extraordinary peak experiences in my life. Some of these items represent times in my life where I was completely and totally myself; where I was in my element and hours could pass without me looking up because I was so completely and totally enjoying what I was doing that it felt effortless. I think there are some answers in these things.
This list of important-things-that-stick-out-in-my-mind won’t make much sense to you, but it makes sense to me. It’s for future reference as I explore them in posts to follow:
Public speaking at William Armstrong
Leadership Award in high school
Drawing all day as a child
Anthropology/Linguistics at UBC
Delivering toys to an orphanage
Customer service on the cruise ship
Art History and the Picasso Museum in Barcelona
That’s all I can think of for now. I may come back and add to this list later (not that anyone would notice because it’s not like anyone would read this stupidly long post twice!)
Hopefully in examining the contents of this list further, I might be able to really figure out what makes me tick and how I can best serve this world. I know I have so much to offer, I just don’t know how to offer it.
While I’m sorting out my thoughts on all this, pop over to two of my favourite blogs and read these posts which say succinctly and eloquently, some of the same stuff I’ve touched on in this post (only they’ve said it much better). Jennifer and Suzanne are both excellent writers who both intimidate me and inspire me at the same time:
Thanks for reading and thanks for your time. I know we all don’t have much of it, so I appreciate yours as I try to figure out my life.
Come back again soon.
Or don’t. Suit Yourself.
Actually, please tell me what makes you come alive. And how do you know? Write a long comment, send me an email or write it in your own blog. Because, like the quote says, what the world needs are people who have come alive. I want to know if you have come alive and how you made it happen.
*in case you’re wondering, the design project I’ve been working on for a friend is on hold right now until I get a few questions answered that prevent me from moving forward.