In the Mid-dle

I don’t know when it started exactly.

Perhaps as early as second grade when we had to cut out a construction paper bear and dress it according to our chosen profession.  My brown bear with peached fur of circa 1986 seriously-thick construction paper was clothed in a crisp white uniform emblazoned with a bright red cross on her cap.  My godmother was a nurse, a professional woman performing heroic feats on the daily.  I wanted to grow up and do the same.  I actually kept the bear for years and years, its rounded belly and little ears a visual reminder of a future I thought I had pinned down.  Then I learned what nurses actually did and how little I wanted to see or attend to blood and that plan went out the window.  In sixth grade, I had a folder of detailed drawings, ruled with my grandfather’s drafting pencils.  Architecture became my new career goal – until I learned how much math was involved.  In junior high, I began the self-awakening and introspection of adolescence and writing became and stayed my love, but it was certainly not a straight line from there.  There were – and are – many detours – self-imposed and otherwise.

But wondering about my future wasn’t limited to only possible career paths.  I was not one of those girls who played dress up and dreamed of her wedding day in a frilly white dress, but my parents were happily married and I assumed I would be someday, too.  Likewise, I never dreamed of being a mother.  I didn’t love little kids or clamor to babysit, but I did figure someday it would be different when they were my own.

Though at times I wondered – and worried – exactly how it would all shake down, there seemed to be a pretty clear progression of how life was expected to go.  Do well in school, get a part-time job and save for college, graduate and go to college, get a degree, a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, and – be fulfilled?

The entire first two (plus) decades of my life were so consumed with working towards these goals, it never occurred to me what would come after that.

My husband is three and a half years older than me.  He has hit many of these milestones just slightly before me.  He turned 41 a month before we welcomed our fourth child – and started shopping for a motorcycle.  I told all our friends that he was going through a mid-life crisis.  While it amused me to no end, there was part of me that wondered if it was true.  I began to wonder in earnest about what that clichéd phrase actually meant.

I hadn’t yet figured it out when I hit the big 4-0.  Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, or so the song goes, but it did mess with me.  Whether it was the extra introspection or society’s insistence of a shift, I did feel different.  It could have something to do with knowing you’ve reached the back end of your life.  That stupid ‘over the hill’ metaphor does have some potent imagery.  But my musings presented a different metaphor.

As I sat in the driver’s seat of our little standard-shift car, having just pulled into the driveway after a rare coffee date sans kids, I stared out the windshield at the garage doors and the bright light blooming over the roof and explained my theory to my husband.

The whole first segment of our lives, we are propelled forward by the steady string of goals we seek to accomplish.  Then, suddenly, we find ourselves in a state of slack.  We’ve pushed and pushed and pushed, ticking the boxes and striving for all those markers that make a life – or the conditions of a successful life we’ve been sold – and now we’ve reached them.  Completed most or all of them.  Our sense of forward movement is stalled.  And in that sudden, unfamiliar stasis, we take stock.  We look at what we have accomplished and how – or what we haven’t – and have to decide if we like where we are.  We may not recognize where we are, where we have ended up.  We may realize that pushing ever forward has made us miss the sights or alternate paths along the way.

Rather than seeing the second stage of life as a downhill slide on the other side of the mountain, I see a sailboat.  The first phase of life moves at a good clip, a strong wind pushing the sail straight out in a fully formed billow, propelling it across the tips of the waves, blowing our hair back and ruddying our cheeks with exhilaration.  At midlife, we are becalmed.  The wind drops out with no warning and the sails go slack, leaving us wondering if we’ll get back to port before sundown.  We feel a loss of control.  We look around and wonder what we did to find ourselves in this predicament.  We don’t know when or how we’ll start moving again or in which direction.

But the beauty of sailing, and midlife and beyond, is that we have the power to tack; to move in varied directions to get to a fixed point.  Or to change course completely.  We also have a bit more time to sit and float for a bit while we assess or wait for the next gust of wind to present itself.

delivery257

Becalmed by twjthornton

It’s strange and different, but the mind shift that comes with this age allows us to focus on what we want in a totally different way than when we were young and obsessed with success.  Now success means listening to what our soul is calling us to do; achieving what we can’t bear to leave undone.  We care less about what we’re supposed to do and more about what we want to do.  We are more willing to take risks to achieve our wildest dreams because we’ve lived one version of our lives for too long and it’s time.  And because we have some very wonderful things under our belt and wonderful people beside us.

I didn’t go out and buy a motorcycle, but I did look around and wonder, what now?  I won’t even get into how the total consumption of motherhood came into play; that could be, and perhaps someday will be, an entire book.  It’s scary that floating in this lull, alone and independent, means I am responsible for fashioning the next phase.  It’s also exhilarating if I keep breathing and don’t let fear take hold.  Two (plus) decades in, I feel it’s my time to pick the path.  I can draw on the examples of others, but know, deep down in my soul now, that the ultimate decision is mine.

There is nothing in the mid-dle about that.

Soaring and Grounding

As a child, I looked to the towering clouds, capped with billows, and imagined walking atop them like I’d watched the Care Bears do. I imagined that’s what heaven would be like when I got there someday. As a teen, Jonathan Livingston Seagull brought me such joy, such heights to which to aspire, the tips of his wings touched with light as he soared to such transcendent levels. As an adult, I watched birds glide on the wind, effortlessly floating above the rest of the world and its worries. I dreamed my own body could fly and always felt great disappointment when my legs started to drift back toward the ground. I gathered images and ideas for tattoos with silhouettes of birds, wings spread, to serve as a physical reminder of opening up, letting go, and ascending.

There is a line, though, where metaphysical musings turn into depression and anxiety.

I began to feel a great sadness watching birds wheel through the sky, their wide open wings and swooping motions a freedom I would never have. Watching the clouds edged with light filled me with a longing that I would never have the peace I imagined lived among their water crystals. No amount or configuration of ink etched on my skin would seep that sense of freedom into my soul.

And then as I sat on a shaded deck this morning, forcing myself to focus on a wisp of cloud and nothing else, staring into the middle distance, forcing all thoughts from my head or repeating a prayed mantra – a pair of birds streaked across, running a parallel line with the shore in front of me. Their pointed wings reminded me of the swallows with which I’ve been obsessed. They darted and swooped and disappeared behind a house a few doors down.

It occurred to me then that I can continue to stay focused on the peace and quiet in front of me while noticing the promise of freedom. I can long to be truly free, but that doesn’t stop me from embracing the joys in the here and now while I wait. I will not be free until my soul flies up to heaven, but I can open my heart now to accept what this life has to offer. I can use this time between now and then to wait and lament and be miserable or live in each moment mindfully soaking up what is there instead of not seeing it because I’m so fixated on what I don’t have.

Photo by Jennifer Butler Basile

Blossoming

Our task is not to learn how to be loving; the love within us is already full and alive.  Our practice is to melt the fear and armor that imprisons our hearts.  Then our impulses to love and our inclinations to be generous and kind blossom easily and surely within us.

from Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood

by Wayne Muller

Expectations

How many gentle moments do we poison each day when we cling to our expectations?  When we are imagining breakfast while we rock the baby, we miss the joy of rocking, we lose a precious moment with the baby – and we still miss breakfast.  When we simply rock when we are rocking, and then eat while we are eating, we become more open to the blessings available in the moment.

 Some expectations are extremely difficult to relinquish.  Some of us still expect our parents, friends, or spouses to finally become the loving people we always wanted them to be.  We think of how it might have been if only the right person or career had come along.  Some of us are still so attached to these hopes that we have not yet really begun our lives in earnest.  We are still patiently waiting for the world to match our perfect picture before we start.  How much longer can we wait?

 

from Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood

by Wayne Muller

Driving Force

64418082_10155865176282126_6794447836306997248_o

Before you report me to the local vehicular authorities, let me explain myself.

I have a problem with control.

As in, I strive for it far too much.

Dickens called Scrooge “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”  It’s not coins I’m clamoring for . . . but control?  Color me an addict.

The closer I look at this penchant for control, the deeper the reasons for it I find.  Abject terror of forgetting some important task that needs to be done.  Absolute overwhelm at the number of moving parts in any given day, week, month.  Stringent perfectionism for every task my mind or hands touch.

And yet, for all this toil and torment, I’m no closer to controlling the ins and outs of my days than I am to the bigger picture of my life.  If anything, these machinations cause me more grief.  In the drudgery of them, of course, but also in the false sense of security they provide.  Such a system is bound to implode, always on the edge of doing so, and when it does, of course, I blame myself for not keeping a handle on everything.

I’ve been working on that.

Controlling the minutiae of my day is not only tedious; it translates to an inability to trust in the direction God is leading me.  And while I am the one pulling the strings on the to-do list, I’ve lost an overarching belief in myself to craft a grand plan.

So instead of being entirely methodical (old habits die hard, right?), I’m going to try to get a little loosey goosey.  Try to dream faster than my Type A personality can plot.  Drift around the corners before my ass end can catch up.  Which is why this quote from Stirling Moss spoke to me.

You could argue that it is the perfect metaphor for the exact opposite of what I’m proposing.  To run away, get ahead of, keep a breakneck pace – and as someone with an internal tachometer often in the red, I certainly don’t need that sort of encouragement.  No, what I propose is acting on instinct, on the thrill of the moment, outdriving all the self-doubt and micromanaging – leaving the bottleneck of control behind and riding free and fierce into something I’d never allow myself if I stopped to measure the possible outcomes and fallout.

Now that’s something worth losing control over.

Much Ado About Nothing

I’ve had one full-fledged panic attack.  With all the anxiety over all these years, one full-fledged horrible panic attack.  That’s pretty amazing and pretty lucky.  The lid-about-to-boil-over effect is one of my body’s favorite go-tos.  Lately, it’s switched over to heart palpitations when my mind starts racing.  The other night as I lay in bed thinking of all I wanted to accomplish, my heart ticked up.

See, I was faced with two whole days by myself.

Well, sort of.  The kids, on school vacation, were leaving partway through Wednesday and returning partway through Friday for a sleepover at their grandparents’.  My husband was working, but we’d have the evenings together.

But as I lay in bed the night before this whole evolution started, I felt incredibly disjointed.  I’d be waking with the kids the next day and making sure they had all the underwear and rain jackets and stuffed animals they’d need for Grammie’s.  Starting the day as mom, and then transitioning to . . . what?  A quasi-homemaker washing the laundry of my own that I haven’t had a chance to wash, but would like to wear since I’ll be my own person for a day or so?  Run the errands I didn’t get to yesterday because I can do them in half the time kid-free.  Or switch straight to sloth because I can sit on the couch and watch a movie uninterrupted in the middle of the day?  The pull of doing all the things – and needing to do some of the things – versus the things I wanted to do for my soul’s survival were ramping me up.  Or, more accurately, the fact that I was going to run out of time before I ran out of things to do – and my people came home.

When my baby – at the time – started kindergarten, I found myself floundering as I tried to fit indulgent baths and writing time and house projects in the six hours of each school day.  I actually restarted therapy because I was so lost.  After years of never being alone, I thought I couldn’t wait until I finally was.  And I was right.  But, as any mom of a certain number of years will tell you, whether you mean to or not, so much of yourself becomes the mom-self that when there suddenly is a void – be it from kindergarten or college – you unexpectedly find yourself flailing.  So the switch of me-time flipped from famine to feast – and it still wasn’t enough.  I found myself dreading the return-time of the bus – because I hadn’t done enough, been alone long enough.  And I hadn’t even decided what I was going to do for work now that all my kiddos were in school.  My therapist told me I wasn’t ready to go to work; that I needed to unwind a bit more before I contemplated what was next.

And then I got pregnant.  [Insert bitter ironic laugh here]

Next month that baby will be three.  We’re contemplating sending her to preschool next year so I find myself facing the same quandries of what to do with my ‘free’ time as I did three and a half years ago.  But I’m starting a little early this time.  My eldest is old enough and owns a phone now so for a few hours a week I put her in charge of her sisters and sneak away to write, think.  I can already feel that I have much work to do on myself to prep for the actual work.  Plus, even on those days it’s me and the baby while the others are at school, I still dread the return of the bus.

These two days are a microcosm of that feeling; what elicited that heart-pounding panic in the dim of my room the other night.  I’m not back to square one.  I’m working on such a backlog, such a deficit of self-care in the simplest sense of the word – like silence to think – that the return of my people, the resumption of the needs, demands, to-dos, freaks me the %*$# out.  Not because I don’t love them.  Not because I hate my life.  Not because I could/should keep them away so I can do all my things.  It’s unrealistic for me to think I could possibly catch up on all I’ve been wanting to do in one day to myself.  But I think my ‘fight or flight’ is afraid I’ll never get any time to myself again.

So I lie in bed and run through every possible permutation of what I could do with my time, petrified that I won’t get it right and regret squandering my precious time to myself.

Obsessive, anxiety-inducing behavior.  Not totally rational, though rationalizing every move, of course.

But this day and a half have produced some wins.

I got a haircut.  I hand-washed those long-since buried bits of clothing.  I scheduled two posts.  I drank a latte and ate a muffin bigger than my head.  I drank wine with my husband, enjoyed a new recipe with him without the kids turning their noses up, and watched a movie without turning the volume down.  I reveled in lyrical literature.  And stared into space a bit while my mind wandered.

There’s always the panic – or possibility of.  There’s always something that could be done.  There’s always doubt.  But there are the good things, too.  Here’s to looking in the middle distance enough – neither too closely nor unseeingly – to recognize them.

On the Treadmill

No, this is not an account of my latest exercise endeavors.  The only personal story I have about treadmills is my daughter’s run-in with one that ended in road-rash (see what I did there?).  That still makes me giggle.  Don’t judge.  It was her own fault.  I’m pretty much in love with OK Go’s endeavors on treadmills, too.

But me, no.

Which is ironic because I’m on one every damn minute of every damn day – the metaphoric treadmill of motherhood.

Maybe it’s unfair to blame all of my mania on motherhood.  There probably is some part of my personality that would still schedule me to my utmost limit – but it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if I ‘only’ had to work without the constraints and constancy of mothering.  And even pre-kid working me would binge watch Trading Spaces in a blob on the couch after a particularly hectic day of work.

Now, when I get the chance to step off the treadmill, I’m like that blob – but without the decision-making capabilities of any grey matter.  Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the grey matter used for ‘personal’ decision-making is so underused it has atrophied.

When we get off the treadmill so infrequently, our bodies and minds know not what to do without the cycle and incessant motion.  Being at rest is so foreign, that part of ourselves we’ve shoved down for so long is like a salamander with a light shone on it.

That part that cultivates hobbies, interests, passions; rest, rejuvenation, relaxation.  That little corner inside ourselves closest to our souls.  The part that should be getting more play, not the least amount possible.  Not so little that when it can come out to play, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

By some stroke of luck and generosity, I find myself alone and stuffing my face with donuts.  I’m also sipping on a caramel-sea salt-molasses-coffee concoction.  The caffeine and sugar combination is already thumping in my veins and lining my blood sugar up on the cliff.  BUT what else does one do when you can stuff your face with forbidden foods without little people’s pleading eyes killing your buzz?  Yoga without a little person sitting on your head or smashing into your pelvis while you try to relax into savasana?  A warm bath with the aromatic soaks your friend handcrafted!?  Scrap some of the eight-thousand photos that would bring you into the last decade?  Write that folktale you’ve been ruminating on?  Or the several posts you’ve been marinating?  Or actually get down ideas for the next big jump in your life?

Or you could stand in the middle of your living room floor, holding onto your phone with your atrophied little T-Rex arms and scroll Facebook on your browser – not the app because you took it off your phone for Lent so you wouldn’t go on FB so much – and not sitting down because that would mean it’s not just a temporary distraction to which you’re not totally committed.  You could stand there and fill the void with more vacuous activity instead of plucking one valuable thing out of the myriad you haven’t had a chance for in so long.  You can give in to the confounding paralysis that comes from wishing desperately for more time and then desperately wanting to do all that you’ve missed out on once you get a bit – that you do nothing.  You could also invite your anxiety in so that even watching Trading Spaces or whatever binge-worthy show has replaced it is ruined because you can’t let go of the things you’re not doing.

The answer, I suppose, is to get more free time; take more free time.  Part of that is impossible because – treadmill.  Part of that is more difficult because of my ‘prepping for a sub is more work than a day of teaching’ theory.  And a huge – perhaps the most insurmountable – part of it is breaking ourselves of the mental and emotional habits that have led to this.  Yes, we can be angry at the treadmill, curse the unseen figures that keep turning it on and programming it to higher, faster levels, but we need to learn how to unplug it, unplug ourselves.  So that even when we get some time, we don’t spend the whole time trying to unwind.

Now I face the insurmountable task of unwinding with a gob of caffeine floating throughout my system.  I’ll let you know how savasana goes.  Or maybe I’ll have an energized bout of writing.  I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet.

Incremental Illness

It’s easy to ignore when it creeps up on you,
increasing slowly, by small degrees

Or not even ignore –
just not even notice

the paranoia that maybe you’re not cool enough to hang
the resentment for the life you do not have
the loneliness
the inability to relax
the overwhelm over everyday things:
shopping, showering, getting out the door

Just not feeling
talking, going, doing –
                              it

Until one day it’s suddenly all you can see,
all you can feel

And you have to deal with it all at once

Marie Kondo Mind%#@&

It is a hell of a lot easier to make fun of Marie Kondo’s clients when you haven’t tried the KonMari method yourself.

On our New Year’s Netflix binge, my husband and I, along with millions of others across the country, watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up.  Yes, there seemed to be a disconnect between the first couple at which the disorganization only hinted.  Yes, I cringed at the way the toddler’s face was seemingly smashed against the mother’s ‘boobies.’  [Not in an anti-public-breastfeeding sort of way, but in an anti-awkward-hold sort of way?]  But those are all criticisms in the category of House Hunters nit-picking.  What got me was the way the second woman still kept what seemed to be an insane amount of clothing she’d bought to ‘hit [her husband] where it hurt.’  The way the mom hoping to have a third child said she was ready to ‘tidy’ but refused to get rid of anything – and then miraculously turned the tide with no clue as to how.  There was and is obviously more of the psychological to tidying than the physical.

I already knew this.  The milkcrates of ephemera in my basement already told that tale.  Knowing and embodying this psychological and emotional truth are two entirely different things, however.

Let it be known that I embarked on our once-nightly KonMari marathon in the midst of helping my mother clean out my grandmother’s house.  My grandmother, thank God, is still with us, but recently required a move to a nursing home.  Knowing that she sat in a facility across town while we rifled through her belongings didn’t necessarily help, though.  There was a weird element of mourning someone you had not yet lost – or at least the existence that you had together, the way of life she’d known.  It also made me mourn my grandfather’s death, which happened when I was five.  I mourned it then, as a five-year-old can in her limited understanding, carrying that childhood sorrow and sense of loss into adulthood, but unearthing his buried belongings brought a fresh wave of poignancy I hadn’t expected.  Then I would come home, with a bag of someone else’s belongings I thought I needed to remember her (and him) by, and watch a show about purging the things of which I already had too many.

Two whole days went by with me fully intending to make that massive pile of clothing on my bed and start with Kondo’s first step.  I’d look at the clock and wonder whether I’d have enough time to tackle it before bedtime.  I’d gauge whether I had enough energy.  I discussed with my husband the difference between a piece ‘sparking joy’ and practicality.  But in a practical sense, those pieces that spark joy are really the items you actually wear and the others are just taking up space or waiting for the day you run out of clean laundry.

I finally decided this last Saturday to do it.  I went into the basement and grabbed an arm full of plastic dry-cleaning bags encasing one prom and a few bridesmaid’s dresses.  I hauled up my bin of summer clothes, all neatly rolled and stored for the season.  I emptied my drawers and closet.  I patted myself on the back for taking this drastic step, then looking at the huge pile, realized how many more steps I now had to take.

20190112_112931_hdr3950138222842656316.jpg

So much excess in a world of want (Jennifer Butler Basile)

I probably should’ve started by holding one piece I was absolutely positive gave me joy to get that sense of what I was seeking.  Instead, I pulled out the several pieces I’d already had in my head as goners and chucked them into a pile on the floor.  This felt good initially, then left me with no idea of where to go next.  I picked up a sweater I remembered buying on our honeymoon at an Esprit store in San Fran.  Those of you children of the eighties who grew up in New England know what a big deal it was to buy something from an actual Esprit store.  I stared at it, waiting for some sort of answer, then put it down.  The memory of it sparked joy for sure, but did the sweater?  I tried on a bunch of clothes to check for fit and style, but I suppose the fact that I didn’t quite remember the fit meant I didn’t wear those pieces frequently enough to keep them.  One pair of pants in particular kicked my practicality into high gear.  I only wore them when none of my favorite jeans were in the closet, but they fit, were in good condition, and served as a good back-up.  Now, when I wear these, I curse the fact that they aren’t my better jeans, I am annoyed by the waistband and back pockets and poor stitching on some of the seams, but they are a nice neutral color and the length and boot cut of them work.  They are perfectly good pants – why would I throw them out?

Because, apparently, I have an unnatural attachment to things.  My anxiety makes me second guess my decisions.  My desperate grasp for control makes me think if I let something go, I will need it someday and won’t have it.  My tight budget won’t necessarily allow for replacement of missing items.

As I stood staring at the embarrassingly large pile of clothes, so big that I was ashamed to post it on social media that day despite the trending Marie Kondo hashtags, I was paralyzed by so much angst.  Saying thank-you couldn’t absolve me from the guilt and remorse I had in letting these things go.   Not because I was madly in love with pieces, not because I felt compelled to do a penitential cleanse.  Because it was forcing me to make decisions I’d avoided due to lack of brain bandwidth.  Because it meant facing the fact that I no longer needed the beautiful professional wardrobe I’d picked out with such pride when I’d started teaching.  Because it meant accepting that I can no longer wear skirts cut on the bias due to the way childbirth has forever altered my hips and backside.  Because it meant finally owning that any day is special enough to wear my favorite items and look good.  Because it meant not letting laundry reach an untenable level so that I actually have key pieces to wear.

Sorting clothes Marie Kondo style messed with my head because it forced me to face truths about my life, my body, and me: the ways each of them have changed, the ways they need to change.  Perhaps these realizations hit me even harder since I wasn’t expecting pieces of clothing to elicit them.

While I’ve collected these realizations, I’ve yet to process them; they’re my metaphorical basket of clean laundry in the corner yet to be folded and put away.  It took me two days to bag my discards for donation.  I still held certain things up to the light, like my Esprit sweater in the beginning, wondering whether I should part with an item so nice but so infrequently worn.

I’ve obviously learned that physical items carry psychic weight and hope that once the bags are no longer in my peripheral vision, I’ll no longer doubt my culling decisions.  I can already appreciate the way my hangers run freely on their rail; the way I can easily see and access my scarves.  I’m putting much more thought into what I wear, finding new ways to combine pieces I decided to keep.  The prospect of thoughtfully adding new pieces tailored specifically to my style as budget, necessity, and time allow is kind of exciting.  I can’t say the process has brought a whole lot of joy upon my house, as one of the children on the show proclaimed, but then I never was good at dealing with change or letting go.  And clothing is only step one, after all . . .

Granting Ourselves Permission

In college, a friend and I went out for a night of shopping.  When she was ambivalent about buying a certain item, or deciding between two, I encouraged her to buy it, or both.  Why not?  It looks great, it’s so fun, you like it, go for it.  It was so easy to pull out these positive affirmations.  There was no doubt she deserved a gift to herself.  The approval rolled off my tongue like water.  Plus, it wasn’t my money to spend 😉

This isn’t a case for fiscal irresponsibility, but a small example of how easily we give others permission, yet don’t permit ourselves the same freedom.

I grew up on the back cusp of Generation X, not quite part of it, but as of then, Millenials didn’t exist and there was no Generation Z yet leading to a brief mention of the Ys squeezed in the middle.  In any event, my hands were in technology, my heart firmly rooted in the old school.  I gauged success as being chosen for a job by a superior, validated by an organization, an agency.  By membership, the man, bureaucracy.  Not because I particularly liked it, but because it felt more official, came with a certain amount of cache.  I was used to looking at existing structures and following the chain of command.  I still hold the deep desire to be granted authenticity by a major publishing house.

Then there came under me whole generations of people, who some may say eschew all tradition and decorum to a fault, but who aren’t afraid of creating their own structures.  People who crowd source and crowd fund.  Who wake up one morning with an idea, a dream, and chase it.

In that weird shiftless space between Christmas and New Year’s, my husband and I got our adult time (as surrounded by children) by taking to the couch and Netflix documentaries.  If you watch enough food, travel, and minimalist episodes, their algorithms eventually bring you around to Expedition Happiness, a sparse, reflective film documenting the trek of two young Germans across North America.  Mogli’s music sets an ethereal tone for the film and their attitude does the rest.  They bought an out-of-commission American school bus online, secured a work Visa to retrofit it as a camper, then headed through Canada to Alaska, south along the west coast to Mexico.  Other than an outline of a route, they had no plans.  I still don’t know what they did for money.  I’m having a panic attack just thinking of it all.

And yet, I want that ability, even in small ways in my life, to allow myself such adventures.

Following up on the couple after the documentary, I saw a video wherein Mogli appealed to her fans who wanted her to perform stateside.  She explained that, in typical music industry fashion, she and her band would have to finance a trip to the States first to host a showcase to garner agent interest.  Then, if an agent were interested, he or she would arrange a tour.  A lot of capital up front for something that might never pan out.  But in the next breath, she vehemently exclaimed she wasn’t going to let such a process stop her from connecting with her fans.  She launched a plan to presell a set amount of tickets, which would guarantee her presence in that city.  She circumvented a system that didn’t serve her, cutting the head off an unyielding monster and went straight to the source – her fans.

Personality, not only generational hutzpah, also plays a huge part in such an outlook.  I am much too rooted in my sense of place, home to make a cross-continental trek indefinitely.  I am much too anxious to not plan obsessively.  However, I am also horrible at giving myself permission to follow my inner movings.

It is much too easy to say, oh I can’t do that.

permission-slip1

Kathy McAfee

Who is telling me I can’t?  Is it fear?  Is it adhering too closely to existing, yet increasingly changing, constructs?  Just as there is no one telling me I can’t, there is no one telling me, I can.  But no one ever will when I’m following my own movings – except me.

More people around me, my peers, my contemporaries, are branching out into nontraditional roles in the workforce by following their own desires for what they want in their lives and what they want to see in the world.  Just this week, a friend started her own business.  She got the credentials and experience she needed and went out on her own.  She didn’t look for someone to say her services were needed; she presented her skills to the world and people are seeking her out.

The ease with which I encouraged my friend to buy something special for herself, without guilt, without second-guessing; the passion with which I believe in my friends who have put themselves at the heads of their own destinies – I need to now turn these energies inward.  I must show myself the grace, compassion, and strength I offer to others.  For when I wake up in the morning burning with those dreams, it is only I who put my feet on the floor and follow them.

 

How do you grant yourself permission?

%d bloggers like this: