Monday, October 4, 2010

Picture yourself in a boat on a river . . .

Today was a bad day. One in a recent series. I drove home late, doing breathing exercises, giving myself a little pep talk, even just thinking strings of curse words in righteous anger. And then I did what I always do when I find myself too far on one end of the spectrum: I think in opposites.

Thinking in opposites is a trick I learned in college. When struggling in lit classes to explain any given piece, a professor might say, "Explain it by first explaining what it isn't." A little obscure, perhaps. But insightful.

So opposites. What if I didn't have this stressful job? What job would I enjoy that would not be stressful? Hmmm . . . maybe running a little craft shop, teaching classes in embroidery. That sounds dreamy. And what if I were not just always talking about being a writer, but actually had the iron will to sit my fanny down and write? What time of day would I write? Would I type or use a new pen? And what if instead of cobbling something together each day to eat, I actually took the time to plan out weekly meals? That would be healthy and probably more economical. And maybe, eating the right foods, the inflammation in my back would go down.

No, I'm not exactly curing cancer here. But I did realize something sadly obvious: I don't have a vision of what I want my life to be. I have certain flash glimpses, and I have concepts. But there's no clear end goal in mind.

"The Awakening," Washington DC. Photographer: Ryan Sandridge
It may be because I am a slacker. That certainly carries weight here. But part of it is also that we let life happen to us, many of us. And we are swept up in what happens to us and go where the tide takes us. Before you know it, you're married, paying a mortgage, coaching your kid's soccer team, mowing the lawn, making lunches, and watching reruns. At that point, is there time in the day to consider one's self? One's own needs? My guess is that's how people come to just exist.

So what the hell is my excuse? My only dependent is a nine-pound cat missing most of her teeth. I'm saddled with school loans. I have ongoing fears of being a bag lady because times were tough when I was a kid. And I like to have a good time and not worry about money. Okay. But that aside, why don't I have a vision of what I want my life to be? It means I have no goals. I am just existing, but without a spouse, house, and child's love to keep me feeling fulfilled.

Copyright Alexandra de Steiguer
My opposite lives differ widely. And maybe that is what has me rolling along in neutral. Sometimes I am the earth mother, living in a farm house with a wraparound porch, growing my own food. Sometimes I am a city girl who spends time with a writing group and arguing politics at a hookah bar. Sometimes I defect to Paris or Canada. Sometimes I own a small, old cape on a rocky shore and run a craft shop.

The thing about New Hampshire is that it's very . . . settled. Almost everyone I know is married, has kids, etc. They are living their lives. There's not as much time to think about options. And I've been alongside everyone, year after year, existing. But I think I like the sound of a cape. A quiet life of creation.

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