Thursday, October 30, 2008

Clearing the Pile

I'm definitely seeking solace these days.

What is it about us that sends us seeking ourselves at every turn in our lives? Or is that special blessing of an instinct reserved for a certain segment of the population? And what would that be -- intelligent, curious, egotistical, self-absorbed, un-insightful, unbalanced, or is it, much more to my liking, a not unwelcome side effect of choosing to live an authentic life? A life examined. At least, from time to time.

I think about my childhood more than most people, I think. I had the same best friends from age 2 to 13. I had lots of childhood trauma, which helps things stick in your memory. I read books over and over and over, helping to imprint them and myself thinking of them in my mind.

My mother recently cleaned her garage and finally got us girls to take away all the stuff we'd been storing there, including boxes and boxes of books. Much to my delight, I did a great job as a kid knowing which books to save! I have so many of my favorites now, and I've been reading them voraciously in one or two sittings, night after night. They're exactly as I remember them, and there's such a warping feeling of rightness and strangeness between how I feel now reading them and the illusion of being different while reading them.

Is there continuity in consciousness? In experience? I have to say no. My memory is much more like packets of life [ha, meant to type light] operating as particles versus a wave. Maybe that's just a factor of what I use it for: occasional introspection to get me through the next transition.

Now there's the biggest one and probably second to the last one: dying. Parenthood is more than just about inviting a kid into your life. It's about the last chance to finalize your independent identity as opposed to your soon-to-be always-relational identity of you-as-mom, you-despite-being-mom.

I see Eric facing the same challenge but played out slightly differently. While this new life twist does have me wondering about my professional identity, it's not tied to my worth as a person in the same way as it seems to affect Eric as a man. He's thrust neck-deep in the question of: "Am I a good provider? Am I doing what I want to do in my professional life? Because I'm about to lose the flexibility to make changes easily very very soon."

As an aside, something I've learned about myself recently. I follow through. I used to think of this as being anal or having a high work ethic or being a perfectionist or something. Now, I'm thankful every time I find myself bending down to pick up a string on the carpet and throw it away, or unpack that box even though it contains a bunch of junk that I have no idea what to do with.

My mom came over to help me around the house for a couple hours -- bless her -- and I found her the same way, only more annoyingly so. She kept saying, let's just do a little more so that it feels good to have it done. And I knew just what she meant.

When I was little, I used to clean my room by piling up everything from on top of my dressers, everything out of place around the room, etc., into the middle of the room. Then I'd dust, make the bed, generally clean all the surfaces I could suddenly see. Then, one by one, I'd start to put things away from the pile. If I couldn't find a place for it, I'd throw it away. It was a painstaking process, and pretty slow. But it felt good from the beginning. Good to see cleared off surfaces. Good to have portions of the room done (if you could ignore the gigantic pile in the middle of the room). Good to restore order piece by piece as the pile shrunk.

I sometimes feel I take the same tack with the rest of my life, trying one by one to clear off my commitments, trying to make the other pieces of my life feel good and set and clean, even as I work to shrink my pile of should's and have to's.

I only have another 4.5 months to shrink my pile before it leaves my control more than ever before.

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