Sunday, July 31, 2011

35th Year

In my 35th year, the last grandparents' ashes successfully sprinkled in their final resting place, I find myself casting about for how to live.

I suddenly realize life is moving faster than my ability to learn from it or about it, and I can tell that for the rest of my life, I will never catch up. What to do with this expectation that life will someday make sense? That the choices you make will add up to a meaningful whole, resolve into a familiar picture, resonate on some level that means, "I've made it, and this is who I am, what it means, where I will live."

Having been a mother now for 2 years, it still strikes me more often than not as surreal, unbelievable -- sweet, yes, and deeply satisfying, yes. But not as grounding or as self-validating as I had expected somehow.

What does it mean that I love my life but can't feel that it's real on some deep internal level?

Some of it, I feel, is how fast friends spin outward from a center in the past that signaled our closeness. Time spirals people away faster than can be believed or processed. Even intense efforts at reconnection can't keep up with the days racing by or the moments that pile up when you're not watching. Who can watch everything?

I've been reading Greek and Roman philosophers and Carl Jung. Interesting that both seem to be reacting to a deep psychological need to stay on top of a rising tide of change. Marcus Aurelius -- emperor by day -- mad journaler by night, writing volume after volume of wise sayings and reminders to himself to stay calm, to stay grounded, not to let others dictate his mood or imbalance his equilibrium, even as his empire is threatened on multiple fronts, and his own rule must constantly be defended. Jung feels the same threats from his own unconscious, while watching a growing tide of world war rise up around him. Watch your dreams, he says, to understand your mind, to understand what your mind makes of you life and the world. Watch the world, Aurelius says, to understand yourself and your mind.

And inside me, a great silence but growing unease that I don't have a direction to follow that will lead me to the method by which I will know myself or my life or the world.

My laziness exceeds my ambition, so I disappoint myself daily. Self-flagellation is not enough to induce movement or effort.

Eric told me the story of our courtship and joined lives the other day when I expressed my profound feeling of disorientation. And his story grounded me for a while. It's a good one, and true. We do love each other. Our lives are good. Our life is good.

But I think about all the advice I'm not reading about how to live from civilizations long gone, from philosophers now dead, from strong men and women who were able to balance their lives to do extraordinary things, and I wonder -- how much am I wasting when I pretend to "rest"?

I believe writing makes it impossible to hide. Silence = disappearing. Years pass without comment, and they are lost to me. Lessons lost, people forgotten, places unacknowledged. To live is to pay attention, and the ultimate attention is description, documentation, synthesis. Bringing intelligence to perception and resolving it into experience and learning.

Tired of working so hard, I have been coasting so long that my abilities have atrophied. I feel weak, childish, a beginner again.

Better to begin than feel the guilt of delay.

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