Why it's a good sign when things start to break. Okay, not all the time, but sometimes. Here's what I mean.
I've had the dropsies lately, which means that I've not able to put away the dust pan and brush. It's been that bad.
A fair few lovely things have been ushered into the garbage tip.
In fact it happened so many times I got alarmed. Honestly, was something wrong with my hands?
Not really. I opened an overhead cabinet too hard, it broke a clock, said clock smashed onto the top of my newly-repaired shoulder, still in a sling. Ow. Dude. Geez.
Others were tiny antique glass ornaments. I looked it up online. No, I don't have Parkinson's. I'm just breaking. Apart, as it were.
More aptly, I'm breaking out.
This is a good thing.
If your life has come apart at the seams, ever, you know the feeling. While it can depend on how serious the rip is, say a divorce, a lost job, a lost love or a death, the tears in the fabric of your existence can be meh or downright existential. These days many of us are facing many of those kinds of fissures in the fabric of our lives, given Covid, or other seismic shifts in what we deemed "normal."
In a lot of ways, what we in America consider normal is, in other parts of the world, insanity. They have a point. From food and water waste to overspending to polluting, they have a point. But this is not that. This is personal.
We often can't see what's wrong with our normal until something takes a ball peen hammer and smashes our normal to smithereens. Then, as we stand stunned in the wreckage, only then can we also begin to see what aspects of our normal were wrecking us.
This is not a Pollyanna paint job over disaster. This is not a mockery of the intense and very real pain we are all feeling. It's not that. This is addressing what can happen if and when we see what is being forced to crack open, and what we can make of the sacred mess that our lives always are (it's life, after all).
I've found that with hindsight, the best shifts and changes only happened after profound and often deeply painful loss or transformations. That is what I mean by payment.
The harder we hang onto what was, the more we ensure that when life inevitably changes around us, we will not be prepared for it.
I shoved myself out of my comfort zone last year and landed in Oregon, giving up nearly fifty years of history and familiarity for a new state, city, people, lifestyle. As I slowly piece together this new life, I keep breaking things.
Like my relationship to the life I had before I moved.
Sometimes this really frustrates me because I can't yet answer the question "Who am I" now that I'm no longer that Coloradan?
Those ties broke. That leaves me floating like an untethered balloon.
I no longer belong There, and I'm not sure I belong Here yet either. That's very slow in forming, as all such major life moves are this late in the game. I'm mostly nonplussed, although every so often I keep finding myself trying to stuff myself back into the lifestyle I had in Col0rado.
Part of that lifestyle, as it has been since I was a child, was balls to the wall, hard core work ethic. It's exhausting. As though by working ninety-hour weeks (sound familiar?) someone or something is going to hand me a hero button. As though killing ourselves for work and profit gives us some moral superiority.
We deify people who never sleep and produce produce produce, as if that is any kind of life.
Nope. You die, having never lived, and you're buried, forgotten and promptly replaced. Next.
That doesn't work here.
While that lifestyle got me a lot of things like accolades and two books and a certain recognition, it doesn't create happiness. I began to break with that life when I began adventure travel. Then, inevitably, I turned it into work. Of course I did. Now there are deadlines and clients and marketing costs and a website. Lots of costs to cover. Of course there are.
I turned that joy into a job.
Precisely the same way that my father, upon his retirement, turned my parents' tooling around in their campervan throughout America and Canada into his next job. Deadlines, to-do lists, and things to mark off as seen.
But were they marveled at, and enjoyed?
I have to wonder.
I'm starting to break. That way of life is no longer serving. As I break I am expanding. Every attempt to cram myself back into habits that used to work is met with failure.
Life is like that.
This is good news. Doesn't feel like it. I can only speak for myself, but it's good news.
Once you've evolved into something new, even if you have no clue what that something new is, you cannot, cannot force yourself back into your previous packaging.
Happens in nature all the time. Ask a tadpole, a butterfly, anything in larval stage.
-a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something
The etymology of the word, as I am using it from the Greek, is to change into something higher or greater.
In order to do that, you and I have to give something up.
Perhaps how we identified with a previous life, a previous lover, a previous job or family.
Perhaps we have, or still are, identified with someone we admire, but don't yet realize that we've outgrown their influence. It's time for us to move on. To that, this:
From the article:
Girard realised one peculiar feature of desire: ‘We would like our desires to come from our deepest selves, our personal depths,’ he said, ‘but if it did, it would not be desire. Desire is always for something we feel we lack.’ Girard noted that desire is not, as we often imagine it, something that we ourselves fully control. It is not something that we can generate or manufacture on our own. It is largely the product of a social process.
‘Man is the creature who does not know what to desire,’ wrote Girard, ‘and he turns to others in order to make up his mind.’ He called this mimetic, or imitative, desire. Mimesis comes from the Greek word for ‘imitation’, which is the root of the English word ‘mimic’. Mimetic desires are the desires that we mimic from the people and culture around us. If I perceive some career or lifestyle or vacation as good, it’s because someone else has modelled it in such a way that it appears good to me.
Hence, influencers, in our current culture. We've always had them, from a rich neighbor to the pretty girl in high school. We want what we perceive they have, so we emulate them.
Maybe we also need to break with how we identified with youth and beauty, physical prowess, or a place where we felt deeply connected, with roots dug into the soil along with the trees in our yards. Uprooting is hard. We leave pieces of ourselves behind, and more than a little blood.
We have permission to let that go.
We pay for our transformations. They don't come cheaply. Especially in a world so focused on youth and beauty, the process of watching the outer skin change to reflect our age can be disconcerting even as we let go of so many of the anchors and angst of our youth and middle years.
We pay to see things differently. Usually such a transformation is damned painful. Like age. We have to forfeit our often ridiculous, egotistical notions of ourselves to discover who we really can be, in order to be able to give ourselves over to what we came here to do. To give.
Right now, I find myself in chaos more often than not. My typical response is intense busy-ness, for that's how I distract myself from distress.
In the past, I did that with obsessive-compulsive disorders, without any notion that I was simply dispelling anxiety. Now I know precisely what I'm doing. Because of that I can have a sense of humor about it. That allows me to be present as I fill my day with to-do lists, knowing at some very deep level that has nothing "to-do" with anything.
Things are breaking. That's a good thing.
I might even break my compulsive list-making habit. Talk about untethered.
I am so married to that damned list, a habit my father ingrained in me decades ago,
that as long as that list has items, I don't allow myself time off.
Of course, each day piles on new items even as I mark some off. The gerbil wheel never, ever stops.
That's what needs to break. Being in a state of shatter means that it's damned hard to focus. My focus used to be legendary. Not now.
I've started writing several books, and gave up on them. Started multiple projects for my business, then gave up on them. Nothing that has appealed in the moment carries enough weight for me to finish it. There's a message in that.
I am no longer that Energizer Bunny. I still have the energy but I am done with spending it on so much work.
Simone Biles said this past year, tellingly, that when she took her mental health more seriously, she finally had to come face to face with the fact that she was not simply the sum of her skills, but the sum of her person. Wish I'd learned that at her age. I'm still struggling with it.
From the article:
Biles tweeted her thanks to fans for their love and support, saying it made her realize "I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics, which I never truly believed before."
I spoke with my social media buddy JC about that this week. He's known me long enough now-five years- to have watched a goodly bit of this transition. He has no idea where I'm going. Well,
I sure as hell don't.
I broke out of Colorado, and whatever life that future held for me. As I streak towards seventy, more body parts bark loudly (arthritis in my hands, which don't like the wet cold up here), and I do my level best to put feelers into the dense soil of my new state. I continue to work out. I continue to write.
Some things are solid for life. But not all. The trick, perhaps, is to question what we do in light of a changing world, a shifting life and an aging body and ask what is worth keeping. What speaks to our souls, and what serves the furthering of who we are moving forward.
Omicron threw a wrench into the wretched mess that was my adventure travel business torn asunder by Covid, just as I was gearing up for more trips.
Things are breaking. Right now I know nothing, which is true all the time anyway. What's more important is that it's time to stop trying to fix the discomfort by trying to exert control over what cannot be controlled. That is where OCDs get their start.
Right now, chaos is my normal. I'm getting more comfortabler (I made that up) being in chaos as I shift from my sixties to my seventies. As I mind and respect those age-legitimate issues that come from hard use and wear and tear.
As I continue good habits of exercise and good food, but make space for the new pieces to land where they may. That can only come with time and patience, and being open, soft and curious about how life presents itself.
JC did convince me to take one vacation day a week. I am TERRIBLE at this. But I'm going to start. I am tired of moving to beautiful places I don't explore because "there's work to do," and the only relief I get are from my great big adventures. JC and his fiancee were the inspiration. They regularly take small excursions to the beach or to local events. I never do. Never did.
Because, the to-do list. The terrible tyranny of the to-do list.
DAMN the To Do list.
When I die my to-do list will still be five pages long and nobody will have given me a hero button. So....I am breaking the habit of the to-do list prison.
I am taking Wednesdays- or at least one day a week every week- to explore. Hikes, drives, visits to small towns. Get away from the computer. JC is going to be brutal about holding me accountable.
That's a real friend, the guy who wants me to have joy more often.
Evolution isn't easy. Personal growth takes payment. A different kind of life demands that I forfeit an old one.
Things are breaking. And that's a good thing.