I’ve been doing a lot of summer reading recently. It’s a nice change in pace – coming home from our extended trip gave way to a few new rhythms. I decided not to pick up the busyness I left behind, wanting nothing to do with empty accolades – I’m letting this last bit of summer be a season of deep boredom. And I am so completely bothered by it, beside myself, that I am crawling out of my skin.
As a person who needs solitude to recharge, when I hire a babysitter – my vision is that they’ll take my children away from my safe place so I can be here, alone. You guys, it’s taken me about 8 years to admit this. I don’t even care any more. Zero fucks to give when someone looks at me cross-eyed when I explain that I need intense silence, away from my people, in order to function as a whole person. This is something I’ve learned the hard way and when it’s been too long since I’ve had a moment to myself to think my own thoughts, or journal, or write a letter … or gather my thoughts enough to craft an essay instead of stream of conscious writing – I start to get frantic.
This is it. This is the rest of my life. Always drowning in unmet expectations and unrealized dreams. Always taking care; giving, giving, giving. Never walking the slow amble of self preservation and lifting the ladle from deep within the well to fill my cup. It’s over.
My daughter is about to start middle school and I half-laugh, half-gasp because it’s taken this many years of rhythm to finally recognize patterns. The week before school starts? That week is the first layer of hell. Note to self: Plan nothing for that week. You are going to want to run away with everything in you. Do not sign them up for sports or camps. Just don’t. It will trap you into the the routine of showing up to fake it. Running errands or back to school shopping? It’s torture. It’s the reminder that they’re leaving mixed with the elation that they’ll be gone. Those two sides don’t fit on the same coin and yet here I am … flipping it over and over hoping it lands on a third side yet to be seen. Maybe that side will look like wisdom. It might just say “It’s ok.”
I’ll get to soccer practice and find a familiar face and all of a sudden my anxious thoughts about wanting to hide will evaporate and I’ll sit on the edge of their every word as we catch up about our summers and the year ahead. I will forget that I want loneliness when the gift of being seen is right in front of me. With one smile, with a pair of eyes willing to meet mine – I’ll start to remember why I live for this season, just as much as I’d prefer for it to be the one thing that finally undoes me.
My headstone might read: Reluctant to embrace the life she built. But damn, she was good at it.
One of the books I just finished, “When Breath Becomes Air”, was haunting in a way that answered one of my deepest emptinesses. But it answered it with a blank space. Essentially, “When Breath Becomes Air” is a memoir of a brilliant mind. A neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with cancer – the doctor becomes the patient. And it seemed most of his life’s work was to understand death. To wrestle with it and to usher people towards their death while respecting who they were as people and what made them such. He grappled with what it meant to live and when death became his life, he wondered still what it meant to leave it all behind.
I’m desperate to understand the meaning of life most days. What makes this matter so much? For him, in the end, it seemed what mattered most is having been here at all. Able to taste and see and experience, able to live regardless of the eventual death we all will come to. And I ask myself: am I really living? Or, worse, if I were to be diagnosed tomorrow with terminal cancer – what would I change about my life? (So many, many things) And then … why am I waiting to die so that I can have the permission to live?
So along with reading this summer and the boredom, I’m also crying a fair amount. A cleansing. A release. An acceptance. I followed “When Breath Becomes Air” with Shauna’s newest book, “Present Over Perfect,” and I’m about half way through currently. I can read about 2 essays before I need to get up and stomp around my house. I toss a few more things in the “give pile”, throw some laundry in the washer, feverishly make lasagna and wash the dishes. By hand. I walk in a few circles, go outside. I let the sun touch my face and I rapidly write in my journal until my hand aches. Then I sit back down for another round.
Until the bleeting and laughing and merriment my kids are experiencing with friends and neighbors invades this sacred place of stillness in my life and I regret the disruption and beg for forgiveness when my anger becomes palpable.
And then I write.