Recently, a friend of mine wrote about feeling stuck in “limbo”, as he is between major projects in his life. On one side of the coin, he’s proud of all the hard work he’s put in and all the successful things he’s created and the sense of joy and well-being he’s brought into the lives of others. On the other hand, he writes about feeling ambitious without direction, or struggling with a desire to create and do and be, without any particular ambition.
As the holiday season descends upon us, I can relate to that. Part of me wants to feel rather depressed because since October, I’ve gotten “downsized” from the company I spent the past two years with, and my only other long-term, independent contracting position has come to a conclusion. As is the case when working with start-ups, at some point, they too struggle with money to make their vision come alive, and need to put your creative work on the shelf for awhile. Sometimes, they come back. Other times, the hiatus is permanent. As a result, this has been one of the most financially-challenged holidays I’ve spent in years. Strangely, though, I don’t feel depressed. Perhaps I *should*, but I don’t feel bummed about not visiting my family for the holidays, not buying extravagant gifts, not shopping online for pretty dresses and shoes. Perhaps I’m lacking in holiday spirit, as well as ambition. I’m well aware that December is a crappy time to be job-seeking, and I have a number of friends in a number of industries who are waiting until the New Year to really crank up the job search.
On the other hand, it isn’t as if I haven’t been doing anything productive at all. I’ve been writing rather dull piece work for content mills (which I wish I could get more motivated about, but the lack of creativity just bores me in a way that’s become painful.) I’m releasing/publishing my first book of poetry in December, planning a ton of fabulous events for my Meetup, and spending more time catching up with people in my life that I care about. I only wish I had the financial resources to do so, and not stress out about it. I’ll be celebrating my birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, a good friend’s wedding, and a bunch of other things that remind me “Hey, this is what life is about.”
I’m kind of a conundrum in that I’d like to think, perspective-wise, I have my head on fairly straight. For me, life isn’t so much about accomplishment or achievement or careers or money or accumulating material possessions. In fact, when I get into the head space where I concentrate on those things—the place where most people tell me I should be focused—not only does everything seem to go wrong seemingly out of nowhere, but I am quite unhappy and lonely as a person.
For me, life is about experience. I enjoy creating unforgettable experiences with the people close to me, even if they’re seemingly mundane. As a result, my friendships and relationships are deeper and more intense than what most people experience, and the accumulation of my life experience is fairly impressive for a person my age.
Of course, the conundrum is that a person needs some sense of financial stability, direction, and ambition to have the freedom to engage in these experiences. Especially if you’re me, and a non-driver in a city legendary for inaccessibility and urban sprawl, and live in one of the most non-pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods possible, you need disposable income in order to leave your house and go somewhere when a friend can’t take you.
I seem to be motivated by unhappiness. When I think about a long-term relationship ending (a situation that almost occurred last week), or moving to another city where I’d essentially be alone, or having to start over again, there is some type of strength and defiance in my personality that emerges and says “I’ll do what I have to do.” However, when I am relatively happy, I often become complacent, wondering why life can’t always just be easy and happy. I like being happy, and yet, happiness does not challenge me. It is the difficult and the unexpected and the apparition of change in what I thought was a stable universe that challenges me. I don’t enjoy the challenge. In fact, I typically have a nervous breakdown, accompanied by vodka, Valium, and lots of crying. But then, I somehow start to see positive changes in my life. When I have nobody and nothing to rely on in life, I am at my strongest, while also being at my weakest.
I don’t write when I am happy. Sometimes, I think the reason I seek out complex love affairs and conflict-filled friendships and take the road less traveled–which is full of speed bumps and potholes—is because the emotional complexity, the good mixed with bad mixed with chaos, is what inspires me to create.
I’ve had my fortune read many times; palm readings, tarot cards, natal charts, numerology, and the like, because part of me believes in those sorts of things (even if another part of me can’t have much faith in anything, and dismisses it as nonsense.) One consistent thing that’s always pointed out to me is that I am supposed to be a person of great wealth. From my birth chart to my palm reading, everyone tells me, “One day, money will be of little concern to you, because you’ll have all you need”. I apparently am meant to have a much harder time with relationships, commitments, reputation, and all those other little details of life.
This always makes me laugh, because I am not practical, not good with money, not particularly ambitious in one specific direction, and not sure what I’m supposed to accomplish with my life. Also, it specifically tells me I will not have money because of an advantageous marriage or an inheritance, and that I will be the financial breadwinner for those in my life. Apparently, I am meant to somehow parlay some gift I have into money, and not just in the paycheck-to-paycheck sense.
This seems ludicrous to me, because money and independence have always been my greatest struggles, and they go hand in hand. I do not have any particular business sense. I remember, as a child, teachers writing “Your daughter is intelligent, creative, and gregarious, but like many gifted people, lacks common sense.”. I am not practical. I am not organized. I rarely make flights on time, I don’t remember to pay my bills when they’re due even if I have the money in the bank, I lose keys and sunglasses and wallets and IDs and credit cards, and then freak out. I’ve had to have my birth certificate replaced 3 times. I need a new copy of my Social Security card. Only recently, did I learn that stock certificates equal money and I should have someone manage that stuff. I wake up in the morning, and take my pills. Some days, I can’t remember if I already took my pills, or that was yesterday, and am not sure what to do. I get lost, everywhere, even with GPS and a map. I caused a kitchen fire and made the apartment smell like there was a gas leak the first time I encountered a gas stove.
I can tell what’s going on with you without anything but a conversation, or observing body language. I sense danger, and get out of the way before it happens. I know there’s someone else in your life or you’re cheating on me long before I ever catch you, and I’ve already cried over it by the time you get around to breaking my heart. Yet, I’m surprised and hurt when someone I trusted talks about me behind my back. I can put a puzzle together in record time. I assemble everything without instructions. However, I can’t hang a picture frame on the wall to save my life.
When I have something I am passionate about, I can work on it for hours and am resentful of interruption. If I don’t care about what I’m doing, even the mailman is a welcome distraction to go pay attention to something else. I seem to have the worst case of adult ADD in history.
When I plan events, I am detail-oriented and Type-A to a fault, because imperfections and “going with the flow” bothers me. Getting stuck in traffic gives me road rage, and I’m not even driving. In my normal life, someone telling me to hurry up stresses me out to no end, and I feel way more relaxed being 30 minutes late.
I am most definitely a conundrum. The things I should be stressing out about right now—money, jobs, my future, what the future holds for me, changes that may be on the horizon—I am not. Instead, I’m looking forward to the next day in my life where something fun and entertaining and amusing is going to happen. This might just be a sign “Oh, the anti-anxiety pills are working”, but wait until the first time I lose something or I can’t fit my gigantic hips into a dress I bought pre-illness-weight-gain. When that happens, World War III erupts.
Maybe it is that, somewhere deep inside, I have this intuitive feeling that in the near future, things are going to work out well for me. This, frankly, is ridiculous. Things never “work out” in my world. When left to fate, fate does not often treat me kindly. Yet, I have this feeling that keeps me from giving up and crying and walking away from things, one that tells me it’s now time to focus on different things in my life, but good things are on the horizon in my life.
I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a good year for me, and I’m not sure why. I have too many obstacles to believe that on any level that doesn’t involve either intuition or faith, and I’m sadly lacking in the second.
So, while the rest of the world is wondering if the world is going to end on December 21st, it’s more like I am preparing for a re-birth, for new beginnings and possibilities. I am not stressed about it, but open to it, and a little afraid of the unanticipated things the future may hold. But I feel like my year of “pause” is coming to an end, and not because I have completely recovered physically, or am suddenly grown-up and independent emotionally. I just feel like a slightly different person, and this person does not need things constantly, all the time, either in the form of other people or in terms of material objects. It’s a little like I’ve rediscovered pieces of someone I used to be, but forgot, because that person fell behind a curtain of illness and depression and insecurity.
I want to have fun again. I want to do things and meet people and live life and take chances without being afraid again. And, yes, I’d like to have a whole bunch of disposable income so that my $14 martinis and unique wardrobe pieces don’t send me reeling into poverty—and I don’t quite know how to get to that point from where I am now—but I don’t stay up at night trying to figure it out anymore.
I have always been extreme. People would tell me there’s this middle ground in life, where things are not either manic happiness and elation and going until you reach a point of physical exhaustion, or cause for losing all hope and feeling like the world would be better without you. I couldn’t relate to that, because I’d mistake not feeling either happy, sad, stressed, or excited with being completely bored.
I have finally learned to have days that are “just OK”, and not subsequently feel depressed because I am bored and lonely. I have learned to be in that “in-between” place in life where you don’t know what will happen next, but to get through that place by living in the present, rather than stressing about the future.
And, all in all, it mostly feels like someone saw me carrying a really heavy suitcase, and decided to help me with it for a little while. I am appreciative for feeling mostly happy, even though I have many reasons to feel other things, and to feel overwhelmed by the struggle.
I have some great people in my life, and it helps a lot. And while the process of being abandoned by the negative ones hurt greatly over the past year, I see what a positive difference it has made in my everyday life. Now, if only I could relocate myself to a place where people can get around freely and independently without a car or $12 taxi rides to the nearest subway stop, it would be a definite improvement.