I’ve been struggling. The kind of struggling that sometimes leads to Prozac or psychotherapy or big life changes. It’s not really an easy thing to talk about. When someone asks, “How’ve you been?” I don’t say “I’ve been unhappy with my life and not sure what to do about it.” But that is the truth of the matter. It is part of the reason I haven’t been writing. I’m not gloomy all the time by any means, but often enough that I don’t feel like myself. There is a nagging feeling of being unfulfilled, stuck, lost, joyless. I have so very many things to be grateful for, but I’m having a hard time really feeling the gratitude. I can look around and see the gratitude, I can know intellectually how lucky I am but my heart is not swelling with it.
This has been such a busy couple of years for my family with very little down time in which to regroup. Most days, the urgency of the children, our business, the food that must be bought and prepared, is enough to mask what’s not quite right under the surface. But the subconscious starts to yell louder when you aren’t listening. I have found myself in the midst of bright green envy for the lives of my friends (who I know damn well have their own sets of problems) when usually I wouldn’t trade my situation in a million years. I have been leaky-eyed and overwhelmed at odd moments and without resilience. I’m getting a C- in mothering when I usually can pull off a solid B. Something is in need of adjustment.
I had a dream about my dad, who I haven’t dreamt about in years. We were seeing each other after a long time apart, supposedly having a visit and catching up, but he was spending the time making small talk with strangers and ignoring me. I finally cornered him and demanded to know why he wasn’t talking to me or interested in my life. I wanted to know what he had been doing with his time that was so much more important than our relationship. He told me that there had been an all day Leave It To Beaver marathon on TV “and, well, you know…” I was so upset by the fact that he wasn’t even watching something new, but reruns of a show that was stupid the first time around, that I grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him, screaming “You are wasting your life!!! You aren’t paying attention!!! You aren’t asking me questions!!!”
I woke from the dream knowing that it was an important one. I started off thinking that my inner little girl was coming out to deal with some old issues from the past and wondering ‘why now?’ But as I ruminated on it a bit more I had an epiphany. The dream was not about hurts in my childhood, it was about me, right now, not paying attention. I’m afraid one day I will look around and feel that I have wasted my life. That instead of asking myself questions, I’m ignoring something important and distracting myself with metaphorical reruns. My dad came to visit me in the night to tell me I need to get my act together.
Okay, so, that’s great, but now what? I understand that I need to start asking questions, and I am. I’m asking over and over. What is it that I want? What am I going to do with the life I have left? What is missing here? How do I find inspiration again? But each of these questions comes with a subtext that points out that the answer must fit in with our real life, and our real life is kind of a pain in the ass right now.
My day to day at this point feels monotonous. My children will never stop testing me, my husband will work seven days a week for the rest of his life, and traveling is a thing of the past. Now, intellectually I know that is not true, but it’s such the reality of our situation at this time that I can’t fathom how we move out of this phase. Hence the feeling stuck.
After a number of talks with Robert, who is a tremendous, if distracted, support to me, we still haven’t figured out how we make owning a business less crazy and more sustainable. We both agree that it’s not working very well right now. Yes, we can potentially (knock on wood) make a living doing this, but at what cost? Living in a state of panic, always running to put out whatever fire is burning the hottest is no way to have a life. Short term and long term, changes need to be made.
One thing that has become clear is that for everyone’s sanity I need to take over some more of the business responsibilities. It does nothing good for anyone in this house when Robert has to spend his weekends shut away doing paper work. He feels fully burned out, the kids miss him and resent me, and I feel like a caged animal, about to scream or cry all the freakin’ time. I’m trying to figure out my place in this work we have taken on as well as what I need to do to feel personally fulfilled. Building houses is not my passion, but it’s not terrible either, and it is what we are doing right now. There is enjoyable, creative work in there, but I have to find my niche. There is also mindless data entry work, a lot of it, and that needs to be done too. I want to truly be a partner for my husband, not just the one who takes care of the rest of our life so he can work all the time. We both are in need of some balance.
I’m hardly unique in these feelings. Most people at some point, or at many points, feel unsure of their path or afraid of wasting their lives. We are all finding our way and sometimes, and for some people, it’s just really hard. I guess this could be called a mid-life crisis. I’m not in any danger of running off with my personal trainer or getting a boob job or dancing on tables at the local bar. But I am in danger of not being the kind of mom, wife, daughter and friend that I want to be. I’m in danger of not being the kind of ME that I want to be.
So this is life right now. It’s messy. It is also very mundane and privileged to have these kinds of problems. I know there are many, many people who work harder and more stoically than we do. It’s so embarrassingly prosaic that I’m rolling my eyes at my own self, but shameful or not, it’s where I’m at.
There is a lesson here, and I want it to stop hitting me over the head with a two by four, so I’m trying to learn it. So far I’ve got this much: Pay attention. No more Leave It To Beaver reruns. Your time is limited, don’t waste it.
I’m asking my questions and hoping the answers will come.