When I feel down I question every decision I have ever made.
I wonder if one wrong turn has turned into an inescapable life. What if I had made a million mistakes in my life, one after another; I dropped out of grad school, I had children before I had a career set up, I was completely absorbed by my children. I chose to ‘live in the moment’; we never saved for the the future, we lived by the seat of our pants. I did not plan to do it but every choice I made put me outside the norm, home birth, non vaccinating, home schooling….
And what does it add up to? A very close family that lives in rural New Brunswick with very little opportunity for work. We immigrated into an old rural neighbourhood and have slowly adapted. I had to create everything I wanted and expected, like Drop in Centers and Reading Clubs. I did not meet a lot of people like me but carried on.
I worked at UPS in a call center and I wrote for the local rag. We made a go of it. I studied for my Library Certificate and did graduate with high grades, but not a job was to be found. And then they cut my writing gig and I could not find work. Interviews did not go well. I am in my fifties and I tend to have opinions. I wondered f I would ever find work again – not even meaningful work, just any work.
Was I high and dry, unemployable in a small town?
That was what I was thinking about as I cared for my children last winter. Would I be a weight on them in my old age? As my older children planned their escape from this area I had to wonder if we had made a big mistake coming out east. As usual I put my children first. I was doing it at that moment too. I stopped writing my novel and did everything I could for all three so that they were in the best health and going in the best direction.
I was so busy being a mother and a caretaker that I stopped writing, dancing or learning the ukulele. Bit by bit I stopped having time to dream. Too busy, no quiet time, and I lost my sense of self at times and felt lost. I knew deep down that I would rise again out of the waves, and breathe and rest. But I was worried and looked around for ways to calm myself.
Sometimes when we are lost and anxious we contemplate meditation or concepts about ‘being in the present’ or selflessness; going outside of your ‘self’ for peace. These phrase, these notions, I have discovered, are the opposite of what most hard working women need. The notion that we need to be more ‘ selfless’ is comical. Being ‘in the moment’ is the definition of parenting. To be a mother is to be an expert on selflessness. We can lose the sense of self, no problem. Women are excellent at transcending and absolutely disappearing.
These may be a spiritual man’s desires for peace but it seems less than useless to me. I remember reading about Buddhism when I was a curious 13 year old and even with my open uncritical mind I was suspicious of the stories with no apparent meaning, And I could not help but notice that the work of acquiring a state of nothingness, sitting under a tree in a trance for example, would most definitely involve other people tending to your every need.
What I need when I have given all of my self away is to have some of it back. A project, a garden, a poem or a bath by myself. Time to dream. When I have no projects or time of my own I feel like I a shadow. I need some of the self back, I need to be separate from the universe. I need to create and take control of my experience.
Life in this particular body is weighted with ridiculous concerns. To live on earth is to be ridiculous. We cannot avoid that by staying motionless and believing the material world is not real. We have emotions, we get attached, we crave quiet or crowds and never know what is going to happen next. That is living in the moment.
When I am old and my body is withered with age I will still have all the dumb emotions that my life holds now. I will be living in this same weak and silly body. It does not seem likely that I will change very much. And maybe that is good. Maybe the real test is not to grow and change but to remain as purely ‘you’ as possible. We think we crave transformation. We think we can be a better person. It feels like if we could be happier.
I am always trying to control whatever parts of me are annoying everyone and then I find myself no further ahead in ‘self actualizing’. And, as far as I can tell, no further ahead in being less annoying. From my anecdotal observation of aging and death I would have to say that we only every get marginally more smarter or mature. Mostly everyone is about ten years old inside and looking forward to some chocolate or their favorite show.
We die as we have lived, never feeling as if we have got it right. And that feels about right. But as a codicil, if we keep trudging we can get through hard patches. Life is change, and I have learned to not only accept that but welcome it. Even bad experiences have unexpected good results. And sometimes a bistro opens up down your rural road and you get work in a fun busy restaurant. And another job open opens up in your local university town and now you have two jobs.