After a weekend of transporting my kids to performances, gymnastics and elementary school Halloween carnivals, I finally got to escape one early evening to go to a reading, hosted just out of town at a friend's ranch. I pulled on to the tollway, the sun was beginning to set and as I started driving into the magic hour, INXS's Don't Change came on the radio.
I'm standing here on the ground
The sky above won't fall down
I increased my speed to 80 mph (the speed limit, by the way, I try and follow most bylaws now) and flying down the tollway, blasting that song and singing to the top of my lungs, every hair on my body was standing on end. I even said to myself, Please remember this, this is joy.
I think back to when I was a teenager, before I started compulsively tamping down or amping up the way I felt with booze. I remember wanting this pair of purple Jordache, purple nylon Nikes and a neon sherbet plaid Santa Cruz crop top SO BAD that my stomach would ache. They would catch my eye at Foley's and I would stare longingly at them until I felt like I would throw up, I wanted them so bad. But I wouldn't. It would pass and I would go home without them and live another day. The outfit was eventually a birthday present, I think, but the point is, I moved through the pain, anxiety and sadness over not having that outfit, felt it fully in my body, felt like I may puke but got up to go to school the next day. And without being able to tell you specifically, I'm sure I channeled that energy into something productive or creative, even if it was Algebra.
I don't think pain and anxiety and sadness necessarily feel good, but I can feel them. I'm no longer numb and I have some gratitude for the extremes because it makes me feel alive. The danger zone for me is discontentment. It's that feeling that you can't put your finger on but it sounds like meh. There's a line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (pg. 61) that says:
Is (s)he not a victim of delusion that (s)he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if (s)he only manages well?
The context is about self-will and control and, drinking or sober, it's about telling the world, This is my perfectly curated world, everything is fine, nothing to see here. And don't get me wrong, some days simply managing my life is parade-worthy. But if I stay there, as Good Life-Manager and that is all I am, I am not satisfied or happy and I am extremely discontent. I have to wake up every day and consciously Surrender. I have to surrender to change and evolution. I have to surrender to possibilities, to mystery, to magic...to freedom. That is the only place my happiness and satisfaction lies. It's taken me two and half years to name that feeling that I've felt for 47 years.*
So now when I'm feeling the super uncomfortable feelings, which is joy sometimes, ironically, I try and channel that into creativity. This is why I love working with my hands, particularly, because expressing myself outwardly means that my outsides are finally matching my insides.
It's fun to think of life as a performance piece. Or my Mid-Life Solution, as I oh so affectionately like to refer to this time as. Your creativity doesn't have to be channeled as art, per se. I want to take up boxing, get a new tattoo or five, write a novel, get my nose pierced, because I'm not done. I'm not done evolving or changing and surrendering to that everyday is exciting.
I recently got to dress myself for a wedding and I imagined my outfit and then I made it. I haven't gotten to do that in a long time, so it was really fun. All hand stitched with a needle and thread and my two capable hands.
*This post started as a love note to my future self that I can refer back to when I'm feeling stuck in a rut. And a funny thing happened on the way to writing it, life. Yep, I've been so busy with events, tasks and tedium that something I started three weeks ago, I'm just now finishing and changing and adding to and embellishing. And sometimes, skimming the surface and not taking myself too seriously is the other thing I need and it is just as important as contemplating my existence. Life is such a melange of paradox, no? Some days I do need to surrender to the possibility of growth and magic and some days I just want to laugh at fart jokes and say, screw the work. Both are me. Both are okay. I'm just grateful to even find meaning in the tedium.