When I feel down I question every decision I have ever made.
I wonder if one wrong turn has turned into an inescapable trap. 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 didn’t plan it but every choice we placed us outside the norm: home births, non vaccinating, home schooling….
And what does it add up to? A very close family that lives in rural New Brunswick with limited job options. We moved into an old rural neighbourhood where we knew no one and we and have slowly adapted. I had to create everything I wanted and expected, such as Drop in Centers and Reading Clubs. I did not meet a lot of people like me but carried on.
I worked 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’. Selflessness, going outside of your ‘self’ for peace, etcetera. These phrases, these notions, I have decided, are the opposite of what most hard working women need. The notion that we need to be more ‘selfless’ is comical. And, 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. Not a problem. Women are excellent at transcending and absolutely disappearing.
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 that had 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 and no time of my own I feel as light as 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 we 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.
From my anecdotal observation of aging and death I would have to say that we only every get marginally more smarter or mature. I think everyone is about ten years old inside and looking forward to some chocolate or their favorite show.
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. But can we?
I am always trying to control the parts of me that 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.
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 on trudging we will get through the hard patches and more on to a rising mood, that is just as arbitrary. Life is impermanent and meaningless and I have learned to not only accept that but welcome it. Even bad experiences sometimes have unexpected good results. And then. all of a sudden, a bistro opens up down your rural road and you get work in a busy restaurant. And then another job opens up in your local university town and now you have two jobs.