I’m starting to figure out how to love my life. Truthfully, it’s always been a good life, a solid life. I’ve made it through this far relatively unscathed—I wasn’t born into addiction or crime; I’ve never known what it’s like to have to choose between heat and food; the only real world frame of reference I have for war comes from a great-great uncle whom I never met, but who was at Normandy and once remarked to my cousin: “You know what’s wrong with all those movies about the war, Johnny? You never hear the screaming.” Right.
Of course I’ve suffered loss, disappointment and tragedy; I’ve slogged through heartache and heartbreak, weathered lows that knocked me off my ass for a good, long while and swum in highs that made me whisper, “Don’t leave, Feeling, don’t go, don’t go.” Everyone wants the favorite, stretched-out college sweatshirt that has stories of its own to tell (though, mercifully, it can’t), the material metaphor for satisfaction, comfort, for the Big Lebowski approach to life: “It’s cool. Be chill. The Dude abides.” No one wants to admit that comfort does not equal happiness, that a fleecy hug and a tumbler of White Russians do not satisfaction and soul-fulfillment make. Well, alcoholics, burnouts, and most of the grunge scene from the 90s excluded.
I’ve found myself toggling between “is this all there is” and “this is good enough for now,” which, truthfully, sucks. You’ve always got your eyes on the horizon, already spending money you don’t have or reciting an Oscar speech for a career that doesn’t exist; or you’re not sponging out every drop of goodness and impact in any given experience to feel and treasure it fully. Perpetual transit. It’s the opposite of my favorite line from Saturday Night Fever when Stephanie fixes Tony with her hurt, bitchy look and says: “You’re nowhere, on your way to no place.” Judy Blume never prepared us for this next level life bullshit. Less focus on our breasts, Judy, more on what to do about our restless souls please.
Be here now, the mighty Ram Dass opines. Damnit. So smug. So evolved. So right. I blame a life-long love affair with type-A personality traits: highly-functioning, high-achieving, educated, intelligent, disciplined, which taken together forms a gospel that says the secret of life is more, next, better, level-up, go beyond, onward. “Don’t rest on your laurels,” my father told me at an early age. Of course I knew what laurels were because see The Gospel According to Type-A Personalities. But that’s a mighty big life Twinkie to lay at the feet of a seven year old. It was giving me permission not to “be,” at least not for very long, but to “do.” I took it to heart, as must kids who worshipped their dads would. A blank check on over-achieving burnout. It felt like getting one of those emergency roadside kits only without the roadside flares, tire jack, and jumper cables. My Dad was not the Dude. Clearly.
God, the Universe is always there to give us what we need to stop and acknowledge when something in our life is out of balance, out of synch. If we’re lucky, it feels like a whisper in our ear, a stirring behind the solar plexus that we tell friends “You know how you just KNOW? I just knew.” If we’re less attuned, and most of us count ourselves in good company there, it feels like an elephant sitting on our chests. .
Recently I lucked out. Some flecks of karma paid off somewhere around the vast wheel, and as I was internally justifying my time spent, my “should” list trashed, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder that seemed to say:You’re fine. It’s good. What you have in front of you is really real and you have every right to enjoy it, to sink into it and pull it around you like that college sweatshirt. You can still strive and seek and dream and do, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But you can also BE, without guilt. The horizon isn’t going anywhere. It will be there for you when you reach it.
And for the first time, I believed it.