What am I yearning for?

I live in a constant state of frenetic energy.  Needy anxiousness.  Thrumming discontent.  I want it to end.  I’m reading Martha Beck who asks me to list joyful memories.

Joyful? I blink.   I think of my favorite memory — on a boat ten years ago, wind in my face, literally running away from my life, my husband, my job, with a strange and wonderful sense of something different– but it’s not joyful, exactly.  In that moment, I felt peace.  My soul rested in contentedness.

I ask myself: what is it I’m yearning for?  I think it’s authenticity and connection.  If I find it, perhaps I’ll feel peace in my soul that will allow room for joy.

I make a list of peaceful wishes.  Pre-memories, you might call them.

Hammock. Green trees. Quiet breeze.  Book in hand, smile on lips, sleepy eyelids.

Beach.  Stillness.  Waves crash.  Quiet breeze.  Book in hand, smile on lips, deep relaxed breaths.

Bonfire.  Relaxed.  Friends laughing.

Woods.  Chair.  Book.  Stillness.

Camping, hiking, traveling with my husband.  Hand in hand.

It’s all about stillness and relief from the anxiousness in my head, as are the thoughts of glasses of wine, beer on the back porch, steaks on the grill, date nights out – all a frenetic search for a moment of peace and connection.

I find vacations disappointing, renovations never-ending, and get-togethers frustrating.  I look forward to a glass of wine all day, then don’t find the relief I’m seeking (but I find the headache).  But still, I dream.  When our house is finished, when my people can visit, when we can throw that perfect backyard party… someday.  All manufactured attempts to set the stage as if that might guarantee the moment. Never works.  Nor will painting my house treehouse colors or buying the perfect lake property help me find what I’m seeking.

And it’s not just about my husband, though he gets the brunt of my dashed expectations.  The common factor is me.  I want to connect, but I turn our exchanges into status reports on life – neither enjoyable nor fulfulling  – and awkward, very awkward.

I’m looking for contentment in emptiness, for my brain to be still, churn to settle, to find the kind of safety that allows me to drop the front and just be.  But of course, that won’t ever come from other people.

“I’m a people-pleasing first born,” wrote the blogger.  “I feel the burden of making things okay for everyone,” I heard.   I’ve made a career out of it.  But it won’t always be okay, despite my best attempts.  Things will work out as they must.  And I’m tired of it.  It’s not fulfilling and I’m often empty and frustrated at the end of the day.

I search for another option.

“Come sit and talk to me,” I can say.  We don’t need the excuse of cocktail hour, the pretense of a glass of wine.  “I am happiest when I feel connected to you, and I think I find connection in catching up and dreaming together.”

“I miss you,” I can say.  “I would love for you to come visit so we can catch up, though I know that might be possible.  Maybe we can plan a Sunday evening chat or something.  Or I can just tell you: we’re thinking seriously about when to have kids.  Recently, I’ve been feeling a little bit lost, like the working and the saving and the spending – even the dreaming – aren’t quite enough.  I think I suddenly have room for more… but there are so many ‘but’s’.”

Those authentic conversations are so uncomfortable unless I’m falling apart… and when I’m not falling apart, I feel lost and disconnected.  And like I don’t know who I am, even though I’m trying to be myself every day.

Go in the direction of your most authentic self, I write in my notebook.  We don’t need a hammock to lay around together and hang out.  They don’t need to come stay here to have the chance to catch up.  The backyard doesn’t have to be perfect to have the kind of summer get-together I want.  And none of the settings guarantee the connection anyway.

~~~

What if I don’t recognize my authentic self? I wonder.  My favorite Frances Mayes line comes back to me:

“What if you did not feel uncertainty, the white writing says.  Are you exempt from doubt? Why not rename it excitement?  Think: What if the sky doesn’t fall? What if it’s glorious?”

~~~

As I tweeted just a few moments ago, it appears to be Existential Crisis Week in my life (and thus, on my blog).  Apparently this is a summer thing, and because I really am trying to be a grown-up, I’m looking for a better coping tactic than picking fights with my husband and blaming everything on him.  (Since, ahem, I tried that last night and just felt crappy in addition to everything else.) So, I cleared my calendar at work , am sitting outside with my trusty journal and light green (ie: personal stuff) pen, and will spend the day doing some thinking.  And you know, painting (if the mood strikes).

If my life were perfect, how would I know?

Of all the frustrations I feel today, which can I affect?

Why is it that I’m never happy?  What does happiness mean?

What are the right reasons for wanting something… or is that even a valid concept?

Why is my camera showing me an “F” error of some sort when I try to take a picture?

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5 thoughts on “What am I yearning for?

  1. Have you read “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz? I never took a psych class, so it’s probably pretty basic for someone who has, but I found it fascinating to read about how anticipating pleasure and making choices (and thus opening the door for regrets) affects our happiness. So much of what he discussed and so many of his examples rang true for me. The big one: when we make choices, we hold ourselves accountable for our resulting happiness. Or lack of happiness.

    Someone suggested “Stumbling Upon Happiness” to me, and it’s similar — in fact, many of the examples are exactly the same — but that author spent too much time laughing at his own jokes that I couldn’t finish the book.

    What’s Beck saying about this? I like the books that are more “why” and less “how.” For me, at least. I’m not making any improvements, yet.

  2. Until I someday write a post about this, here’s my latest advice in a nutshell: Buddhist-inspired mindfulness. Basically, it tells you to stop looking for items, people, situations, or other circumstances that might bring you to that stillness you seek — you can (and must) find it WITHIN YOURSELF. There’s also a strong message to stop striving and accept your circumstances as they are right here and now. You can (and probably should) choose your path at any given moment, but the present moment is the only thing that has any power; we have no power over “the future,” so why waste lots of time agonizing over it?

    I am a big newbie to the field, so not sure that this is the world’s best summary. But I have really, really gained a lot from the theories at a difficult time in my life. Between new baby and chronic illness, the last year or two beat me up in terms of my limited circumstances and what it meant for my identity when compared to a “normal” life (both mine and others’). It was oddly radical to hear a message telling me to just stop worrying and accept things. And an absolute balm to my anxiety-ridden soul.

  3. P.S. If you do want to read more on mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh is your guy. He has written a zillion books and I don’t know the difference between them, so I just got what our library had in stock. They are all 4-5 stars on Amazon, so it’s hard to go wrong.

  4. “Why is it that I’m never happy? What does happiness mean?”

    I don’t know. But if you figure that out, please let me know. I’ve been asking myself this for the last two years. The only thing I know how to do is try to find joy in the simple moments of my life and holding on to the hope that things will work out somehow.

  5. “All manufactured attempts to set the stage as if that might guarantee the moment. Never works” Brilliant, my dear. Haven’t heard this side of your in a while and I am so glad to:-)

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