For the past six months or so I've been thinking a lot about my time left on this earth and how I want to spend it. I wouldn't say I'm in the midst of a mid-life crisis because, frankly, I doubt I'll live to be 100, plus it's hard for me to recognize an actual crisis when my daily life already buzzes with near constant elevated-threat-levels of stress.
So I've been searching. Searching for motivation, examining my choices, trying to reconcile why I think I'm here with what I want to accomplish. Trying to find the soft spot between acceptance and failure.
This is nothing new. My mother always said my favorite word was "why," which I hoped was a comment on my inquisitive nature but was, more likely, a belligerent stall tactic. Mine is a restless addict brain served with a side of creativity, so for most of my life I've been struggling to strike a clear path through the world. I've had jobs, ideas for jobs, exciting opportunities even, but most of those plans have derailed or, more accurately, sputtered and succumbed to the realities of my life.
So I've been examining. Examining my ideas of success, questioning my self-perception, deconstructing the myths of happiness. Trying to be at peace with who I really am, or think I am, anyway.
This is not easy. It's not that all this reflection is revealing a side of my personality I'd rather not hang with, but rather that it's forced me to get to the core of things. And what I've learned is that the gooey center of my world is...small.
This mundane realization has been a little soul-shattering because my restless/creative addict brain really thought I was destined for greatness. And with that in mind, I've set out on most of my recent endeavors. But the truth is, I'm not that spectacular. There are better writers, more creative artists, even superior mothers. That's not to say there hasn't been interest in my writing. Last November an editor asked for my full manuscript, and the request filled me with dread. Not because the manuscript isn't worthy, but because the thought of revising it again and then committing to produce MORE BOOKS made me nauseous. I even asked the kids for their help.
"Boys, I'm going to have to really concentrate on editing if I want my book published. Can you help me by doing what I ask, like going to school, getting your homework done without arguing, and helping around the house?"
One, Three, and Four: "No problem. We've got this, Mom."
Five: "Sorry. No guarantees."
Even though his answer made me chafe against the yolk of motherhood, I wasn't even angry. These past two years have been really difficult and I've tried, to the best of my ability, to not completely lose my mind. Except for a few questionable decisions, I think I've succeeded mostly because Four and Five really needed me. I have, quite literally, saved their lives. There's honor in that.
"Of course there is, Megan!" so say you all.
Well, it took me a while to realize it, to stop comparing my success, to think about my wins in individual family units. It's helped me focus on what's most important to me right now and what I've been great at for the past 27 years: not doing drugs, being married, and raising kids. And, in the only version of trickle-down theory that works, this approach has pretty far-reaching implications. Entire generations of people will be affected by my decision to not do anything else!
It's been liberating to contemplate getting small (shout-out to Steve Martin), shedding the ideas and concrete clutter of a life lived mostly in my own mind. But, as is my way, now I want everything to be smaller: my obligations, my possessions, my house. I want to flee social media, shed friends, remove relatives. I want to be Little House in the Big Woods small (shout out to Laura Ingalls Wilder), to be free of all distractions on my new and narrow byway!
I want to be BOLD in my smallness.
The wrinkle in my plan to be entirely self-contained is that it's, well, a little self-centered. As much as I want to chuck ballast into the sea and sail off for an island, there are more than a few landlubbers on board hoping my latest cruise is really just a three-hour tour. What I think is freeing they might consider isolationist. It's a thin line between "lone" and "alone," and I'm not sure I want to walk it.
Sigh. I think I'm still searching.