I grew up imagining a life in which one day I would finally hit my stride.
I would land the job.
Buy the house.
Marry the person.
Have the child.
And the rest would all be enjoyment and bliss and the greatest frustrations would arise when someone forgot to press “start” on the dishwasher at night.
This is, of course, a ludicrous construction of life, and I’m not sure why I expected it to go like this. Our imaginations are shaped by what we see, whether in aspiration or reactivity. A fantastically profound blend of both, tempered with my own stubborn perfectionism is likely the culprit. The heist: hijacking my ability to see the good and the beautiful in my own damn life—where, for the record—someone forgetting to start the dishwasher ranks pretty low on the list of frustrations.
“What a crap day.” I shoot off in a text. The day accused has been particularly whiplash ridden. Joy and sorrow, excitement and worry juxta positioned in ways that were making my head hurt.
Tension was cozying up in my temples. Kicking off its shoes off, and settling in on the left the same way I settle in to the brown armchair each morning in the living room. This soon becomes inadequate, and Tension stretches its legs over to put its feet up in my right temple. A synapse from the base of my shoulder snaps up to bring Tension some tea. My body is a very good host on these types of occasions.
“I wish life would just choose a frickin’ speed already.”
I don’t mean it, and I know it even as I tap the words into my phone.
If life really did choose a speed, lumping together long seasons of loss and stress and anxiety and fear without end, then I would likely be crushed.
If life existed (as I had imagined in my youth) as a never-ending series of abundance and rest and security and joy then I would certainly stop giving a shit about anyone or anything other than myself.
I start thinking about art. The really incredible sort that hangs in the museum by the lake, and the different (but also wonderful) sort that is mashed together on the big orange wall in my kitchen.
It’s not the sameness that draws the eye, that catches my breath, that magically paints glue on the bottom of my shoes making it difficult to move quickly past.
I do not make a habit of standing and staring, awestruck at beige walls.
The contrast is where the magic hides. The light and shadows dancing with each other. The cool and sober blues smacking up against overly-excited oranges and yellows. Rough and jolting textures arising out of paint spread thickly next to a sea of color so smooth that the brushstrokes are undetectable. The wonderful curiosity of modern portraits staged against raucous French rococo backdrops.
I aspired to curate a life of windowless beige walls and perpetually run dishwasher cycles. I imagined that “good” and “holy” and “beautiful” was found somewhere amid “control” and “perfection”—those ever-elusive thieves. That somehow the days pocked with stress and sadness, and can-things-ever-just-go-as-planned-dammit were less good, less acceptable, less holy.
You cannot selectively numb your feelings,my therapist told me some years ago.
Ha! May I present you with twenty-seven years of evidence otherwise?
She was right, of course. In hiding from grief and frustration and outright rage, I was painting myself into a windowless beige corner. Nothing painful, but also not much good. Nothing that pulled tears out of my belly only to throw them recklessly down my cheeks for reasons of beauty or sorrow.
I open my palms in my lap and breathe. It’s funny what I think a “deep breath” feels like initially, how determined I am to not let go of anything, including the air that is already used up within me. I try to welcome the contrast, inconvenient and heartbreaking and shitty as it often is.
Peonies in hospital rooms.
Kind strangers when I’m stranded on the side of the road.
Tears of mourning that are interrupted and intermingled by tears of laughter as we share memories at a funeral.
The wisdom and glory every moment contains if I’m willing to stare at it full in the face.
The beauty of life is often in the contrast. The quiet moments of solitude, praying on mountain tops only to come down to too many hungry bellies to possibly feed. Terrifying storms raging so hard you are certain death is at hand, only to find yourself drifting on a placid lake a moment later. “Peace, be still,” whispered in the chaos at the least expected moment, and in this moment too if I would have ears to hear.
*Featured image from CreateHER Stock.