It happens naturally when you make big changes in life that you start thinking about, or more likely that you start to rethink, stuff you used to take for granted.
Such as, to take an easy and light-weight example, your purpose in life. The essence of who you are as a person gifted with a handful of talents and, one hopes, the ability to reason through difficulties instead of resorting to gratuitous violence.
Who are you, really?
Me? I’m a stool. And like all respectable stools, I have three legs. One leg is fitness. One leg is writing. One leg is love. I trust you have some passing experience with this kind of seat. If you do, you’ll know that while no leg is any more important than the others, they are all equally necessary. Feel free to test that proposition if you enjoy crashing on floors.
I’m a very active kind of bunny. Some might even say hyperactive. But it’s not really my fault. If I don’t move, my blood turns to mud and my mood turns real ugly. Especially now that I’m in my late 40s, with Impeding Changes afoot about which you may have heard nasty rumours (all true, by the way) and a metabolism that for no good reason has decided that all the good things in life but especially fresh bread, fries and beer weren’t going to be processed like they used to, well, I gotta keep ye old carcass ticking hard.
So I train. Jogging, swimming, conditioning, weights, cycling, etc. For 17 years I did karate and kickboxing pretty intensely. Seven-days-a-week kind of intense. Now I do the other stuff, every single day. Too cold for running? No problem. Hit the pool. Don’t feel like getting into that bathing suit? Fine. Go do weights for an hour. Do at least one workout every day. Ideally do ten workouts (or in the summer, a dozen) a week.
Do I always feel like it? Hahaha. Show me someone who positively gleams at the prospect of getting out there in the cold and dark winter morning to go rattle their bones in a somewhat violent manner, and who prefers that to shadow-boxing with the snooze button and I’ll show you a psychopath, pure and simple. Of course I don’t always feel like it. Duh. But like I enjoy repeating, it’s always when you don’t wanna that you should. So I go, reminding myself that while I rarely feel like exercising I always, without fail, feel better afterwards.
It’s very necessary to keep the unduly ugly away. And it makes my morning coffee taste more virtuous.
Writing. I’ve made many compromises in my life that resulted in me not writing very much because I thought this was what was expected of me as a responsible grown-up. I worked in real jobs. Jobs that paid well and made me look good. But I never lasted more than two years at any one of them. I went to law school (not at my own urging), studied hard and got a degree that would allow me to make piles of dough and earn me ambiguous respectability in the process. Wouldn’t you just love to be hated yet indispensable simultaneously? Me neither. But I got the degree and even a job at this prestigious firm in Montreal… which I quit before spending even one minute in their employ. What was the point, if I didn’t want to be a lawyer, hum?
Since then I bounced around various jobs I wasn’t especially well-suited for, including wifery and motherhood. Finally I would find my spot, right?
It occurs to me, which is not a very comfortable feeling, that maybe I was too scared of writing and used other people’s expectations (real or imagined) of what a responsible grown-up should be doing to run away from my art should it be able to catch me anyway.
Well, as they say, shit. Nobody said re-examining your life’s purpose was ever going to be easy, especially for the already battered ego. You know, the one that’s already pretty unhappy from all the years of not writing.
In any event, it didn’t work. I guess the inescapable truth is that responsible adulting isn’t for me. When I finally emerged from trying so hard to pretend I could fit in, not too long ago, I resolved never ever to put my writing behind anything else, not even the other two stool legs. I was going to write, every single day of the year (yes, all 365 of them; haven’t decided whether or not to take the odd Feb. 29 off but leaning against it) and suffer absolutely zero excuse. Travelling? So? Busy with kids? And? In the hospital with one arm cut off? Mmmm. There’s got to be a way to use the other one.
Point is, well, you get it of course. You’re pretty swift. I don’t need to explain any more, not even as a somewhat transparent attempt at increasing my word count for today. Because yes, I now set myself writing goals (benchmarks, markers, and any other synonym I can find to populate this paragraph) and must absolutely no failing allowed write that many words every single day the sun rises even if it means being anti-social or — gasp — irresponsible like a teenager.
It’s a good thing my body still metabolizes red wine pretty well.
Love. Boy, do we ever get frantic about that one. And no wonder. It’s a necessary drug. Just ask those who feel deprived of it.
I used to feel that way. Deprived, I mean. Like a junkie in search of a fix.
I didn’t feel loved growing up. Was it my fault or that of the humans around me? I have my opinions on that, and they’re probably fairly accurate, but it doesn’t matter. For I grew up feeling like my heart was dry. I got accused of if early and often so it was probably true.
I became alternatively very harsh (never more so than when it came to my own person; I almost redefined self-criticism all by myself) and so desperate that I would bend over backwards in three different pretzel shapes just to get someone (anyone, very much including an eclectic and disparate collection of Mr. Real Wrong) to say those words I ached to hear.
I am not entirely rid of that unfortunate predicament, even though now I find myself in the enviable position of being loved beyond what words can describe by a handful of wonderful souls, including three I made from scratch. Still, insecurity nags. Am I really worth it? Is there a trap? Am I about to lose them and will Mr. Finally At Long Last Right disappear in a puff of glittery smoke like in those cheesy friendly-witch programs?
(Research note: Was the puff of smoke really glittery? Is it worth checking?)
Anyway. Maybe insecurity is part of love. Because it makes us feel vulnerable and doesn’t let us take anything for granted. Maybe that’s how you keep the right kind of love around. Not with constant reminders, but with just enough of an insecure edge that we remember to be nice, say please and thank you, and occasionally remind the objects of our devotion how much they mean to us. Because who knows, maybe they’re a little insecure too sometimes.
It’s all good.
This is my stool, and those are my legs. I used to neglect them like crazy and as a result spent a lot of time wobbling or crashing to the ground. But once I was able to stop trying to fit in so much with the responsible adults around me, I was able to sit down properly and keep working, allowing me fully to engage with life like never before, while elegantly avoiding those awful split infinitives. And yes, that feels good.