I’ve been lost all week.
I observed to a friend late in the week that I thought it might be easier to be the one who moves out; there are fewer ghosts in new places. Moving to a new place is also a project of sorts that offers a sense of purpose in a time that can feel utterly directionless.
When I got divorced, I didn’t just move; I moved across the country. Yes, I moved away from my beloved Montana, and the western United States where I felt so at home. But when I moved back to Indianapolis, I parachuted into a crowd of good friends, all of whom simultaneously plucked me from the sky and brought me gently back down to earth. I set up a new house — my own place — almost from scratch.
Here and now, things are different. I am in the same house, only now there are some big holes. There is no real fresh start, only a sense that the world has been disorganized, and I have to figure out how to put it back. I’ve felt my usual mandate toward optimism and cheeriness, or failing that, stoicism, even when none of those were the prevailing feelings.
I tried to work on my writing project, on the ground that I’m still doing my paid work, and there is no logical reason I shouldn’t be doing my other work. But to my horror, I was really having trouble meeting the standards I usually set for my writing on that project. I panicked about that for awhile, then decided, reluctantly, to back away for a few days. During that time, I tried to figure out whether the problem was more than the lack of focus I’ve been plagued with lately — I’ve been addled enough that I’ve left personal belongings in strange places like bathrooms or restaurants, and sometimes I space out at stop lights.
Finally, at some point during the corn maze I was wandering around in today, it occurred to me that this piece of work is so intensely internal that the writing often informs my understanding of the things I’m writing about, instead of the other way around. When I get new information about myself or my life, it takes some time to assimilate that into the work. This requires thought and contemplation. That’s part of the work, part of the process.
I had been coming at that piece of work from the perspective of being “past” the events of my childhood, marriage and divorce, from the point of being “okay now.” How could I still write it if I wasn’t okay now — which I patently am not.
Silly girl. No one is ever okay now.
There is no neat resolution in life. I know this; why did I forget it? The reality is not that we eventually get to good. “To be alive,” observes Pema Chodron, “fully human, and completely awake, is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
That’s the truth this writing needs to be grounded in. I didn’t understand that until I was pretty far into that corn maze.
My current situation undeniably has its roots in the time I’m writing about; but so does everything have roots in the past, both recent and much, much further back.
At the same time I was reconciling this issue of the past, I was starting to become weighed down by the sense that I’ve got to figure out how I want my future to look. Fortunately, as soon as I decided that, I recognized that it was a fool’s errand. This round in the crucible no doubt has lessons for me just like all the others, and I suspect they involve learning to sit with emotional disarray without trying frantically to set this Rubik’s cube to rights.
So instead, I decided to ask myself not what I wanted my future to look like, but rather, what I wanted to do right now. And I want to keep writing my story. I’m ready to go back to it. I might, however, skip around a bit. I rarely write anything in perfect order, even legal briefs. It’s not how my mind works; there are times when I have something to say about one piece of a work, and trying to ignore that and address a piece that feels dormant, just because it’s next in the chronology, makes no sense. In the end, it’s always fine. I always end up with a whole, and the jigsaw pieces fit.
Everything else about my future is ambiguous, as always, even though we fool ourselves into thinking otherwise sometimes.
The present is always the best place to live.