Not too long ago, I found myself seated next to a very wealthy and wise man, who told me rather factually: “You are a seeker. You are still searching for what you want to do, what you want to be.”
And he wasn’t wrong, though I remember feeling disappointed in his assessment. In my mind, I was finally at a place where I was learning to accept and settle into my post-divorce, long-distance mom life. I was beginning to shake off the perpetual state of heartbreak and lack of self-respect that had defined most of that year.
No, he wasn’t wrong but I wanted him to be. Because I wanted to feel like I wasn’t seeking anymore, that I had finally found what I was looking for. Because I shouldn’t be a seeker at 36-years old. I should have found whatever I was supposed to find years ago, when I was younger, had a chance, and had more time.
How 36 has come to feel old, I’m not sure.
I started reading Eat, Pray, Love this weekend. In the first few pages, I found quite a surprise: When the author was on her round-the-world seek, she felt old. She warns the reader that she refers to herself as old a lot in the pages that follow. This is odd, she writes. It’s odd at how old she felt in her mid-thirties when as a 40-something now, she feels perfectly youthful. She reflects:
Reading this made me realize all over again what great harm depression and stress do to us. The word stress coming from the Latin word for compression, and that compression is what prematurely ages us–compacting us, physically and emotionally, into a feeling of frailty and brokenness….To fight against that compression is to open up your life, to create possibility where once there was nothing but pressure. With that newly opened space, youth has a chance to return.
The truth is the divorce, the kids moving away, having to become financially independent, and then having my heart pulverized left me feeling old, desiccated, tired, and useless. Not unlike the author of Eat, Pray, Love. And I’m guessing, not unlike a lot of other women who wake up one day and realize that their life has become a shit storm.
No, I didn’t like the man’s assessment of me. But maybe that had less to do with believing that the shit storm was behind me, and more of hoping that the worst hadn’t yet come.
For me, the worst came a month later, when I found myself following him up the stairs in the middle of the night, bawling–no, begging–for him to love me, and then screaming into my hands when I returned to our bedroom alone, before calling my aunt to bawl and ask, “What should I do?” for another two hours. All the while, my inner, wiser voice kept telling me to stop, to show more self-respect, to back off.
While I don’t know if it’s accurate to describe this moment as a point of cognitive dissonance, it felt like a turning point. I felt so pathetic that night. So pitiful.
In today’s meditation in The Language of Letting Go, the author talks about the importance of letting yourself feel emotions. She asks, if you could feel any emotions you wanted, without fear of consequence, what would you feel?
It reminds me of the question often posed in inspirational books: If money wasn’t a factor, and you could do anything, what would you do?
The idea is to inspire limitless dreaming, to let go of the limitations real and imagined that we put in between ourselves and our dreams. Or, as the author of Eat, Pray, Love says: “that sense of endlessly unspooling possibility.”
And yet if someone asked me that question right now, my response would be the same it would have been months ago, even years ago: I do not know.
This is a hard truth to confront.
I am a seeker. I’m 36-years old and I am still seeking.
There are a lot of moments in my every day that I wish I had more time. I wish I had reached this point in my early or mid-twenties. When the world still seemed limitless, and my time with it.
As odd as this may read 10 years from now, I feel like at 36-years old, I’m running out of time. And yet, if you asked me what I was running out of time for, my answer would simply be: I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I don’t know what I want to be. Or where I want to live. I don’t know what path will bring me the most happiness. Or the most financial security.
I really don’t know.
Most days, I find myself falling back on what I do know: that I have to take care of myself. I have to treat myself like I’m precious. Because I am. And because when I don’t take care of myself, I unravel. And when I unravel, the world around me does, too.
It unravels because I start grabbing at things–anything and everything to make me feel better, to rescue me, to love me, to do things for me that I don’t feel capable of doing myself.
Maybe what I dislike most about being a seeker isn’t being a seeker. Maybe it’s the fear that I’ll never find what I’m looking for. Which is rather ironic, isn’t it? I’m fearful that I’ll never find what I don’t know I’m looking for.
Now that’s a bit amusing.