Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Scavenger's Plateau

Little Bay de Noc, Lake Michigan
 8:14 am, December 6, 2012: sunless sunrise

I wrote the start of this post on my birthday, down at the lakefront where I go every weekday to walk and meditate, however I could not bring myself to get out of the car. It was raining, and the wind was blowing blowing blowing; the car was rocking from some of the gusts. The fact that it was my birthday didn't bother me so much in that I don't think too much about getting older; it was just another day to find the Good, to count my blessings despite all I was feeling, to keep up the daily routine I'd created for myself.

In the twelve months since my last birthday, I have gained more than another tally mark on the wall. The bits and pieces of my experiences this year have come to rest right in the front of my brain where I can cull from them lessons on life and on living. I take them on my morning meditation walks, on my solo camping trips, when shopping for steel-cut oats and toilet paper. I even take them with me for odd errands, like when I had to go to the laundromat to wash my bed's comforter and the quilt I had just taken camping. (Side note: the laundromat is a very lonely place to be, especially when one is laundering things that should be shared.) I took those lessons with me down to the beach after spending $4.75 in quarters and watched a wind surfer move through the water, at times becoming airborne. It was mesmerizing and unsettling at once, mostly due to the lack of rhythm: there are times when he would get stuck in one spot, unable to turn or glide away, and then another burst of air would lift him up off the surface of the lake.

Isn't that how life is? How birthdays are? Such a confluence of emotions? So grateful for so much, yet a heavy, desolate sadness for what's gone or lacking? I wish sometimes that the Universe would hand me my lessons in school primer form, composition book along side: Read the following passage. What did you learn? Explain.

I feel like I'm on a plateau. It sounds so much more gentle than being "stalled" or "stunted," and life in the past year has found me heavily relying on my network of friends to sustain my ego, to help allay my general funk. I wanted sunshine and clear skies on my birthday, yet I can't deny the beauty in the overcast-ness of the morning here by the lake: the greys and blues of the water and sky, the sand and marsh grass browns, the regularity of the waves, spots of white on the water's surface, Nature reminding me I'm not in charge. This soothes me, in a way: I am tired of being in charge.

And this brings me to the idea of self-care. I had someone tell me recently that I did a good job of taking care of myself, that even though I'm a single/un-partnered parent, it looked like I was still balanced, that my life was busy and full and complete. I'm not sure if this was a compliment or not. While I've always maintained an independent life, doing what I want to do pretty much when I want to do it, I don't ever feel like I'm taking care of my self purposefully; I'm busy tending to others, trying to keep them happy and healthy, distracted, comfortable. My talent lies in scrounging what's left from the care of others and making it fit into the care of myself, in making it seem like whatever was left over was exactly what I've wanted and needed all along: Scavenger. Giver. 

I would very much like to be taken care of, if only to have the experience and see if I like it. I think I could learn to like it, I don't know. I know the importance of being true to yourself and what makes you, but doesn't everyone need a respite from that? At least now and again, anyway. A permanent check-out isn't what I'm advocating- that's the dangerous part of our relationships and commitments, isn't it? That we unmindfully relinquish "Self" in favor of "We," the collective?


I've written about my propensity for crying, and how it seems to be useful. It is cathartic, yes, but the problem for me is that this catharsis never seems complete. It seems like, rather, the cycle of my emotions and issues doesn't get moved aside with the tears, there is no denouement, it just gets moved back to the bottom of the hill. Sisyphus ain't got nothin' on me. Your facade is built thusly: the scraps from the lives of others are swept up and mixed with an epoxy, pressed together and pressurized to resemble something like Real Happiness. And you continue to hope that one day soon you will be able to move in from the periphery of your own life, towards the center where you can be fully appreciative for Self. And you cling to this belief, this idea of Happiness in the collective sense and its ability to keep you. And so that's where this Scavenging comes in: What is left when the initial stark rawness of your independence subsides? What is left when everyone else's needs are met, Giver? Who is there to attend to your needs? What are those lessons stuck in your frontal lobe trying to teach you?

I feel like a fool, often, for believing that hoping for happiness is enough, that I'll be able to sustain _________. I struggle very much with the feeling that the joke is always going to be on me; that I shouldn't allow myself to relax and be cared for because I should be prepared for the worst- or at least the opposite of what I'd like- to come my way (history has taught me as much); that I shouldn't be focused on my wants and needs because those will take care of themselves. Eventually. After the others. When I finish the task at hand. When there is a pause, when the brain is resting, perhaps. 

This brings me to the title of this post, to the very particular sadness that comes with recognizing your constant hope for personal happiness has yet to be fulfilled. The plateau you're stuck on is the acceptance of not being where you'd like to be, despite your work on Self, despite that new awareness, despite the quality or quantity of the scraps you Scavenge. On your birthday, even. 

I needed to physically have my feet touch the ground, to allow myself the gift of my visceral energy connecting to my limbs, to experience the calm that comes from hearing the water and feeling the wind on my cheeks, eyelashes and -lids fluttering with the gusts. And yet the wind was howling outside my door, and it is still constantly in my thoughts no matter where I go or what I do; I could not get out of the car, I was too tired and chilled to even attempt it. My routine was broken.

And yet I feel obligated to find One Good Thing about this place, about this broken routine, about this expanse. What have I learned? 

At least there's no regression. Until next time, friends.