Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And your heart was an open book

I used to feel like a vibrant compilation artist, moving fluidly from adventure to reflection to expression, experimenting and experiencing whatever circumstance brought me and as my whimsy took me. Now, I feel like an accumulation of skills and talents learned on those adventures, made useful by practice and with a responsibility not to waste that utility because of the concomitant knowledge gained over the past 15 years about the suffering of so many other people.

I fear that this is adulthood. I fear this hardening. It is so new and I don't know yet how to reliably find joy within it. When I thought that adulthood was being married and owning a house and having kids and being respected for my opinions, I welcomed it. I can see how one would find joy in all of that.

Now that I understand that adulthood is commitments, I have been feeling bereft. And, let there be no mistake, I don't mean commitments as in a lot of things to do; I long ago learned basic time management skills.

I define "commitments" to mean "things I have given my heart to and so desire to pour my best effort into." There are only so many things you can pour your best effort into. Right now, I feel like I am filling holes to keep the ground level rather than building anything worthwhile.

When I told Jacob last night that everything moved too fast, I couldn't explain the metaphor, but just knew it was true. I can't catch up and I can't slow down and absorb the life that is all around me. I make lots of stupid mistakes, like forgetting to tell Jacob that I already ran an errand and wasting his time or forgetting to tell him that I need something that he would have been happy to have the opportunity to provide for me. Jacob can't and shouldn't have to do all the housework himself so the house is a complete sty. I am also unconsciously avoiding simple tasks that have any chance of difficult emotional underpinnings, like basic implementation of financial decision that Jacob and I have made.

This will not end well.

So, I am hoping that identifying this new state of being will be the first step toward accommodating it and finding balance. My parents checked in on me last night since they hadn't heard from me in awhile and my best friend in Minnesota called. That helped, too. But my best friends in Chicago, the people who have poured their best efforts into me, are moving tomorrow. My grief is embarrassing and doesn't help with the larger problem.

I'd like to be an artist again. How does one find the necessary liberation to experiment and express when one has commitments? Do you know?


Christy said...

I say pare down the # of commitments and increase the amount of "free time". Focus on some shared fun time with Jacob and crafty fun time with yourself. I learn this shit the hard way over and again. Good luck!

PrincessMax said...

I appreciate the thought, Christy. I guess that I would categorize that solution under basic time management that I already do. I'm not sure that more of it would help since I would just trade this difficult situation for the difficult situation of not raising enough money for my church or making my friends feel less valued. Is it worth it if I end up without any community except Jacob?

Christy said...

One thing that has nibbled at me after reading this post and your comment: I was the unhappy leader of a local organization for a long time and felt that the consequences of stepping down would be more difficult than the stress I felt in the leadership commitment. When I quit, it was uncomfortable, but it passed, and I look back knowing that I gave several years of effort to the cause, and that it is up to some other people to commit *their* energies too. I don't know if this is at all relevant to your situation - I just know that, like you, I was struggling through weighing the pros and cons of my commitments. There have been several commitments in my life where I felt like I simply could not tolerate the results of scaling them back. Each time, I've been surprised and relieved when I've finally let go. Also, I've been going through some transitions in friendships since getting married and moving 50 miles away. There are some people I miss but there just isn't enough of me to go around in order to stay close. I think this is just a natural part of relationships. I hope you get to feeling better about all of this... be gentle with yourself. XO

ABG said...

I don't know the answer, but if you have reflections on it, please share them. I think about a version of this question a lot: "Is it worth it if I end up without any communicty except..." for me I'd fill in the blank with "my husband and kids."

I don't know if it's worth it, but I do have faith that it's a "season" of life. The first two years after I got married were like this. I had started to find equilibrium and branch out into friendships and community more fully and then we had kids.

Now I'm in that "young children" phase, and again, I'm pretty confident that it doesn't last forever, and I'll emerge.

The problem is the "meantime..." and all the losses I sustain when one of these phases hits (loss of particular friends, or particular connections)

PrincessMax said...

Christy, thanks for coming back and fleshing that out a little. Reading more about your experience helps me to better understand your advice. (I can get some pretty intense tunnel vision.) I've been ruminating on it for a couple of days and I'm trying to figure out what to let go and how because I trust that you're right. At least, it resonates like truth to me. I haven't figured it out yet but just being pushed to imagine it as a good thing has opened the door a crack.

Ali, I keep prompting other longer-married couples to talk about the cyclical nature of their marriages and they say what you say. I find I can never hear it enough. Seriously, what is it in me that resists the normalization of seasonal retreat?

Rachel said...

I have no doubt about your time management skills. I know that you can't "time manage" renewal time, whatever way you get it. If only! No matter how hard we try we can only make the merry-go-round slow down by slowing it down.

love you