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The Love Project

Learning how to love myself. One huge mistake at a time.

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happiness

Stuck in the Middle with Me

I have an enviable life. I live at the beach and have no real financial concerns. I don’t even have to work to pay my bills. I can watch the sunset over the ocean every night from my patio. I have a gorgeous boyfriend who loves me, and sweet kid who is happy and healthy and a car that always starts when I turn the key.

 

And yet… I am miserable.

 

The worst part about having no real problems is that you are forced to confront the real issue, which is the deeper, tender, rawest parts of you. The parts that refuse to be happy, refuse to feel the love that is all around you, refuse to see the glory in the sun setting over the Pacific.

 

I have had this enviable life for a few years now, since my husband and I separated. He very generously supports me financially and in general makes my life as easy as possible. I am lucky in ways that almost no one is lucky, and still I struggle to feel the peace and comfort and joy that should come along with that. With no actual dramas, there is no story to absorb all the uncomfortable feelings I have, which makes them harder to feel.

 

When I can step to the side of my discomfort for a bit, it’s interesting to notice how much of a habit unhappiness is. I don’t have a job, but I still feel light and free on Fridays and Saturdays and watch a tide of heaviness roll in on Sunday evenings in anticipation of a long work week that does not exist for me. Every Monday morning I feel anxious, a well-worn groove in my mind from many years ago when I did have a job. An emotional ebb and flow generated by some part of my brain that stores memories and doesn’t perceive reality.

 

The cool thing about this perspective is that it’s easy to see how our feelings aren’t necessarily a by-product of some real thing that’s happening, but energies that simply have patterns and a life of their own. And just like emotion, inertia has a momentum as well. With no real demands on my time, I don’t have an automatic sense of purpose. The spaciousness of a life without some obligation can very easily create more of the same. The emptiness, for me, has given birth to laziness and apathy – some days depression is straight-up knocking at my door.

 

These are some of the things that occur to me when people tell me how lucky I am to live where I live without having to work. Lucky maybe because I get a perspective into myself that others don’t have, but it can feel painful and lonely. Lucky also, perhaps, because I have the choice to do some deep work that I might not otherwise do.

Why you should embrace the mess

My tiny kitchen was overflowing with snacks and ingredients for the week. Coronas and wine bottles clanged around the fridge as things were constantly moved to make more room. Bags of coffee and corn chips lined the back splash. The counter tops seem to be giving birth to little clusters of cookie crumbs. My beach house, which usually contains only myself and my daughter, housed four extra women for the week. The vibe of a kid-free vacation (for them anyway) bounced and buzzed around this place like a pack of happy little bees.

The place stayed a wreck, to be sure. Wet towels hung all over the place. Trash cans filled up quickly. Sunglasses and keys and smart phones dotted every surface. There is a natural tendency to want to create order where there is none. And there was simply no order to be had in a house of grown women eating, showering and peeing generally on the same schedules. But I sank into it willingly. I am someone who craves structure (eh, hem…control freak), but I experience a new world of joy when I truly let go and enjoy a moment. There is never a way or a reason to organize a moment. It’s just happening as it should. Always, always.

My girlfriends and I laughed and cried and ate and drank all week. We layed on the beach, we told stories around the fire, we complained about things out of our control, we expressed love and gratitude for each other’s friendship. And just like they blew in here with grocery bags and blow up mattresses, they packed it all up and left. It was quiet. I forced myself to clean up and do some laundry and return emails to shift my energy back to the regular old life I lead. It’s like any moment we experience, extended or brief, beautiful or excruciating. It will always pass. And we are left with whatever we gave that moment.

As a kid we used to visit my uncle’s family in New Jersey. A big Italian family, lots of eating and drinking (and eating and drinking). One night we sat down to a big family dinner of spaghetti and homemade meatballs. I carefully lifted a massive, marinara-soaked meatball out of the bowl with a spoon and promptly dropped it on the antique lace tablecloth. I watched it splatter and spew sauce like a body hitting pavement, and I froze in that moment and begged time to undo itself. My uncle’s father, an old man with strained voice like Brando in The Godfather, turned to me. I was sure I’d be sleeping with the fish that night. But he said: “If you didn’t drop any food on the tablecloth, you’d never know anyone ate here.”

I have never, ever, ever forgotten that. It comes back to me when my child colors on the cover of a favorite book of mine or lovingly puts stickers all over a piece of furniture. I’m reminded of it when my sweet boyfriend pulls beers from his beach bag and puts them in my fridge along with half the sand on the southern Cali coast. And I remembered it again this week as I wandered through the spaces that were left when my friends went away. I picked up wet towels, I wiped down surfaces, I cleaned five different colors of hair out of my shower drain.

I was blessed to know, to really know, that these were all signs of people I love having been here.

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