Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Struggle Is Real | I'm a lot of faith, this is how I feel

Little Michelle, searching for mermaids in Montana.
All of my birthday messages went unanswered. I've felt ambivalent, at best, about my birthday this year, and luckily for me I share a birthday with my son--it's easy to put the focus on him. Turning three is a lot bigger of a deal than turning thirty-two, especially when I've mostly lost track of exactly how old I am and have probably been calling myself thirty-two for many months now (I think). Let me just say: I am grateful, truly, to everyone who took the time to send well wishes my way. Certainly, I need those wishes.

There's this Dave Eggers short story, I can't remember the title of it, or much about it, except at one point a character is sitting out in the ocean on a surf board, bobbing aimlessly, water slapping against the palm of his hand. Eggers describes that simple sensation, of flesh meeting water, and asks, "Why isn't this enough?" As in, why religion and god(s), or for that matter, why uncertainty? Why angst? This moment, this feeling, is so miraculous: it should be enough. (Or, at least, that's the way I remember the story; I haven't read it in a while and could have this moment all wrong.) In a lot of my life, I feel like waves slapping against and tickling the palm of my hand, whether the ocean or my son's bath water, is enough. I identify as a pantheist. I see a lot of magic in the world, a lot of miracles, a lot of mundanity which is not that at all.

But sometimes, it's not enough. Sometimes, it is as though the lights go dim on the world, and I struggle. It's not really a big deal. Usually, I am striding along casually, confidently, easily, but on occasion, I stumble.

The little girl Michelle, who I still carry around with me in all things, in all places, believed the world was full of magic. And I don't mean that abstractly. Little Michelle believed in witches and ghosts, demons and angels, the fae, Bigfoot, Nessie, et al. Textbook escapism, as a kid I immersed myself in fantasy worlds, and I believed in the creatures that populated those worlds, but moreso, I believed that I was special. I believed I would be chosen, or I would choose myself, and there were adventures to be had. In my teen years, I'd let go of all my fairy tale baggage, but I still believed that when I was a woman, I would be special or doing something special, that I would be traveling and writing. I pictured myself driving cross country, talking to strangers, smoking thousands of cigarettes and putting them all out in cold, black cups of coffee. I imagined myself less as part of the story than story teller.

I guess what has me down, as I search for, apply for, supplicate myself for jobs that, deep in my heart and soul, I know I don't actually want, is the knowledge that this is probably it for me. This is my life. No traveling, not a whole lot of writing, and if there are cigarettes they will only add to how depressing this small life is. I feel a little stuck and a little sorry for myself, and I feel guilty for feeling this way.

Nobody has to remind me of what I have going for me. Put aside my own health and stamina, my mind and the vast unknown that is my future (full of possibility, even if not possibility I make for myself, possibility simply because I live in a weird, unpredictable world), I have a supportive family (including immensely kind in-laws), I am married to a rare good man, and with that good man, I have created a perfect son. So many intimate partnerships go sour and fail--people cheat and lie and hurt each other, or sometimes people just fall away from each other. Hearts are broken every day. But, I have this incredible man by my side who loves me, but more importantly, who sees me and speaks my language, and I love him, an unquantifiable love that humbles and sustains me. We love each other, but also we get along; we almost always see eye to eye, and when we don't, we're judicious and giving negotiators. I have a love and a partnership that works, and this is a rare thing, a thing I hold gently and feed robustly.

And our son: perfect. The very fact that he is here is magical enough, but more than that, he is whole. In an often cruel world, I am blessed with a beautiful child who is smart, who is healthy--he can run, he can communicate, he can absorb our love and reflect it back on us. Martigan will always be my greatest blessing, the most magical thing in my life; being his mom is what makes me special.

While I don't want to seem ungrateful for all this love, it has occurred to me time and again, most recently since being laid off, that maybe this is all I get. Maybe I have been so blessed beyond measure by the loves of my life, that I don't get job satisfaction or financial security or deep, lasting, in-my-bones contentment. Maybe I will spend my life working for other people, making other peoples' dreams come true, or worse, just drudging as a cog in the machine. Maybe I've cashed in all my chips. Maybe this is it.

In the weeks leading up to my thirty-second birthday (and maybe the weeks following), I'm just feeling like there is no magic in the world. I don't feel like I'm going anywhere, or that things are ever going to get any better for me. I have my husband, and I have my son, but as far as personal fulfillment goes, me, me, me alone, I don't think there's anything for me. And it sucks.

It's hard to admit this. A lot of people I know are going to read this and worry and reach out to me. And while I know that all that attention comes from a genuine, loving place, I will be embarrassed and will struggle with how to respond (after all, I struggled just with responding to "happy birthday"s on Facebook). I'm not writing this as a plea for help or a cry for attention. I'm writing this because sometimes life is hard, and I really think it's okay to admit that. It is okay to admit when you're unhappy. This unhappiness I'm experiencing right now is just a season, one brought on by losing my job and turning another year older (and summer hanging on too long). This melancholy won't last forever, but I wanted to give it some space and let it air out, regardless. It is okay to be unhappy, and it is okay to admit to unhappiness. As the great Natalie Imbruglia sings (seventy-five times a day for over a decade on Australian radio), "I'm a lot of faith; this is how I feel."

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