Susan's Blog

Monday, March 6, 2006

Learning What’s Write About Myself

You never stray too far from how you were as a child, though perhaps if you are lucky you learn how to compensate or protect yourself. It is easy for me to recall how I was as a child, to go back in time and feel myself looking out from wider eyes. I was very other-focused, which paradoxically also makes you very self-focused, but not always in a happy way. When you are too concerned with what others think, you become too concerned with making sure that they think good things about you, and then everything’s out of whack. My inner self is very carefully calibrated, even now as a far wiser adult, and it gets knocked out of balance far too easily (not a good situation for a Libra, but a typical one, nevertheless. There is a misconception out there that Libras are in balance; the reality is, they strive for balance but rarely stay within it. There are too many distractions, positive and negative, too many compelling thoughts and arguments to keep us completely in harmony, though we crave it.).

I am happiest these days when I am project-focused; when I have something interesting to do. My happiest days so far were the summer before last, when I had to finish my book by September. That deadline did not hang over me, however. It encompassed me as if in a golden light, buoying me and keeping me anchored within a purpose, a goal. That summer, Ben and Max had no camp, and they buzzed around me like the fat lazy bees out in my pink and blue garden.

As a child, I was often told, “Find a friend,” or “Go play,” words that did not help, but rather, filled me with dread. Find a friend? Who should that be, if they were not already here? And play with what? Wouldn’t I be doing that, if I wanted to? This admonition was like a sentence to me: if I could find a friend or play happily, I would have been doing it already. But I had no purpose, no project, only a vague feeling that I was somehow not right as I was. I would then look for someone else to reassure me that I was just fine, and that is how the cycle was born.

So I guess I have learned how to “go play” or “find a friend” or compensate, as an adult. I still have days of amorphous dread, however, where I think that the rest of the world seems to be so purposefully busy, and I am not. (And this is not about just getting a job — which became my parents’ mantra once I grew up and experienced the same malaise, the adult equivalent of “Go play” — because I have had jobs, and the feeling remained. This is not about being merely busy; it is about being purposefully engaged with something truly gratifying.)

By now I know enough about my amorphous dread; I understand it and recognize it like an old friend or relative. As someone who is in your life whom you did not choose but must suffer nonetheless. I now know that turning outwards to another person is not going to soothe it away. I now know that some days are worse than others. And I know, too, that the best way to feel good again is to look within, and figure out what it is I want to do. Most often, that means, what do I want to write about, and do it.

Wonder what would have happened if my parents had said instead, “Okay, write it down. Write about how you feel.” Makes me wonder what I am not saying to my own children…

1 comment

I often feel the same way, as if there’s something that I ought to be doing or writing, but it’s not quite clear in my mind yet.

And yes, those days when writing or other projects flow very easily are satisfying indeed.

I think it’s a cultural expectation, and we take it so much for granted that we have come to view it as a part of ourselves. Because modern society is so complex, there’s a great deal of pressure to be busy at all times. Just relaxing and doing nothing feels like a waste, even though we all need some amount of time to rest and recharge ourselves.

I often find that I am more productive when I set aside time in my day to go out and watch the bees in the garden for a while, or some other “purposeless” activity.

— added by Bonnie Ventura on Tuesday, March 7, 2006 at 8:55 am