It’s hard for me to believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted to this blog, though I have a draft folder full of false starts. There have been so many moments I’ve wanted to share along the way, but the moments backed up on and nearly paralyzed me. For real.
An alternate title for this post could have been “The Road to Hell is Paved,” because mine sure seems to be paved with good intentions, but then I realized that there is actually a word for this and it’s as old as the Ancient Greeks: Akrasia.
Akrasia could be easily reduced to procrastination or lack of follow-through, but it’s more than that. More specifically it’s “lacking command over oneself,” so it has a bit to do with self-control, but through a bit of research I’ve come to define it as knowing what the best course of action is but choosing something else.
I’m quite sure nobody can relate.
But here’s the thing: I might not have kept up with my writing projects and I certainly let this blog go by the wayside a bit, but the place deep in my heart and gut knows that falling into an akratic state has actually been a really good thing for me. I had to just “be” in my life for a minute, and save the writing and processing for a later date. It’s hard to have perspective on your life while you’re full-on deep into living it and ocassionally wandering out of your depths.
It took me a minute to get back—at least to the writing part—because I’d left a cliffhanger for myself and didn’t know what to say or how to follow-up. During the interim I resorted to pictures and quick updates on Facebook and Instagram, but it was the reflective aspect that eluded me, and because I’m a writer that scared the crap out of me. Had I lost the ability to see myself from a distance? Possibly. But the silver lining of that situation is that I became more present than I’d ever been.
Living with and taking care of my grandmother brought me smack-dab into the present because for a person with dementia there’s no other place to be. The present is the only moment that exists, and for a family in crisis it’s one-day-at-a-time until you wade through it. There were moments that my mother and I thought we would not get through it, that we wouldn’t get my grandmother into a safer living situation, or get out from under the rubble inside the house, or get the house remodeled. But we somehow managed to do it all, by both breathing deeply and occasionally holding our breath, and now I’m both proud and happy to report that everyone is doing well.
In many ways it feels like I blinked my eyes and am suddenly playing an exciting part in my newly-improved life in Missoula and I’ve been given an extraordinary takeaway gift: the present.
When I loaded up my Subaru and pulled away from NYC I didn’t know how Lucky’s health would fare as we took the long trip west, or how Missoula would pan out for my fourth try, or what would happen with the love affair I’d started in Spain, which would turn out to be just another eye-opening, heart-expanding marker on my path, albeit a pivotal one.
I wanted to share pictures of my last weeks in New York with my mother and Mimi, of my friend Robert’s visit where he ran the NYC marathon. If you find a friend who kicks up his heels (literally and metaphorically) you keep him.
We all had so much fun talking nonstop and cruising around like tourists. We even took a pre-Broadway show photo in Times friggin’ Square!
I had intentions of sharing in real-time my visit with old friends in Connecticut and then visiting other friends and accidentally stumbling upon the beach near a house my grandparents had when I was a kid. That trip to my home state was full of healing conversations and a couple of runs and walks along the beach that had more restorative power than a year of talk therapy ever has.
My grandparents’ house had a musty smell and newsprint wallpaper in the bathroom. It had a hill, a hammock and shade trees. The years they had that house coincided with the years I was obsessed with the Little House books, and I had an evening ritual where I ran down the hill at dusk in my nightgown, eyes closed, pretending I was a farm girl like Laura.
I awoke at dawn while I was there, and as I walked to the beach with a steaming, ceramic mug of coffee I saw a morning-dew heart in the road. And in case anyone hasn’t noticed, I’m a sucker for that shit; give me a sign and I’ll run with it.
It was all a reminder that you can take the girl out of the places but you can never take the places out of the girl.
I wanted to share about meeting my dad near my mother’s house for a couple of hours because sometimes a couple of hours is all we get. We walked Lucky, had a quick sandwich, and then took a picture in the park he played at when he was a boy. It’s only now that I realize we were dressed as twins that day.
I really wanted to share photos from the drive Lucky and I took, and the friends and sights we saw along the way because we saw some incredible things, but better than what we saw was what happened within: my old dog perked up like a puppy and I returned to a rhythm that made me feel like me again. Which was an enormous relief.
There are few things more powerful than a collective surge in energy to make a person feel she made the right choice. It was hard leaving Maureen behind, but Lucky and I hit the road and neither of us could stop smiling. This is how we looked most of the way.
Luck made himself at home everywhere we went! Even if we’d never met the people before! He’s perceptive enough to know his people when he meets them.
More than in times past (and there have been many) I enjoyed driving through the middle of the country. Getting TOGO fried catfish from restaurants that announce they ARE a smoking establishment so deal with it is a treat because it’s the closest thing to time travel I’ve ever found.
I also saw things along the way that both broke my heart and made me think.
I drove with a destination but not a route, and as I zigzagged across the country I immersed myself for a few days in the simplicity of the heartland. It’s not a place I want to live, but I sure love to visit. I saw so many of my favorite things in the middle of the country. I saw old hardware stores, public art, and different ways of living. I confirmed my suspicion that there’s beauty everywhere and the surprise of finding it where you don’t think you will is better than seeking and expecting it.
I wanted to write about all of it, share words and images, but with akrasia set into my bones I didn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t have the will and had only a bit of desire though clearly it was not enough. I’d be lying if I didn’t cop to the fact that I’d gotten in my own way (again) and I knew (pretty much) why I went dark in this space: I’d broken one of my own rules in my last three blog posts; I’d shared about my love life.
What the hell was I thinking?
Sure. It’s not a big deal. It’s a blog, not a TEDtalk, but it felt untrue. I worried about my authenticity and desire to speak the truth even (and especially) when it’s wavering and on the ugly side. Worse yet, I felt like I was contributing to my least favorite aspect of the news—the sensationalism and then the sudden drop-off. Sure, my life and travels aren’t exactly news, so I didn’t think it mattered.
But people wrote to me, “So…what’s going on?” they said, and we played a little cat and mouse until I conceded, “Oh. That. Well…Yeah…” When I returned to Missoula people stopped me on the street, the trail, the breakroom at work, the supermarket aisle, “So?” they asked, and I said, “So…”
I acted as if I didn’t know what they were talking about. I acted so coy, and I acted like someone I wouldn’t tolerate.
They got specific, warmed me up. They asked about Mimi, Maureen, leaving New York, my travels, Lucky’s post rat-poison health. Then they asked about that guy from Spain. Ugh.
I had to admit I’d been wrong about that last bit. That I’d
possibly definitely shared publicly something that had never had a fighting chance of fully launching. I shared before I was sure. It was so unlike me, which, in the end, has been a good thing.
Others didn’t care so much about my failed romance—I’m human after all, and humans can get a bit prematurely wrapped up—but they worried because I wasn’t writing. Sure love doesn’t work out all the time, but art? You can’t give up your art. My friends had good reason to wonder if I’d given up, because—let’s face it—book writing is an endeavor that doesn’t always result with the desired outcome.
It’s a little bit like love.
My akratic state wasn’t great for writing though it was good for thinking and pondering. It enabled me to realize that taking all that time and effort to write a book and then not publish it (yet. yes, i still say yet) wasn’t the worst thing to happen, though I sure had to fake it until I made it on that one.
It was okay, wasn’t it? Sort of. Some days it was and some days it wasn’t. That I didn’t know how I felt about it was the most perplexing part. Was I okay with it or wasn’t I? How or when would I know?
Then I found myself talking about it to a new friend who wasn’t around for all the remote-cabin-living/writing/sitting/rewriting/angsting etc. I jokingly and confidently talked about my “unpublished book” and I felt a marked absence of shame and justifying as I said it. That was new and different and felt damn good.
I explained that writing is absolutely essential to my happiness and well-being, and how in many ways it’s both my valium and my ambien. I copped also to the fact that I’d simply not made the time. I’d been so busy working, socializing, and settling back into Missoula life that I’d hardly written a word in three months. There are always going to be dishes to do and walks to take and my return to Missoula had been littered with excuses for not writing. But somehow, even in my not-writing, I was happy. I hadn’t given up, but rather I’d given in.
Then I realized something crucial—dare I say pivotal—about myself: I needed to write that book; I needed to have written it for reasons far more important than the obvious ones of seeing my words in print, making a difference in the world, or talking to Oprah. With some distance from the book (that I gave my blood to) I’d arrived in a place of not only feeling but also fully believing that everything I’ve done—every awesome, rotten, risky, insane, loving thing I’ve ever done—had a supremely important purpose.
And that’s where the magical thing happened, the thing that happens so that every other thing that came before seems one-hundred-million percent worth it. Right around the time I crossed the halfway point of forty I had one of the most crazy, insane thoughts I’ve ever had:
I’ve finally become who I always wanted to be.
I mean, not completely, but enough. And that’s where the real magic is: I don’t want to be perfect; I just want to be me. And enough is so damn good.
won’t can’t say my time not writing has been wasted, but I will say that I’m really happy there’s a word for what’s been happening with me, because so often there isn’t. Perspective is squirrely and lack is a critical component to appreciating abundance.
One of the reasons I love this blog (and other forms of social media) is because I love sharing pictures, and pictures help to pick up the slack of words. I love sharing pictures of what I’ve seen in my travels, and sometimes it’s jaw-dropping and other times it’s the beauty that occurs in the simple and even in the mundane. A few friends commented that while I was in New Mexico, New York City, and Europe that I was where I was supposed to be, which was true: I was. They saw me seeing things differently both through my iPhone’s lens and through my increasing perspective of my place in the world.
It’s hard to believe this was me four months ago:
Now my traveling days have slowed down to a crawl, but this I love: I’m seeing interesting things where I am. This is good because where we are is where we are. There’s no other place to be.
And this: we made it home to Missoula.