When I went to my first psychiatrist back in about 1993 or 1994, he asked me if I suffered from anxiety. I had never understood what this anxiety I had read about entailed. Was it a sad feeling? Was it an angry feeling? I couldn't put my finger on what that word was pointing to, so I assumed I had never felt it. I told him that I must be a very calm person, because I had never experienced this anxiety he asked about. "I think you have a lot of it," he said. "I think that it is probably with you all of the time, and I think its omnipresence in your life has made you blind to it and its impact." He was a smart man.
Of course, when I make major life changes, this general anxiety skyrockets. It's how I do. So, when I quit my job at the shoe store so that I could work freelance from home full time, I felt both elated and COMPLETELY FREAKED OUT OH HOLY HELL WHAT IN GOD'S NAME HAD I DONE I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING.
I love the decision I've made, and I'm fairly confident that I won't be reduced to lining up with my cats to eat out of their kibble bowl, but it's a scary thing to suddenly be your own boss, accountant, manager, salesperson, secretary, and coffee jockey. No one's told me how to do any of this. It's easy to feel like I'm the only one flying this ship from my kitchen table straight into the dumpster just up the alley, because I have no boss daddy to assure me that I will have clients next June.
I woke up feeling quite contented this morning, though, because my dreams have stepped up to take care of me again. Just before I woke up, I was caught in this long dream about my life replayed as if it had been bathed throughout in mediocrity. The pain in it was terrible. Everything was a stab to the heart: my passionless marriage, my high school reunion, my dream husband's desire for children, the suburban bungalow. The concession to convention and necessity over pursuing a more passionate life wove a deep thread of grief and exhaustion through every experience. It's not that that kind of life can't have passion in it, but it's not a life I could have led, and, in my dream mind, I cried for every piece of me that it could not hold.
I woke up relieved to be who I am doing what I do. Having kids would make this more difficult. Having a mortgage would make this more difficult. The burden of a car would make this more difficult. My life, the one it turns out I actually like, is only possible right now because of how it differs from the one I thought my family and culture dreamed for me back in December of 1972.
There are few standards against which I feel I can measure my life, and this used to shake me. How would I know when I was successful? How would I know when I was good at what I did? How would other people be able understand me within the context of the shape my life has taken? This person that I am with my outlaw blend of gender, sexuality, religion, and cultural aesthetics: how do I know when I am following my creative pull and when I am tipping over into becoming the desperado, however gentle?
The longer I live with myself, the more comfortable I become with trusting that I am neither completely lost nor on the verge of shooting up the joint. We're good with ourselves, me and I.
I might find myself panicking at my makeshift desk, because my future has no tidy map, but no one's does, really, in the end. Had I been on the road I thought my family would have mapped for me with a house and children and a car, that would have been interrupted by cervical cancer, anyway. This is how life works. You don't get what you want, and then you get something you never imagined for yourself, and then you get something you want, and then the whole thing gets tossed over for something else, and then you keep going. It's hard, sometimes rewarding, and often unexpected. It's all very messy, and these maps we see charted out for us, the ones we think we see other people navigate better and more accurately than we do? They don't exist. They are a myth our scared hearts would like to be real, but our brave hearts know better.
And so, I'll probably keep panicking, because that's how I do, but I'll do it knowing that this is the road my heart takes. We're good with ourselves, me and I.
PS. Listen to Iggy Pop's "The Passenger". I listen to it when I want to remember how things are.