We are all in the messy middle of something. The whole idea that at some point, we “arrive” is bunk. Every single time the GPS says, “You have arrived,” this occurs to me.
But in a deeper sense, it’s psychically difficult to live inside of a culture that prizes striving, acquisition, and material gain.
A culture with some of the highest rates of addiction in the world. A culture of mass shootings, massive disconnect, and off-the-hook isolation and anxiety. No wonder.
Yesterday in the car, I was telling Mani that I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis. But it isn’t actually a crisis at all. It’s a cycle.
I named something, which was helpful: My introvertedness, for whatever reason, has resurfaced.
The last two times I’ve done an MBTI assessment, the E/I, or extrovert/introvert, has come out 50/50. Not 49/51 even, people. I play both sides of the fence. I know the rules.
But. It’s not a game.
It’s real life. And because we live in a culture that also favors qualities associated more with being extroverted — outgoing, enthusiastic, conversational — when my strong introverted nature comes out in full force — internal, quieter, more feeling, harder to articulate — I get scared at first.
In the distant past of my life — though as we know, the past is often right here, riding shotgun — having a sense that something big was going on in me was something to fear. Intuitively, I knew that whatever this thing was, it would burn my life down.
And I was right about that.
I am learning that to trust — I was going to say “again,” but maybe in some ways it’s new, a kind of spiraling first — is a process.
Moments, periods, of a quieter way of being, of feeling into myself rather than creating and connecting as much outwardly, are not signs of dysfunction, denial, or depression but rather deeply crucial periods of being and becoming.
I was driving to synagogue with Aviva Friday. Stopped at a red light on the corner of Main and Triangle streets, with Emily Dickinson’s house on the right, I jokingly said to her, “V, I’m having a moment.” She looked at me quizzically, so I explained, “I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life.”
Without missing a beat, she replied, “You’re doing this.”
You know what? I felt instantly better.
“Oh! This is a good thing to be doing,” I laughed.
I’m doing this. I’m being this. I’m sitting here. I’m listening to my doggie snore. I’m drinking coffee while the household stills sleeps on a Sunday morning. I’m listening to the quiet.
You do not have to have a grand plan.
Being quiet does not mean you’re not an exciting person. Besides, excitement can be highly overrated.
I have had times when I really did feel like I had “arrived.” That’s all fine and good. The problem is, it’s not a one-time thing. So if you live expecting it to be, you are going to be freaked the fuck out next time you’re once again somewhere between that arrival and the next one.
No wonder I was at one time so drawn to Zen.
Judaism, too, understands this. Sukkot, the harvest festival that immediately follows the High Holidays, is also called “the season (or time) of our joy.” We are supposed to be happy.
Our rabbi offered such a wonderful explanation of this on Friday night. He described how the rabbis — the old ones, the ones we read and wrestle with today — understood that happiness is a complex state or emotion.
On the one hand, it may be that we have arrived and are celebrating the accompanying sense of relief and fulfillment. On the other hand, and perhaps at the same time, happiness may be the more temporary kind, i.e. we are nomads, wandering the desert, but for tonight, we have this shelter under the stars. We don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow. How good it is to sit here together, for now.
More than one thing can be true at a time. Capitalism isn’t big on this.
I dreamed last night somehow I’d gotten roped into selling expensive cars. I was tasked with writing a song-and-dance to offer potential customers. I put a lot into it and was proud of the few paragraphs I’d written when I went to show them to the men — yes, men — in charge.
A few minutes later, they handed me back a piece of paper that had been cut into the shape of a circle. It had a sentence or two on it, and none of the original language I’d given them.
They didn’t care about being honest or real. They just cared about selling cars.
I care more about being honest and real than I do about selling cars. Or spots in my groups. Or coaching sessions.
Probably one of the fears I’m working through is that being honest and real is incongruous with the kind of success we’re so conditioned to think is the good kind.
What if success is not a thing we achieve? What if being honest and real is not a handicap, but a pillar in what David Whyte calls the “house of belonging”?
I write because it’s how I find myself. Not to make money, not to get clients, not to fill groups, not to look good. I write because it’s one of the surest ways I have of trying to locate myself.
And you know what? I am always right here. Even when I fear my soul has detached from my body and floated off into the ether, here it is. Here I am. Hineni.
It’s ok to be quiet. You do not have to measure the distance between islands. You get to leave some pages blank between chapters. It’s your trip. Your book. Your life.
So live. You have arrived.