Off balance

(clouds, with otherworldly light)

Do you know that feeling when you read a blog and you think: wow!  This is a better-articulated, more-thoughtful, totally amazing version of every single thing I think about, every single day?  And then you think: my God I wish this person lived nearby.  I want to be her friend!  Well, I do.  And Walking On My Hands is one of those blogs.  Pam is, as her tagline says, learning to live with grace.  I really can’t recommend her blog highly enough.

Last night I had terrible, terrible insomnia.  Whit woke up at 12:30 to go to the bathroom, and the click of his bedroom door when he went back to bed woke me up.  Thursday for me began at 12:30, because I never went back to sleep.  I lay in bed for a while, went upstairs and lay on the couch for a while, watched Gossip Girl, and read Pam’s post.  And then I thought about it for the rest of the night.  The sentence I can’t forget is this:

There are about a zillion ways to hide from your own life, and I have done every one.

The identification with those words was so intense I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me.  This is what I was doing, all those years when I was in such a frantic hurry that I never actually noticed the right-now of my life.  This is what I was doing when I wasted whole chunks of time mourning something or someone who was already gone.  This is what I was doing when I ignored that whisper inside of me that said hey, maybe this isn’t what you want, and instead hurtled towards the accolades that felt so good to receive.  This is what I was doing when I ate emotionally in the years after college.  This is what I was doing when I ran and ran and ran in the ice-cold winter woods at Exeter, an hour a day, tears often streaming, then frozen, on my cheeks.

Pam’s words fell on fertile soil: the me who is up in the middle of the night with insomnia, suffering from a kind of spiritual indigestion, is even more porous usual.  I couldn’t settle into sleep from my day on Wednesday.  All day I was just off balance, literally and figuratively.  I slipped several times during the day, twice during my early morning run (I caught myself both times) and once, wearing work clothes, in the middle of Back Bay after an interview (I completely wiped out).

Whit cried when I took him to school because these days I drop him off rather than waiting to take him up to his classroom.  I do this because there are about four parking spots in a one-mile radius of school and I don’t feel right hogging one of them for the 30 minutes we used to sit together.  But, still.  In the afternoon Grace pulled me aside, in tears, and listed a litany of all the little things I do that fail and hurt her.

I was keenly aware of my shortcomings as a mother.

I felt overwhelmed by my job.  The demands are coming fast and furious right now, as we enter an annual period of concentrated effort.  My calendar for the next couple of weeks suddenly felt chokingly busy, including a day trip to San Francisco.

My cheeks burned with the prickly heat of not being very good at my job.  Certainly, of doing a poor job balancing it.

I felt the guilty pressure of my nascent book manuscript sitting, untended, on my desktop.  I haven’t had the time to look at it, to really spend time diving into its pages, and that truth hangs over me like a storm cloud, its grayness shading every frame of my day.

My commitment to writing, and to this project in particular, felt perilously close to slipping away.

And so I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening in a funk.  I was tearful and frustrated.  At dinner with two dear friends I was distracted and quiet.  At home with Matt I was short and snappy.  I couldn’t sleep, and when I finally did it wasn’t for long.  I started this post thinking: I still avoid my life.  Isn’t that what I was doing by being pissy, and not really engaged, and wakeful?  I don’t know, though.  Maybe that IS being present to my life.  Even when it’s difficult, and full of obstacles, and feels empty of joy.

Even in the midst of my dense crankiness, however, I read an essay by my friend Katherine and found myself crying, moved.  I realize that the heart of me, that raw, tender place full of shadows and startling blazes of light, is so much closer to the surface now.  Even when it is temporarily occluded by the frustrations of a bad day, it’s never totally lost from sight.  This is what Pam is talking about, I think, when she speaks of not avoiding her life.  Isn’t that heart, in fact, my life?

18 thoughts on “Off balance”

  1. “Spiritual indigestion” is a wonderfully apt phrase thatcibam going to steal 🙂 I have so many days where I wonder whatcthe hell I am doing in my own life. I particularly suffer from a case of the “compares,” covering skills, abilities, and entire lives that aren’t mine but I wish were, rather than inhabiting the one I have. I just started “Poser,” and already I sense that theme of hiding out in our own life is going to play out (interesting that the post you mention — which I also read and enjoyed very much — centered around yoga). These difficult days you describe are the ones that make us feel human.

  2. I too am taken by this tale of “spiritual indigestion.” This is something so many of us feel. That is, if we let ourselves feel it. I am also struck by this concept of avoiding our own lives, hiding from our own lives. This also speaks to me (and worries me). Is that what we are doing by staying so busy, even by blogging so fervently? Are we avoiding the core of who we are, of what our lives could be?

    Thanks for pointing the way to Pam’s blog.

  3. I cannot think of better words that the ones that Thich Nhat Hanh and others would prescribe…

    Darling, I care about your pain.

    Those words, in the practice, are meant to be said to yourself. But I say them to you now, and every day.

    You are waking up, my friend. It is a messy, difficult, sticky process. Not at all like you might imagine.

    But, as you wrote, there is light, too.

    And thanks for the link…Pam’s blog is wonderful and new to me.


  4. yes, i know that kind of ‘wow’ blog…it’s yours.

    i love that you feel the heart of you is actually more center in your life now. that you are more fully present with the tenderness, even when busy and chaos threaten distraction. thank you for inviting us to also hide less and be alive in the pain, feel it completely, be gentle with ourselves through it.

    and thank you, aidan for unearthing the possible hiding spot of fervent blogging?

  5. Thank you for this. I have been in a similar angry, hazy, uncertain, foggy place; knowing some things need to change, but feeling the resistance at the same time and wondering if I am really present or just always avoiding my “real life” by thinking of ways to change it. Thank you for the recommendation of Pam’s blog too, so lovely.

  6. I think you ask a good question – what is it to be present in your life? Can you help that life zips by at an extraordinary pace? If you keep up with it, doesn’t that mean you are present? I wonder about coexisting with myself. To think my thoughts and be my person, but also to be the person everyone else in my life needs (and deserves). It is a balancing act.

  7. What was it that wonderful psychologist guy (Don? Donald?) said in our writing class? “People need to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” I think of that so often now…when I’m uncomfortable. The indigestion is part of the process, for your writing and your life. If you don’t go through it, it won’t be as good.

    Also, it’s February of the brutalest winter on record. If you don’t feel pissy now, you never will!

  8. Oh, I think your last paragraph is so right. The dark and the light both seem so *bright* for you, and that doesn’t seem possible for someone avoiding their life.

    I had a similar last few days to the ones you describe and am empathizing so much.


  9. I second what Melissa said. Your blog wows me! It was as if you were writing about my own life. Eerie. I still dance around the issues while you crack them wide open. This is beautiful. Thank you for being so honest. (We are all walking around with broken hearts.)

    Much much love to you and light!


  10. So glad you and Pam have connected! It is such a relief to know that we aren’t alone, that no one is perfect, that most of us are, in some sense, hiding from our own lives. Perhaps hiding is just one of those inevitable games that we humans play with ourselves on the way to becoming who we’re meant to be. Surely we all do it. And then, growing up, becoming more comfortable in our skins, we choose to just stay put and to feel what we need to feel. What a process! I loved Pamela’s post, and yours is equally brave and eloquent. Thank goodness we all draw strength from one another!

  11. Oh Lindsey you’ve done it again. Not only a beautiful post, but a recommendation to another wonderful writer. Turns out we met before she left Ventura – small world 🙂 Thank you – as always – for sharing your light with us.

  12. Here’s to being compassionately connected in both our discomfort and our comfort, through sleepless nights that lead on into more darkness and blazing illuminations that obliterate againstness. It’s in the alchemy of the opposites that the divine spark is born—within us and between us. I know that I find comfort in touching base with the wonderful voices who meet and mingle at these sometimes brave but frozen and sometimes joyously free flowing waters.

  13. Oh, my friend, hang in there. Imperfection is not failure. And you have such intrinsic grace, maybe you just don’t notice it because it’s so closely woven into the fabric of who you are.

  14. Oh. Oh. Oh. I feel, at times, that our hearts are beating the same rhythm, our souls taking the same breaths. I can only offer my solitary companionship, and offer supplications of gratitude for you. xxoo

  15. I found my way back to this post this morning, having not remembered reading it in the first place, although I was apparently the first to comment (in February 2011, no doubt up in the middle of the night nursing). I have been struggling mightily the past few days with making a big professional decision, and I’m letting your words wash over me. I still very much feel that sense of “hiding out in my own life” (just yesterday I said that I feel like I’m often “hiding in the shadows” of my own life). Anyways, thanks, again, for these words.

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