This phrase, not spoken by an adolescent seeking the reach of her wings. Not spoken through the torpor of middle age, of reassessing decades of a regulated life.
Instead, articulated by a thoughtful and vital woman in an established framework – the complicated juggle of relationship, motherhood, career; the conventional triumvirate that steers our expectations, and threatens the survival of the female self.
How many of us are seeking?
What name do we give the imagined goal, the impossible state of emotional permanence, the promise of solutions to the discomforts of our consciousness, to our inquisitive essence?
Repackaging the product
Sometimes we label it Presence. Sometimes we label it Happiness. Sometimes we label it Acceptance. We believe it will grant us a measure of control. Sometimes it does. A measure of control.
Is popular culture conditioning us to turn away from a broader reach of human emotion? The very friction and doubt that propels us to challenge assumptions, to create and achieve, the reality that this comprises a state of self-discovery?
If cultural norms are the product and we are struggling with its features, have we yielded to rebranding and repackaging? Are we churning in the same murky waters as each generation before us?
My approach is not for everyone. This is my nature; I am relieved at my uncertainties, buttressed by my own interrogations. I do not seek to find myself, though the notion of an explicit search tumbles around in my head. I imagine a caged Lotto ball on a secret trajectory. Surely it can nudge its neighbors to follow suit, popping out the string of winning numbers, the Solution to All Problems, the Happy Ending in our constrained comprehension of borderless beginnings.
Changing the lens
Now I am slipping, I am drowning, I am drifting; I realize that my markers are disappearing. The face I know, the limbs that support me solidly, the script I cling to as my life.
Now I am climbing, I am projecting, I am revising; I do not name this evolutionary topography, but I know that I am not broken. I know that I am not lost.
Rather, I am aware of being newly found and repeatedly – heartily, painfully, joyfully. In each hour, each day, each sleepless night as dreams crystallize my resolutions or stomp on them, lull me as if intoxicated or toss me back to weary consciousness. It is a lifetime of hours, of days, of sleepless nights and dreams that newly find me. So I am found, and found again.
Seeking self, allowing self “to be”
To know myself a dozen times daily is not to be lost, though it may be dizzying. To float without coordinates is not to lose one’s sight. It is, nonetheless, disorienting. We must make peace with quaking and contradiction, with hovering close to beat and bone.
If I do not seek to find myself, this does not mean I do not seek, I do not examine, I do not sketch while wandering the unfamiliar landscape. I anticipate the times I reside within the marrow, replenish reserves and tend to schooling, knowing that I will reemerge with what I have learned, bowing to the discretion of answers in their own time.
This is recognition: I am the woman in this moment however dreary, the woman in the next that is brighter and just as fleeting; I am here in the constant preparation of canvas, the splattering of colors, the layering of oils, the reconditioning of memory, the cracking of surface, the celebration of my once fertile womb, the wonderment of what the human hand or the divine may make of me, the fingers that are my own, the sorrows of aging, the pride of continuing to question, the vision that is nascent, that floods my spirit, that belongs to another – refashioning my outlook, my composition, my capacity.
Changing the game
I do not live without plan; I revere improvisation and its necessity.
I reject rules not of my choosing and their premise: one settled self that will not stagnate, duos that need no break from their rut, trios to tempt us into more plentiful arrangements.
I offer my belief in variations on a theme: the pleasures of plurality as we define it, each human emotion in its turn, the gathering of figures as they will, movements and their glittering inevitability.
I know that I will march, advancing. I know that I will stagger, blindly. I will stumble, and pick myself up. A stranger may startle me with her assistance, and another, with the possibility of shared exploration. Voice will reawaken on a schedule of its own and instruct: now it is time for tears, now it is time for laughter.
The Happiness Board
I cannot grasp the token I am given, nor even the one that I select. This is a lesson.
You who sit and dictate are chaste, would-be puppeteers, frequently with good intention. I understand the multiplicity of your reasons, the governance of systems, the insistence that we all shuffle around the same board, in forfeit and in victory. These are the rules, you say. We are expected to follow.
Yet players fade in and out, prescribed paths grow old and ask for a renovated face. I toss the dice, I spin the wheel, I count off paces and try to believe. But I balk; my stake in the ground plucks pleasure from a different register and sequence of my own: joy will find us and we will seek it; noise will deafen and we will cover our ears; clarity will arrive in perfect pitch – the blaze of bodies connecting, the sweetness of breeze, the child’s softened cheek.
I am finding myself. It is a worthy statement and I will not demean it. But it is not my search. Are you certain it is yours?
I am not lost, though I am a moving target. I am here, I am gone, I am here: noting little in my beginnings, remarking on the morning sun breaking, unveiling the long day’s labor, cherishing the legacy of dream, respecting the roulette we spin and equally, the one we do not.
I am content in this process, and know it to serve me.
Visit Motherese on The Happiness Project for a provocative discussion, including the comments, which sparked this musing.