I know. It’s called responsibility. It’s called adulthood. Sometimes, it’s called survival.
But if I only do what I don’t want to do, I’m tired and I’m cranky; my imagination stalls and my hopelessness fills out its contours all too quickly. I tell myself – I tell you – it’s a matter of proportion, of attitude, of the size and shape of obstacles and how to outsmart them.
Now, now. It’s nothing new. You’ve honed your navigational talents relying on the stars; you’ve mastered changing course when required. If all else fails, there’s stubbornness and guts.
Yes. You’re older now. It’s more difficult. But you’re in my way. You’re in your way. And I’m not ready to surrender yet.
* * *
I’m tired of doing what I don’t want to do. I’m tired of dreaming, spinning my wheels, checking my progress and seeing I’m nowhere. Worse, it feels as if I’m losing ground.
Still, I look at all that is good in my life and treasure it, though Wasted Potential peers over my shoulder and shakes its shaming finger.
Shakes it at you.
The shame is in not achieving. Not getting out of your own way.
No. It’s more complex than that. It’s a woman’s shame and I realize this, but I’m not able to trace its origins to a cellular level. I cannot name its parts, and so I cannot cure what dizzies them.
* * *
So how do I do it? How does anyone do it? How do we pick up after decades of one life and plunge into the other when our gears and cylinders have gone on the fritz, though we’re actively configuring alternates to take over their roles?
Spit it out. Write it out. Figure it out.
* * *
I wake and the fatigue from another restless night lodges in my neck and my shoulders. My upper right arm is throbbing and it’s been five years. It is worse since the boy in the checkout line pinched me. It was sudden and painful, and his mother grabbed him immediately, then apologized.
We chatted about this and that and how much boys can eat and how quickly they grow tall. But the purple welt that rises reminds me how much is a matter of luck.
The phone rings and within hours of each other my sons call home. It happens in this way and it is strange and delicious. I sing to their deep voices. I hear their fatigue. I know my incredible fortune: my distant, proximate, increasingly foreign sons. My healthy sons. My job here, not quite done.
* * *
Night sets loose an angry army of ants to pillage and war beneath my skin, to steamroll my thighs and my calves, to wake me over and over as I toss and get up, then try to sleep again. My head is heavy, my eyes are dry, my mission remains diverted and unfulfilled.
Am I doomed to abandon this me to you? Where are my restless legs to run?
I don’t want to do what I don’t want to do. I will not yield. Get out of my way.
* * *
Four weeks of emotional, methodical, maniacal document gathering, number crunching, memories encapsulated in figures and receipts.
Four online applications at three hours each.
One prospect researched for six hours, spread over two nights.
A single interview, and nothing. A conversation, and nothing. Emails, and nothing. Ideas, more ideas, always ideas.
* * *
Listen to me.
There is the bottle of Cherries in the Snow. Go fetch it from the medicine cabinet. Paint your nails to keep them strong through typing. Enjoy your pretty fingers, the hot pink, the reminders of femininity.
It’s not your favorite color, but it’s bright. It’s cheery.
Sometimes you do what you want to do. Sometimes, you do what you want to do but you aren’t aware that you want to do it.
There’s work to be done: domestic upkeep, stoking the furnace; heeding the indescribable needs of your restless legs.
* * *
You aren’t alone in these issues, my girl.
Target and pluck as you see fit, then forge ahead in the doing whether you want to or not: I am uncomfortable in my skin for lack of exercise, I am frightened by bills that mount beyond my barricade, I worry over maintenance on all fronts. I recognize the natural accumulations of aging: the body depreciates while nonetheless retaining grace, the vehicle shows wear but continues to run, the well-constructed home bears cracks beneath the paint.
* * *
You’re such a pain in the ass these days. Living with you is an aggravation. I’m sick of your moods, and the interminable restlessness that idles in your body but rarely in your head.
Cut yourself some slack. And me, while you’re at it.
You are not inert.
* * *
Transitions are never easy but meaningful moments mingle with the stultifying sameness of the search for orientation: daily duties, offset by Spring at the window in full flower; the human hand, kindly soothing more often than landing an unintentional blow.
* * *
On the mornings you wake exhausted or disheartened, so be it. Do what you have to do; no more, no less. On the days you’re alive and on fire – dig for whatever you can and grasp tightly to steady yourself – then maximize!
Now pay attention, please.
I am not suggesting you pretend that legitimate worries don’t exist. They do. And you will continue to do what you don’t want to do, because not to do so is to allow the obstacles to rule.
Put them in their place. Refuse them squatters rights along your path. Tell them – in no uncertain terms:
Get out of my way. I will not yield. I’m coming through.