June 09, 2005 - 10:57 amBODY IN MOTION
When youíre in a car or plane or boat or whatever, itís a lot more fun to speed up than to slow down, isnít it? It is to me, anyway. Speeding up makes me feel safe and excited; slowing down stresses me out. I guess that might sort of say something about my personality, like, maybe Iím perpetually restless.
I always look forward to the next thing, the next stage, the next event or milestone. Standing still is not easy because thatís when I tend to get depressed Ė when Iím not moving forward. As a kid I wanted to be grown up. When I was in grade school I looked forward to moving away to college. I shed my virginity in high school like an ill fitting sweater. During college, I continually burned the candle at both ends Ė working my ass off in class, partying way too hard whenever I could, and working full time at an architecture firm during the holidays, never sitting still. After college I immediately traveled abroad. Once I had my first apartment on my own and my first Ďreal jobí (although I'd never really worked outside the field of architecture), a big, recognizable wave of depression hit. I was panicked. ďWhat next?Ē I thought. What the hell do I do now? Buy a house? Move to another city? I guess thatís when a lot of people decide to get married, and, in fact, maybe thatís WHY a lot of people get married at that stage of life Ė theyíre goal-oriented and bored like I was.
But marriage was a low priority for me, so I did my best to settle into that period of coasting. Thatís when I finally started dealing with some of the shittier parts of my adult life, none of which I had really confided in anyone about Ė ever. And I was just starting to get a handle on it and get comfortable in ďneutralĒ Öwhen I met John. We dated briefly (about six months, I think) and I got pregnant. Great.
There was no discussion about whether I would have the baby. I was clear about the fact that I was definitely having it, and I told John that if he didnít want to hang around for it, that was okay by me, I totally understood. Right or wrong, I never told him the real reason I was so adamant about my decision Ė which Iím sure you could guess if you tried. I told him that I was an adult with a college degree, a good job, a nice apartment, and a network of supportive friends and family. I could not Ė and would not Ė justify not having that baby. Not that he wasnít supportive, because he was. I think his proposal went something like this:
John: "Should we get married or what?"
Me: "I guess so."
Itís been a whirlwind ever since. See if you can follow along. I got pregnant; John got fired from his commercial architecture job; we moved in together; we got married; I took my first and only corporate job and supported us until I had a baby girl; John started a construction company; I free-lanced out of our one bedroom basement apartment and took care of a new baby and a new husband; we had to move to North Carolina because our car broke down and we couldnít afford to fix it, John didnít have work and was going to build his parents a house; I moved up alone with the baby; John stayed in Atlanta to finish a job that was out of money; his parents moved in with us; John moved up later; I got pregnant again; his parentsí house took too long to finish; John stayed in North Carolina to finish a job that was out of money; I moved back to Atlanta alone with baby girl to give birth to baby boy who was born a week later, three weeks early due to stress; John missed the birth by two hours; John moved back to Atlanta and took a paying job; we bought a crack house; John quit his paying job; we started a design/build company with another partner; we moved into a then cheap (now fancy) hotel for two months while our house was being renovated; we moved into our crack house with just three finished rooms, no kitchen, no sink in the bathroom, no windows in the window openings, all four of us sleeping in one bed; we set up offices in the crack house; terrorists crash planes into the world trade center; I move to North Carolina with the children for a month while some work is done to the house; our partner leaves the business on less than good terms; I begin to see a therapist (gee, why?); I resign from our business and take a consulting job with a local residential architect; our house is still not finished; John has mounting money problems and angry clients; I tell John we need help, he says okay, nothing changes; I start my own business and finally start to make some real money; I continue to see a therapist; I suggest we sell our piece of shit house and start over, he says no way; I tell him I donít know how much longer I can live like this; nothing changes; I find a piece of property and work on buying it; John gets deeper in debt with clients and his parents; I leave John and file for divorce. And move into a nice house. In a quiet neighborhood. Close to school and work. I have good clients. I work. I cook. We get a dog. We play at the park and eat popsicles. I talk to god. I read. My. Whole. Life. Slows. Down.
And I realize now this is not limbo. This is not coasting. This is life, and Iíve got it good.
Iím a gentle person by nature. But Iím also a very curious person by nature as well, and this curiosity, this constant restless searching, is what has pushed me time and time again past the limits of personal safety and well-being. But if all that shit Iíve been through has been good for anything Ė and it has Ė itís distilled whatís really necessary in my life. I know what itís like to have nothing, to be hungry, to be broke, to be frustrated, to be trapped, to have no way to get from here to there, to have no privacy, to feel shame. And from all that uncertainty and grief, I figured out what it is in this life that really matters to me: love.
And Iím not talking about marriage love or sexual love, not even the platonic love of friendship, admiration, and acceptance. The love I realized I could not do without was agape love (thanks for putting a word on it for me, Nicole) Ė real, unselfish, unconditional, Jesus-type, we-are-all-one love Ė as ridiculous as that may sound.
Iíd learned to live without a lot of important and unimportant stuff from a pretty young age. But the only thing that was ever painful to be without was love - the love that comes from feeling like you are part of something much, much bigger than yourself. And during those tumultuous eight years with John, my relationship with my children was the one thing I clung to for dear life. Without them I felt I would truly have had nothing because it was through loving my children absolutely and without question Ė with agape love Ė that I learned the circle of love for all things. I understood that from nothingness comes fulfillment. I have done without, and it did not matter to god. That is how I know I am truly part of god. Perfect love exists for me to exist within it, and I exist for that perfect love to exist within me.
Blah, blah, blah, right? Don't think, by any means, I'm trying to imply that Iím enlightened. Oh, no. Not by a long shot, and if you read this diary you'll know that's true. I'm as full of shit as the next guy. But I have at least seen the slightest glimpse of what it means. Iíve seen that itís possible. Itís something to shoot for, anyway.
Because Iím goal oriented and bored, I guess. Whatever.
I guess what Iím trying so clumsily to say is that I know now that everything I have in this world is like icing on the cake of my short, beautiful life. Iím blessed with good health, a challenging job I love, a bed and blankets, great friends, two unbelievable children I love more than life itself, a nice house with central heat and air, books to read, plenty of good food, a rug over my wood floor, and on and on and on. Like Bill Murray said in Lost in Translation, ďThe more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let other things upset you.Ē
So, sure, I still love the feeling of taking off in a plane at over a hundred miles an hour, but now, I appreciate a soft landing just as much.
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