Work in Progress

The last few weeks have been exceptionally stressfull. Let’s just say that some battles never seem to end and some people really don’t know how to play fair. Also, there are those moments when others try to paint of a picture of you that simply isn’t true, and even though you know this, those close to you know this, for some reason the burden of proof always seems to lie heavy on your shoulders to convince the world otherwise. It’s exhausting. It’s unnecessary. And it’s getting old.

I have reached the point in my life, that I’m tired of surviving. I’ll be 46 in just over a month. I’m ready to begin thriving.

I have asked a few of my friends who are going through some crap of their own what their life would look like if they had a blank check. What would they be doing right now if they could just get their wish. Blank check is the metaphor I use because so much of what gets in the way of our happiness seems to be associated with money. Here’s a pro tip. You are never going to have enough money to get everything you want. It’s better to focus on a goal, and goals start with dreams.

It’s a lot like musing about “What would you do if you won the Lottery?” I never play the lottery because that’s just a way to tell yourself you will never get what you want. If you look down the road to one or three or five or ten years away and your life hasn’t moved in the direction of what you want, and your excuse is “I didn’t win the lottery,” that is on YOU. It’s not on the state lottery commission.

I know what my blank check dream is, but I also know that it has nothing to do with having an obscene amount of money that will solve all of my problems. Some problems cannot be solved by throwing money at them, just as some diseases cannot be cured by chucking pills at them. Every step forward in the right direction counts. And some of the steps we need to be taking are figuring out what we really don’t like about ourselves and being conscious of that. Making an effort to change what you don’t like, not for anyone else, but for your own mental health and peace of mind.

There’s a wonderful quote from Epictetus which says:

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”
― Epictetus

In the last several years since my divorce, going on seven in October, I have had my whole life laid bare before strangers, judges, therapists, psychologists, friends, relationships that have not lasted, and family many times over. It’s a lot of work. I’ve had moments where I have realized that I am struggling. Moments where I realize I am triggered by old patterns I have worked hard to get past, moments of insecurity and self-doubt. Moments of feeling lost and abandoned, taken for granted, or dismissed outright as not worth someone else’s time. I’ve fought demons in my head which make me feel like I am missing out on something greater, only to understand that even the time I have alone is precious.

Our lives are a work in progress. One which is continually built on, improved, reconfigured and restructured until we can find comfort in our existence. If anything we can spot the moments that are going to cause us pain and do something about them before we are hurt. And if we can’t then at least we can get back up and start healing as soon as we are knocked down.

I know mostly what is getting in my way, and it’s not the lottery. It’s little moments that I continue to work on. Challenges I have to face. A lot of damn work I have to put into things like self-discipline, patience, compassion, and sometimes fighting an uphill battle in a war of attrition. And sometimes just mustering up the courage to ask for help. Because I really suck at that sometimes.

Yesterday felt like a dream because nothing was working right. I tried to get out of town for the day to go sit in a hot spring. I drove for an hour an a half to find that the place was shut down on account of lightning. The drive home consisted of taking a half hour (or longer) nap in my car because a truck had rolled off the road. It felt a lot like that dream you have where nothing seems to be going right, or you are dreaming of a place you’ve never been and it just seems hollow, flat like a movie set with a matte painting in the background of some exotic place. Your scope is limited and without that experience to give it life, it won’t get any better than that. As though the reality of it is just beyond that canvas and you know if you could just reach through it, everything would be so vivid.

That’s what it feels like. And when you give yourself a blank check and you say “If I could reach out and have everything I wanted, what would that look like?” you have to be prepared to know that some of the flaws you are dealing with in yourself are exactly what are keeping you from touching that world. But sometimes there are things outside of your control and in those moments, you have to give yourself permission to just take a nap, or beat yourself up just a little bit. Not for very long. I can beat myself up better than anyone else can. Because if they knew all my flaws, they would have mentioned those too. I know my flaws, and they are abundant. And I’ve also paid my dues on so many of them. The ones I haven’t, well, the check is in the mail.

At 46 it’s hard to escape all that baggage. A lot of people my age like to whine about how broken they are but that’s just an excuse for them to continue to cut others on their jagged pieces. If you can recognize that moment in yourself, you will stop cutting those who are trying to get close to you, or those stubborn enough to stand by you through the good and the bad. And not putting in the work to smooth out some of those sharp edges is just as useless as complaining that you aren’t happy because you didn’t win the lottery. You were once once sperm and one egg that somehow got combined through an impossible series of coincidences. You already won the lottery a long time ago. Congratulations.

One thought on “Work in Progress

  1. I am fond of a quote from the Vorkosigan Saga, “Forward Momentum!”.

    Also Dory (“Finding Nemo”): “Just keep swimming”.

    Sometimes one foot forward at a time is all you can do. And sometimes you need to stop to check out the far horizon.

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