Life is difficult.
M. Scott Peck opened The Road Less Traveled with that line and I don’t guess I know anyone who’d disagree. A few weeks ago, when my family was in the midst of yet another minor crisis, my dad asked me, “Aren’t you glad you gave up on waiting for life to finally calm down and get easy?”
Yes, I am. Very glad. That was exhausting, when I thought that eventually, the universe would finally bestow upon me the easy, angst-free life to which I would like to become accustomed. It was like hiking, and I’m climbing the hill, and I’m convinced that when I reach the summit, I’ll finally see the lake spread before me, but no. Every hilltop grants me the view of another hill to climb. Surely this one? Nope, another hill. And another.
The hills are less steep now, the hike less arduous, but I don’t quite know how to stop climbing.
If I had to guess (It’s really only a guess; I used to think self-awareness was an achievable thing and now I know self-awareness is the narrative I tell myself, about myself, and as soon as I think I have myself all figured out, something will change and I need a new story.), I’d say I’m in a very late process of growing up. My adult life has been defined by nothing so much as chaos, some of which happened to me and some of which I happened to create. The past three years have been the calmest I’ve ever experienced and while that doesn’t mean life has been easy or quiet or calm, it does mean I’m face-to-face with myself. For two decades, my life was dominated by turmoil: a bad marriage and the subsequent divorce; single parenthood; trying to get an education while parenting; blending families; unemployment and financial challenges; our youngest son’s disabilities; alienation from my two eldest children; protracted, bitter battles with extended family; and my own mental illness.
Now. Now, for the first time, though life is still difficult, we’re not living in perpetual chaos. When the crises come, they recede. Life has as many challenges as ever, but far fewer emergencies.
I am grateful. Deeply, extraordinarily grateful, but I don’t know how to live now. I’m not depressed, exactly, but I’m lost. I have what I wanted all along: for life to stop demanding I put out one fire after another after another and give me some space to breathe and create a life that revolves around spirituality, family, and creativity. Now that I have that space, though, I find I’m calibrated all wrong. I don’t know how to show up for life when there’s no air raid siren demanding anything of me.