Here I am, mid-July, doing what we all tend to do this time of year: lamenting how quickly the summer is passing, remarking just a few days ago how we desperately need rain, (careful what you wish for), and languishing in and out of various air-conditioned spaces, trying to stay comfortable. It’s mid-year, and I find myself smack dab in the middle of the summer, in the very middle of my life. I’m as in the middle as middle can be. Straddling the fence that divides the first part of my journey from the rest of it, I’ve paused for a minute, trying to keep my face turned toward the sun, because I’m not quite ready to touch down on the other side just yet.
Here’s the thing, and yes, it’s a depressing thing: I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning. What a stunning realization for a girl who took a long time to grow up.
At almost 50, I want to believe that the world is still good, that we are diligently uncovering truths, and making it our mission to correct wrongs, but I’ve become jaded, because when you’re planted in the middle, there is too much past to let go of, and not enough future to look forward to. I battle these feelings. They swing like a pendulum, bobbing from restless, outlet-seeking energy to sheer middle-aged exhaustion. I want to have a fulfilling, productive day, but I also just want to go to bed.
And when I do rest upon my pillow, when I’m deep within the musings of a midsummer night’s dream, I wistfully contemplate my existence. What’s it all for? Why am I here? What’s my unique purpose?
Am I here to be silly and spread laughter? Maybe. The “funny girl” is who I seem to be, and it comes naturally. I am most myself when I make people laugh at my weirdness, at my willingness to do or say the absurd, at my off-center way of looking at the world. That’s okay. Laughter is good. I’ll take it.
Am I simply here to be a wife and mother? Sure. Okay. I’ve tried my best to hold everything together, to be good and loving, and I hope that someday my children will pass along the good and loving parts of me to their children, if and when they have families of their own.
But, here in the middle, I find myself wallowing inside my own stagnancy, uninspired by the things that used to inspire me. My life “moments” are indeed captured for Instagram, but they lack the “genuine” quality needed for real truth telling. In the middle, the blur between what’s real, and what’s projected has become more profound.
When Anthony Bourdain took his own life, I checked out. It was yet another blow to my increasingly despondent heart. How could someone seemingly so in love with life call it quits? I’ve thought about him and his fabulous gypsy-soul spirit all summer. Tony and I shared something kindred. I think maybe it was because he was a humble truth seeker and a raw truth teller and oh, how I admired that. He was the real deal, someone who opened up about his illness, and saw right through layers of bullshit, (mostly his own).
The circumstances of his death lead to the conclusion that while he was clearly still experiencing the revelation of new places and people, he no longer felt the sense of wonder that always came along for the ride. And when you don’t feel anything, you stop caring. I think he was dealing with a prolonged lack of inspiration, despite what he projected to the world via the show he produced. Maybe he felt like he was pretending, and he just couldn’t live with being phony. He hated phonies.
On a minor, way less public scale, I’ve come to recognize that my moments, the ones I display on Instagram and Facebook lack that “genuine” quality needed for crystal clear truth. We are so saturated with filtered images, virtual tourism, and streaming information that our real worlds no longer elicit the actual thrill, that shot of dopamine we all seek.
Succulents, campers, poetry, gardens, exercise. Avocados, for God’s sake. My sources of inspiration no longer inspire me, and it’s scary to admit that I, too, need something more. Something needs to shift, so that I, too, can shift. Inside my imperfect humanness, I must find a way to stay inspired, energized, living, and authentic. And as someone who rides the depression roller coaster, I know I need to fight for it.
What helps is remembering that things are just things, and it’s better, here in the middle of my life, to cling to what they represent. For example, succulents are cool, interesting, easy, different, and fun. Campers embody freedom, wanderlust, adventure, and exploration. What helps is remembering that no matter what, it’s feeling that inspires us, not the thing.
Maybe my purpose isn’t just to be and talk about all the ways I am. Maybe my purpose is to let it be and not overthink anything. Maybe I should strive to honor my life by simply feeling every last bit of it. Maybe, instead of looking for the next new thing to lift and inspire me, I need to open myself up, and let that thing, that feeling, come to me.
“Everything changes” is a Buddhist expression. It’s simple, clear, and a tad cliché. But it’s the truth in two words. I’ve added to it, though, because apparently I haven’t mastered “let it be” just yet. My saying is, “everything changes if I allow it.”
Last weekend, I found myself walking through some gorgeous perennial gardens (a beautiful world) on a farm with two old, very dear friends. We felt the cool rain on our shoulders, but we took that walk together anyway, and inspiration reached out to us through the gnarly roots and long limbs of a stunning, aging European Beech Tree. The sheer beauty, intricacy, and formidable size of it literally took our breath away. Sometimes there’s a thing so glorious in this world, a thing put directly in our path that makes us pause for more than a minute. A thing that makes us feel something real, if we allow it.
My childhood friends and I laughed and posed and connected the way we did once upon a time as children, and I knew in that moment, that little moment inside the middle of summer, the middle of a blustery day, the middle of my very own precious life, that it was enough.