If one is making progress toward a given goal, no matter how slowly, self-affirmation is due in abundance. If one has a goal but is making no progress toward it, both the aim and the reasons for lack of progress are to be called into question. If one has no goals, yet lives with discontent, the reason, however elusive, is ultimately self. If one has no goals and lives in bliss, then all steps of the ladder of life lay behind them.
Approval vampire, spinning compass, part-time lost soul; I might start an awkward t-shirt biz.
My aim is true, but is my target? “What target?” I ask myself. This is a new and unwelcome question.
Goals, I’ve had plenty, many of them achieved, others had to be set free. Motives? I shudder to think that at times they’ve manifested in the service of being accepted, appreciated, loved, etc., though I fear that may be the unflattering truth. Not in every case of course, but often enough that I owe it to myself to do a little psychological archeology. Seeking the birthplace of motivation seems like a good place to start.
Weakness, victimhood, neediness, I have worn these mantles from time to time. Donned such untoward raiments, for all the world to witness. All the world that is, but for myself. The mirror shows us only that which we agree to see. For many years I was blind to the presence of these less becoming personal “qualities” I’ll call them because to paraphrase Jack Nicholson “I couldn’t handle the truth.”
“The Truth” is, of course, a multifaceted moving target. It is, like a mirror, difficult to trust (ironically) because of the human ability to unwittingly (or otherwise) contaminate it with personal prejudice. Our capacity to inflate or diminish our relationship to, respect for, or understanding of the truth is Homeric in magnitude. I feel heartsick just thinking about all the lies I’ve inadvertently told myself.
Wisdom, like Montezuma’s gold, is easy to talk about, harder to lay one’s hands on. This psychological digging, or flailing, or whatever it is that I’ve undertaken started when a tear appeared in the fabric of my personal universe. Suddenly, after surviving adolescence (barely), building a career and raising two wonderful sons, I awoke one morning to the feeling that I no longer knew what was propelling my life forward. I found myself wondering, then wondering some more; a passenger and prisoner of inertia. The continuum of clear goals I had used all these years as ladder rungs, as definitions of purpose, as “meaning,” had suddenly splintered and blown away like the seeds of a late summer dandelion. Thanks Middle Age…Bastard!
It’s a phase. Everything’s a phase. Its a “waiting place” I suppose. Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for normalizing and putting a name to that part of living that can be so vexing and seem so individually and solitarily suffered. It is easy to feel uniquely alone when muddling through a challenging experience, so easy, yet so profoundly incorrect. Can I get an amen?
“The Obstacle is the Way” according to Ryan Holiday, and from where I sit it better be. The usual shit isn’t working. I can’t exercise, socialize or anesthetize away the nagging feeling that I no longer have the answer to the question “why?” There it is, the obstacle, and the disquieting truth. As many of us sang at camp while going on a bear hunt, “can’t go around it. Can’t go under it. Gotta go through it!” So it appears.
The “truth” may be that “the waiting place” is as good as it gets right now. The place where I sit with this puzzle, patiently pulling tea leaves and reading for clues. That is assuming I can resist the temptation to distract, numb, or otherwise give myself an easy way out of confronting the uncertainty surrounding my current master purpose here and now on this spinning orb. The “dare” then must be to find the fortitude to forsake these myriad options for escape and stare down the barrel of the void until it blinks.
Tacking hard back and forth across the teeth of the wind. Spray filling my eyes as the bow plunges into wave after indifferent wave. The imprint of rope on my clenched fingers may by now be permanent. The going is slow and my destination still so far off that I’ve almost forgotten its original allure. All I know is that the safe harbor I’ve been seeking seems to lie at the birthplace of the relentless headwind. “Perhaps it is time to choose a new course,” I think as another wash of spray wipes my brow. “Perhaps.”
The stories any of us can recall about sailing downwind are few for their lack of incident, even scarcer if one has never actually sailed, but let’s say its national metaphor day and roll with it. For most of us, our many days are marked in turn by periods of smooth runnings, threatening waters, and periods of the listless, anxiety-provoking doldrums. Each it seems has their time and place on the nautical map of our journey, and I imagine a reason they’ve found us, or we’ve found them. Few milestones rise up in monolithic fashion while we are enjoying the momentary gift of easy passage through this life. It may be that the cursed wind, or lack of it, thwarting our efforts at any given moment is also the very gift that aids us in the writing of a story finally worth telling.