The pressure to Do

I feel the pressure to do. In all aspects of my life. I feel an expectation, across the board, to accomplish, to experience, to produce, to communicate. Is this a symptom of contemporary life? Must one always be doing? Be engaged? Be actively participating?

I went to grad school wanting to write. I left grad school wanting a job. I’ve now been out of grad school longer than I’ve been in it, and I don’t know what I want from myself, or from my work. That’s a little untrue. I know how I want to live, and I know what, personally I want the work to be about, and what I want to say. What I don’t know is if there is a sustainable way to live how I wish, to write what I wish. I don’t know if what I want is sustainable.

In the morning I login, I decide, I hurry up. Throughout the day I calculate, I schedule, I get from one place to the next and do that which I’m meant to do there before moving on to the next place. There is no interacting or experiencing, there is only doing, then going and doing elsewhere.

All of the many things I try to teach my son are really only one thing: think it through. That is the goal here. To think it through.

The woman on the train, with her curly hair tied back in a pouf, a sundress in muted yellows and brown, black lines drawn round her eyes; she looks so giving, she leans against his broad snoopy t shirt, and he kisses her head while she closes her eyes.

To experience. To provide experience and opportunity. To enrich with perspective.

C shows me his structure.
C: Mommy do you like this?
Me: I like it very much, but more important is what you think of it. What do you think?

It is not new to me to feel disconnected, to feel separate, to lack a sense of belonging to a group larger than Dave and myself, but it is new to want it. I attempt connection, I bring people together, I make collaborative work, I try to get to know the parents of my son’s peers. I try to stay up late and foster connection. I try to be part of things. But I feel a distance, between the connection and my small beating heart. I feel a distance between the people around me and me. They look together, they look connected, do they feel it? We look together, we look connected, do we feel it? Are we always outside? Are we always inside? Is the inability to be with people my own? A curse of modern life? Archetypical? Genetic? Mom says she feels like an observer, a participant in the future tense, watching the present happen as thought it’s already happened and she’s thinking about it’s having happened instead of experiencing that which is happening in the present moment. 

I fight with myself to be parts of existing moments. It’s like I have to manually shut off certain aspects of my thought process in order to be part of my actual life. Otherwise I feel like an interested but not particularly stakeholdibg observer. I think that is why, when I am focused, it is hard for me to break that focus and switch to something else. Like how I’m trying not to have the post vacation grumps on my whole vacationy weekend trippy summer, in which my goal was to out of town for more weekends than we were in town.

Do people regularly feel connected to the world around them? To people? Do they not feel like ghosts who must make an extreme effort to be heard, and even then at just a whisper? Staying up late and drinking and laughing around a camp fire, my family in New England, where the trees looks right and the air breathes in memory. Feeling close to them, wanting to feel close to them, feeling a great distance. My brother, my cousins, all in their late 20’s, and beautiful, vibrant, biting off giant chunks of adulthood in a way that I still feel I haven’t. Here at the end of my 30’s I feel like a teen mom. My younger cousins and siblings seem almost more adult than my dad, his brother and sisters, who while relaxed are taking stock of what’s next, evaluating options and considerations, watching their mother, my dear Gramma Dag, turn into the setting sun, the final years of her life. It seems not for my age group to take the helm (and in my family, there is only me and a few cousins who I adore but rarely see), but the ones after me, the ones who have not spent their lives pottering around in Aunt Judy’s barn, hanging flashlights and typing up scripts, learning lines, and stitching costumes, making up a show for passers by. Perhaps they’ve been pottering, in whatever way they’ve taken to potter, and I can’t see it because they make it seem so effortless on the outside.

Crash back into New York and am instantly asked for money, berated for saying no, hustled up the subway stairs by a harried bottle-blonde with a whiny voice and overgrown muscles, nearly pushed down the escalator by a stick figure fashionista.

I’m seeing this summer that life is not a process. There’s no place to get to, there’s no vantage point where you see how far you’ve come and realize that you have arrived. Rather every moment has the potential to be a scenic vista on the wonder that is life itself. There is nowhere to get to, there is not even happiness or fulfillment or satisfaction, rather these too are feelings and states of being that exist within moments. Nothing is lasting but love, nothing is as fleeting as life. Enjoy the people we love, self included, meet them where they stand.

I was late for work all this week. Couldn’t wrap myself around the urgency of leaving my kitchen table and dressing, heading out into this delightful late summer weather that has a dash of early fall contained within.

What I want C to learn is how to think. We’ve been talking lots about education in our house this summer, and C has had several different learning experiences in his short educational career. I don’t remember my early education being quite so fraught. What’s changed? Why is it such a race to do and be done? My new preference is to take it slow, call it middle age. Eek. The destination will still be there when I get to it so I might as well enjoy the ride. Also everything you could have done a parallel you in an alternate dimension most likely has done, so relax into the experience of your life, it’s the only one not being lived by an alternate you.

Kindergarten begins in a few weeks. A new school for C. My wee prayer for C’s new school year: let him relax, be confident, not freak out, trust himself, his abilities, and his own good judgement. Let him not accidentally step on the pet lizard, and not lose his grip when he is expected to fall in, and not to lead. Amen.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s