“Are you crying?” he asked, after a long pause.
“Maybe,” I responded.
“Why? Because you’re tired?”
“Maybe,” I said again. It was all I could force out between muffled sobs.
“Oh, so that’s where June gets it” he joked.
Huffing an involuntary laugh, I said, “Probably.”
Our words hung over us in the darkness as I struggled to catch a long breath, annoyed at the wet feeling of the tear-soaked pillow underneath my cheek.
Truthfully, I was extremely tired.
On day two of an experimental week with no weed smoking and an early morning routine that began with an outdoor run, my body was waking me up at odd hours.
That morning, it had been 5:30am.
Try as I might to get an hour’s more rest, my body seemed to register the bright light and bird chirping outside the window as a signal to GO DO SOMETHING.
Without the residual weed in my system to keep me blissfully unconscious, I was mildly curious to find out how my body’s real internal clock operated. But also very irritated.
Also, without the reliance on weed to mask my feelings and shut down the thoughts constantly raging inside my brain, I could feel every bit of what I could only assume was PMS.
So that’s fun.
But my tearful breakdown was about far more than just plain old exhaustion and hormones.
This was deeper than that.
Mentally digging through my knee-deep (and growing) pile of emotional compost, I uprooted a few possible culprits for the involuntary waterworks.
Among them: embarrassment and it’s close friend, shame.
But it was their third-wheel companion whom I recognized immediately, an oft-visiting frenemy who always insists on announcing his arrival with a soul-deflating, gut-punched feeling that simultaneously knocks the wind from my lungs and reduces me to heaving sobs…
Hello, again. I see, as usual, you forgot to wipe your feet or bring flowers.
It’s the least you could do.
Earlier that afternoon, none of these shadows had darkened my door. In fact, I was positively glowing with hope and excitement, staring into the face of a life filled with possibility.
Don’t get me wrong: life is still filled with possibility. I know this, even though my heart seems to believe otherwise. It’s just not as impending or palpable as it was at 2:00pm.
My heart prefers palpable. It likes things it can see, taste, smell, and touch.
And it could do all of that with the bright and shining press release I had written announcing my husband’s receipt of a local award for being the area’s top yoga instructor.
An award he neither asked for, wanted, nor felt that he deserved.
See, recipients of this award are chosen through a community-voting process. So, at a time in my husband’s very first days of teaching, when he wasn’t ready to believe he had any talent or worthwhile skill, I determined that he HAD to win.
In my mind, he needed a lift and this award would be it – a sign that he was doing what he was meant to, fulfilling his calling, and absolutely talented.
Sometimes, though, it’s really best to let folks stumble through their own darkness to find light rather than attempting to blast a fog lamp into the chaos and announcing YOU’RE FINE.
The latter is more jarring than anything, though your motives may be pure as gold.
And this is exactly what I discovered in the process of enlisting help from local friends to get Nick the award.
Obviously, he won. A victory that, to him, felt cheap and false. Understandably.
But it was something I couldn’t understand, at least not at the time.
Unable to see the goddam forest for the trees, I assumed he was just being modest and having trouble believing in himself.
So, naturally, the answer was to go even HAM-er at the problem.
With the help of one of my longtime clients, a PR gal in California, I worked up a solid press release and planned to blast it out to the entire universe.
This, I believed, is what smart, strategic business people did. This is how people get ahead: they take a win, no matter how small or (possibly) cheap and use it to catalyze more success.
I was a titan of industry. I was dripping with business savvy. I was going to get Nick a spot on Oprah.
I just forgot one tiny little thing: he really, reeeeeally didn’t want any of it.
If I’d paid even a shred of attention, I may have noticed that I was repeatedly raking my best friend over the coals of shame and embarrassment.
I suppose the joke’s on me, because now they’ve left his party and crashed at my place.
Last night, as it slowly dawned on me what was happening before my very eyes, it began to sink in how evil my real motives were…
This whole thing wasn’t about Nick at all. It was about me.
At a plateau in my own freelance career – a plateau, mind you, where things are going just fine, I’m making enough money, and nothing very catastrophic is happening – I felt stuck.
There was no clear next step. No obvious Next Big Thing. No approaching opportunity for something even GRANDER.
And when that happens, I tend to start worrying that everything is about to fall apart in the next 5 minutes.
Because, without some impending doom to obssess over, what am I, really? Happy? Is that what happiness is? Somebody explain it to me, because I don’t seem to understand it.
Nick, though. Nick had an opportunity. An obvious one. One that I decided was his “big shot” at fame, fortune, and (pretty much) all of the things I want for myself.
I was able to do for my own husband what I couldn’t seem to do for myself: recognize his talent, get it publicly validated, and use it to catapult him to stardom.
Except, he isn’t really after public validation. At least, not the kind which he hasn’t earned.
This, of course, makes him a bit more principled than me – a fact I didn’t know about myself until just now.
Suddenly, I had become this smarmy, sweet-talking snake-oil saleswoman, eager to convince him to take hold of his good fortune… because then, I’d get to ride along on his coattails.
I already had it all mapped out. His press release would garner national attention. I’d, of course, serve as his interim press secretary, scheduling interviews and magazine features.
I’d run his blog. Maybe write his memoir.
Someday, we’d toast our kombuchas on some balcony overlooking the Caspian Sea and stare deeply into each other’s eyes, grateful for the journey and all the “lucky” breaks that landed us on a yacht full of shrimp and butlers.
“Thank you” he’d say, “for believing in me before I could believe in myself.” And then, we’d sail off into the sunset (without our kids, who would obviously be doing important things like running for president, performing brain surgery, or composing their next hit symphony).
I don’t really know what changed last night, as we were brushing our teeth in silence.
Suddenly, I could sense Nick’s agitation, feel his angst about putting himself out there for all the wrong reasons. Finally, I realized what I was doing.
And I saw our much more likely future: sharing a bigger, nicer home with shinier, nicer things, not speaking much (or possibly divorced), Nick never quite able to forgive me for shoving him into the limelight so soon – a place where he felt entirely alone and on display.
He wasn’t ready for this wild ride to fame. Truthfully, neither was I.
Nothing in life that’s worthwhile comes that easily. I know this. But I was more than willing to overlook it for a chance to shake up my life and feel differently.
I want my dream life, filled with exotic travels and enough money to never worry about things like a defunct roof. And I want it now, dammit.
The problem is, I have no idea how to use my own talents and skills to get it. Which, naturally, makes me feel dumb and inadequate.
It sucks, feeling like you weren’t given the same tools as other, more successful people to just figure it the fuck out already.
It sucks having a sneaking suspicion that you might never make anything of yourself, never achieve the things you want so badly to achieve, and, at the end of it all, know that you didn’t quite do your absolute best with what you were given.
The problem, of course, is with my definition of “doing my best with what I’m given.”
It occurs to me that God might have other ideas.
I’ve never quite been able to come to grips with His promise to “give me the desires of my heart” if I find my purpose in Him.
I don’t trust that His interpretation of my desires matches the desires I feel on a daily basis.
Because, let’s be honest, it probably doesn’t.
If God gave me the things I think I desire, I’d most likely still be miserable. Maybe even more so.
As humans, our desires – I mean the deep, unspoken ones we barely get in touch with – are all pretty much the same, aren’t they?
We want to feel loved for who we really are, connected to people who truly know us, who can watch us make the same fucking stupid mistakes over and over again and still support us through life’s turmoil.
We want to feel purposeful and valued for our gifts, able to use them in a way that feels healthy and good. In a way that maybe brings joy to the world, rather than the same disheartening shit we see every day.
We want to feel safe, free to say and do the things we keep locked up inside, for fear that those around us will reject us and walk away.
Last year, I got exactly what I thought I wanted: a fat (enough) bank account and a chance to live in another country. I got to pursue the adventure I felt would complete my life.
But, after just 3 months in Costa Rica, I didn’t feel complete. I felt trapped, bored, uncertain, and afraid. I felt all of the things I (didn’t realize I) was trying to get away from.
As it turns out, the “desires of my heart” aren’t quite as cut-and-dried as I’d imagined.
And it kinda sucks to feel like, after 33 years, you don’t know yourself at all.
In fact, you’re a complete stranger whose flaws and crappy habits get you into the exact same frustrating situations, whether you’re in Missoula, Montana or on the coast of Central America.
So now, I suppose the “easy” answer is: try the other alternative. Find your purpose in God and maybe, just maybe, you’ll finally uncover what you really desire… maybe feel less lost and confused.
But the “easy” answer isn’t easy at all. After 23 years with my butt in a church pew (yes, that math checks out), I’ve got no fucking clue how to find my purpose in God.
I keep thinking I do. But then, I find myself bullying my husband into becoming rich and famous so I can realize MY purpose: money and fame.
The whole purpose-finding thing, the way God intends it, really isn’t my style.
I much prefer concrete steps to follow, clear and immediate shortcuts I can take toward feeling better and whole.
His whole deal is all about mystery and intrigue and listening, not with my ears like a normal person, but with my spirit. I mean, what the hell does that even look like?
My thing is movement, His is stillness.
I’m searching for instant healing and answers, He’s more inclined to take His time.
I’m always kind of floored at the story of Abraham… how, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, he isn’t allowed to enter the promised land he dreamt about for soooo many years.
And after all that hard work trying to lead a group of annoying, needy people!
But he seems cool with it. He was a man of faith. He knew that what was coming – heaven – was far cooler than any earthly promised land.
Some days, I can convince myself of that, too. That the things I think I want only pale in comparison to the awesome shit God has planned “for those who love Him.”
Today, though, I just need a good cry as I sit, wait on the mystery to be worked out before me, and work to accept that I may never reach my personal version of the promised land.
But then, maybe it isn’t what I really wanted anyways.