I shouldn’t be here now. Living. Writing. Relationshipping.
Seriously: I’ve done everything wrong.
I shouldn’t have left my job-job 16 years ago (and counting). Not that Real Job, with its corner office view and its fancypants title and its fatty paycheck and its sweet bennies.
I shouldn’t have moved out to Los Angeles to chase a half-baked dream. I definitely shouldn’t have then dumped the half-baked dream for the even loonier one of becoming an actor.
I shouldn’t have left the hospital that weekend. I shouldn’t have gotten rid of the Similac and everything else on the doctor-recommended BLAND diet and gone on the non-doctor-recommended Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I shouldn’t have worn extra layers of clothing and filled my pockets with change for my first weigh-in, to buy myself more time.
I shouldn’t have left my marriage: we loved each other; that’s supposed to be enough, right? And I certainly shouldn’t have entered into a committed relationship with a married man.
The older I get, and, let’s face it, the less authority figures whose worry-laden calls of inquiry after my current madness that I have to take twice weekly, the more comfortable I am with doing the stuff on the left side of the “but”. The craaaazy stuff.
I’d like to try parachuting but…
I’d like to take a sabbatical but…
I’d like to try the chicken tikka masala this time but…
A couple of things worth noting here. First, some people really don’t want to do any of that stuff; they just like jaw-flappin’. That’s cool, but you know what? If you’re here, putting yourself through the very specific agony of reading all these verbal gymnastics to unearth some pearl, odds are you aren’t of the fish-mawed yarnspinner variety.
Second, not all of the stuff on the left side of the “but” need be executed. Or, given your current circumstances, is even executable, by a sane and responsible citizen, anyway. If you’re the sole means of support for a family of seven, I’d consider you a prize shithead if you ditched them to pursue your left-of-the-but dream of…well, anything.
What you are allowed to do, what we all must do, and always, because we are not fixed in stone, is to stay awake and keep your finger on the pulse of your desires. Provided you are not just talking for the sake of hearing your own voice (and if you are, well, dang, there’s a little something you could study for a bit, isn’t there?) the stuff on the left of the but, in my experience, is the you that’s a few steps ahead calling out for a little help, here. Whether that voice is a canary in a coalmine, tweeting your tatty and inevitable death-by-not-being-alive or a quietly shining light guiding you through an approaching fog to the next safe harbor lies largely with how you treat it.
The big breakthrough for me was starting to look at the stuff on the left side of the “but” as a bit of guidance: a place to start. Is there something about parachuting that’s interesting to me? What is it? Or them, all of them? And while we’re at it, let’s have a look-see at the stuff on the right side. What, exactly, is this thing that is stopping me? How do I feel about that? Is it even true, or is it a rutted road, an old story, something I don’t particularly like or believe in anymore, but have come to accept as a fixed given?
You don’t have to parachute; you just have to sit down and make a list. Surely, you can sit down and make a list. (Yes, I can. And don’t call me “Shirley.”)
I speak of the list both literally (I am a big listmaker) and metaphorically (hello, therapy!). This is about you, getting down with you. Use whatever time and tools necessary, because really, you aren’t going anywhere until you do. That thing about your shit following you around? About the Universe, in its infinite diaffected jackassery, delivering the lesson to you time and time again until you learn it? Living proof, right here.
At the end of your listmaking, literal or metaphorical, you may decide that yeah, parachuting is just the thing, and what the hell are you waiting for? You may find that you actually hate the idea of a sabbatical but you hate your job even more. You may find that this fear of ordering anything but korma is the tip of a particular iceberg you might want to start addressing…by having the tikka masala.
The thing is to look at the thing. Pay attention to the thing, both sides of it, and how they intersect (or don’t). Since I started applying this thinking, I’ve not done as many craaaazy things as I have done, but I’ve considered them all. Considering costs you nothing but a little cold, hard light on your interior works. Which I realize is more than some of us are willing to do, ever, and that any of us are willing to do always, but again, you and I are both here, so I’m guessing we both get down with the craaaazy from time to time.
Which is why, like the subject line sez, I’m heading up to Seattle later this week. For a month.
There are plenty of good reasons to not get in my car this week and drive 1,135 miles just to do there what I do here, or much of it, anyway, god willing and the creek don’t rise. Gas is crazy-expensive. The drive is long. I leave behind unfinished, L.A.-specific projects here. Not to mention an excellent boyfriend and his equally excellent dog.
But there are other, less-Good reasons to go. I fell in love with the PacNW when I visited it last year, and want to see if what I saw and felt was true. I’ve “met” a lot of folks from parts north-by-northwest and feel like it’s time to actually meet them.
Biggest of all the fuzzy reasons to go: I’m coming up on my 16th year here in Los Angeles, and it gets harder to see stuff when you’ve been looking at it for so long. Or, it seems, to make stuff.
So here’s me, doing the craaaazy thing. Going to Seattle to meet people. In the middle of fall. To make stuff. To talk about it all.
It took a long time of things lining up in my head (listmaking! therapy!) and a fortuitous clutch of circumstances to do it, but I’m going. I’ve been surprised at how non-surprised, even supportive, the people I’ve told have been.
Maybe we all want to do the stuff on the left side of the but more than we know.
Maybe it’s time to start thinking about it…