Over the weekend, as I was completing my morning rituals of looking at emails and texts and checking social media, I was a bit confused when I opened my personal Facebook page and it directed me to my posts from a day in December in 2011 rather than my most recent updates. Because I believe in serendipity, I suspected that this was no coincidence. However, I had no clear understanding of why that day or that year. I started scrolling through the posts, suddenly abandoning my growing distaste for the uselessness of Facebook and found myself swept back to my life 2 years ago. This exercise required that I read between the lines of my posts and photos to get the real story in an attempt to understand what was happening and why, by chance, I had found myself revisiting this time in my life. I leaned back in my chair, closed my eyes and sent myself back to that place in time. Unfortunately, though, I made no connection so I kept scrolling down, now highly intrigued. I suddenly realized that I was in search of information that would enlighten me about changes in my life. I was looking for something more than different hairstyles, friends that had fallen in and out favor or the various places I had visited. I was looking for a landmark moment when life was so different from what it is today that there was a palpable shift I could feel. I was looking for a demarcation that might indicate a before and after. A touch point for me to measure change. I feverishly started scrolling through my posts, year after year and then I found it.
It was calling out to me the whole time. It forced me to travel down the road to find it.
It was a day.
A day that, on Facebook, looked like any other day. I was commenting about the banalities of my commute into New York City. I was annoyed by the early morning hour that I had to get on the train. It was no longer de rigueur for me to be out of the house that early and it happened several times that week. I had no idea what was in store for me that day and, when the day concluded, I didn’t know that my life had changed. In fact, on that day, there was no obvious shift. It was not a noteworthy event. There was no groundswell. No fanfare. No fireworks. It was just a day. But it changed my life forever.
I find this remarkable. I try so hard to be aware of events as they are occurring to save them in my mind for posterity yet, sometimes, we have no idea that something is happening. There are no clear signals that you are supposed to pay attention. No giant banners waving across the road to grab your attention. I spend so much time recollecting and I rely upon those valuable moments to help me with my memories. And, frankly, I find it even more amazing when I get to go back and visit those moments like I did the other day because I was not paying attention that day. It was a complete surprise. It snuck up out of nowhere. I love that what often seems like an ordinary day, a simple occurrence, a forgettable moment in life becomes significant, extraordinary and, even, life-altering. You just don’t know it at the time.
All of this is relevant because, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I am working to become more aware of how I process information. There are days that I believe I am losing my mind, for sure. Times when I think that my thinking is harmful. I fight my own internal yin/yang battle between acceptance of my hard-wiring and all the benefits that come along with it versus the level of self-torture it produces. My sense of nostalgia, my need to go back and revisit the little pieces in order to pull them into the larger picture can be a gratifying and fulfilling experience yet it can also drag me down into places that are painful to visit. But they all are critical for my story. They are all parts of the narrative and the absence of any of it leaves me searching for answers.
Similarly, I am working to pay attention to experiences as they happen in order to learn how to process in the moment more effectively. I am trying to learn how to manage my own challenges in a more productive and meaningful way in order to grow and improve rather than continually falling into the same hole in the ground again and again and again and again.
After writing The Divide, as often happens, I reread my post and thought a lot about what motivated me as I was writing it and what some of the deeper and more poignant points were for me. Yesterday, taking a moment to revisit it, I sat at my dining room table and had to quiet my mind. There was so much noise. The kids had been home from school for some time and there was an endless chant of “Mommy, can you…” “Mommy, I need….” “Mommy, where is…” All typical behavior, especially on those more chaotic days. My younger son was anxiously anticipating the creation of the brownies he would bring to school today for his birthday. My older son was in search of his basketball uniform. Both children were wanting snacks, help with homework and to tell me about the myriad random thoughts they had during the day. It was a typical evening in my home. But, for me, I was still sorting through stuff. I have been traveling for work quite a bit this month and feel like I have one foot out the door at all times. I never just settle in because, regardless of where I am, it’s almost time to leave to go to the next place. This month, my house is less like a home and more like a waypoint. A stopover en route to someplace else. There’s no time to make connections, just transactions. Get done what needs to get done until you move to the next thing that needs to get done. Low value yet high priority. As I sat down, just staring at my computer screen, I felt lost. I felt aimless and ungrounded. I was hoping an email would appear to guide me to a purpose because my mind was fuzzy and I felt myself slipping. I was falling right into the divide that just 24 hours ago I had written about – the very chasm that I reportedly was careful to avoid. Despite it being right there, right in the forefront of my consciousness, I was falling into the trap. Had my posting the night before actually been a warning bell? Were the words a hidden message to myself that I was at risk of slipping? Was it no coincidence that my friend posted the quote that sparked the inspiration that marinated the thoughts that pushed the words to the surface? Probably serendipity indeed.
But. But, but, but. This was different. I quickly understood that I was struggling from being a man without a country. I struggled to reclaim my identity. In this moment I was my children’s mother, earlier I had been my work partners’ partner, later I would be my husband’s wife. And, sure, I move in and out of those roles quite seamlessly most of my days but yesterday I was missing my anchor. I was missing the root that holds all of that together. While I often effortlessly move between my two selves that I described in The Divide, sometimes I get lost somewhere in between. I forget my way back or need a reminder of who I am when I am in the different lanes of my life. Sometimes I simply want to be the other. I want to switch sides or I linger, filled with melancholy about the other side. Yesterday, as I sat there, trying to piece myself together, I resisted falling into my old habits of just filling the gap, numbing the pain, creating a quick solve rather than just silently, powerlessly slipping down into it. Perhaps the right option was to just go down there for a time out. Maybe, sometimes, you just have to experience the less-than-enjoyable experience of being stuck in the middle of your life.
After my father died in 2011, I could not find a path to cope, a friend told me to sit with the feelings. Very sage advice for someone like me who tends to want to remove the problem from the oven before it is fully baked. I want to test it out which rarely involves just sticking a toothpick in to see if it comes out dry. I want to taste it. I want to eat it. He encouraged me to let it cook just a little bit longer. Perhaps just a little more time in the oven might bake it out further and give me a different perspective. I thought about that yesterday as I was sitting in the gap. Perhaps I need to get a view from this angle. Maybe that’s an important lens to have in order to help me understand how to better navigate my lanes. Maybe the view from inside the divide – the place I am most scared to be – will bring all kinds of new perspectives. Maybe the fear of being trapped can only be mitigated by my ability to get out.
Back to that serendipitous moment over the weekend when I was directed to that moment in time, that rather unextraordinary day that led to such a life-changing encounter. I’m always looking for the big high. I seek out those high times that will linger in my mind, carry me from memory to memory, fill me up, make me remember. I’m no fool, though. I know the biggest moments in life are the itty-bitty small ones. The surprising ones. The littlest things that leave the largest footprint. But I forget. I get lost in my life. I forget how the smallest things – the gut-busting laugh I shared with my teenage son in the car this morning, the feel of my husband as he wraps his arms around me before we fall asleep each night, the goofy looks from my 10 year-old, the stolen hour with a good friend to drink coffee and catch up, the quiet time I get to sit in front of my computer and unleash my thoughts – those are the ones that linger. Those are the ones that seep into my cells. Those are the ones that transform my life. But, as I said, I’m a seeker. I’m always looking for the high. But maybe, just maybe, the lesson that found its way to me was that sometimes I need to sit in the low place.
Sometimes I need to sit in the divide to look at all the ends of my life to appreciate its richness in all its simplicity.