Email to My Therapist: How Do I Want to Be?
Dear Nicholas, Your question — how do I want to be? — suits this moment in my life very well. (Probably would suit any moment for anyone.)
Last email to you, I was feeling like a box of puzzle pieces after Husband Bob’s extremely close brush with death and his unlikely survival. In the month since his return to work, another close family member has had a mild heart attack and, for two days this past week, my mom seemed to be dying. She’s now recovering.
I was interested and surprised by what you wrote: that it’s “her journey… keep your eye on yours.” As she gets better, I do need to do that. If she had died Wednesday, I’d still need to do that.
The Edge of Night!!
Being so aware of death now could sure help me get a better fix on the rest of my years: I’m now 68 to Mom’s 94.
Mostly how I want to be is the way I’ve already been living: same work, home, marriage, health, friends and family. Same garden (spend even more time there), a little more lake kayaking and ocean swimming. Same devotion to books and (I’m a little embarrassed to say) coloring books.
How I want to be different:
1. I’m tired of being such a striver. That may be changing some without my effort; the hospital experiences have given me a slightly increased detachment from my work and my tiresome ambitions. I want to do the same work and be productive; I just don’t want to identify myself with it so intensely.
Right now I’m cutting the current novel-in-progress by about 25% (at agent’s suggestion.) It’s not difficult. I do it quite dispassionately. There are good things and bad things about that. I’d like to keep the love for the work and lose the edge of frenzy.
2. I want to drop the persistent fear that I will somehow let people down: as in, suppose there is someone on earth who could better do whatever I’m about to do? This is so pervasive that I can almost not notice it. Yet it’s a heavy weight to drag. (Related to my irrational sense that I have a lot more control of events than any of us actually do.)
Though I don’t want to work at it…
3. I also want to be more physically fit, less hooked on sugar, better-looking (possible mantra: 68 is not that late), with fewer nervous twitchy habits. But these desires don’t really count because I don’t mean to make much or any effort to achieve them (see note above about being tired of striving.) These are changes I’d like if they were to occur effortlessly. The one possible exception to this indolence plan: more yoga. More accurately, get back into yoga.
Things Not Seen
4. Finally, (though I know I’ll think of more things later) I’d like more frequent awareness of my sense of spirit interwound with the physical world and continuing beyond a particular physical form. Earlier dominant theme of this blog was the conjunction of sex and spirituality. What I’m talking about is broader: conjunction of physical and spiritual, things seen and unseen. I love the idea of things not seen (I want to see them!) Right now my spiritual practice is about 5 minutes a day of meditation and a monthly lunch with a few folks of similar beliefs (mostly Druids) at the Cameron Village K&W. And writing novels that turn on religious/spiritual experience and conflicts.
Okay, homework assignment done. I look forward to the next step.
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Tags: ambitions, aware of death, be different, brush with death, control, detachment, Druids, dying, edge of night, fear, heart attack, journey, let people down, meditation, mild heart attack, novel in progress, persistent fear, physical world, productive, spiritual experience, striver, therapist, things not seen, writing novels
Love this Peggy! It really is making me stop and think.
Thanks, Henry! I’m interested in how your thinking evolves.
Am really enjoying your writing on this topic!
And again, thank you, Susan!
It’s inspiring to hear about the currents below the surface. Thanks Peggy.
Deb, nice to see you — and thanks!
I have mixed feelings about your talk of striving less. I understand the fatigue, the lack of satisfaction, the desire to feel at peace in the moment rather than always working toward some goal. But to stop striving feels like defeat (my problem). I also wonder if one can keep the love of work without the passionate intensity, what you refer to as the “frenzy.”
I know, Joe. You’ve said stuff like this before. To reassure you: I don’t necessarily mean to work less (though lately because of medical crises that has been the case.) I just don’t want to feel compulsive about it; as if the sky will fall or I won’t be who I am without it. Also, I had been pushing hard and long on Sister India without getting it where it needed to be. Then finally said: oh, what the hell, I’ll write it like it want it to be when I’m dead, whether it’s published now or not. I finished that draft and publishers fought over it and I had a good contract in two and a half weeks. So I have some indication that a less-striving approach works “out there.” Also, my frenzy is not passion; it’s agitation.
Sorta’ like doing, not trying ? bob
Exactly. And simply doing, rather than over-doing
You read my mind, Peggy, especially about the spiritual quest. Thank you.
Druids at the K&W . . . I like it.
I too love the K&W/Druid connection, Suzanne. We call the gathering Mystic Pizza.
[…] a change both unsought and wildly uncharacteristic. It seems to be my reaction (one of them) to loved ones falling ill all around me and to being increasingly “older” […]