Living towards an answer


Last summer’s sun in a bottle.

I am overwhelmed by the world lately – the killings, the accidents, the economic system on the brink – much madness and I find myself craving the solitude found at the end of a decommissioned logging road. No one around but the bears.

But alas! I have work this week, a grievance hearing tomorrow, and a bunch of bits and pieces to get done before I finally get to vacation time on Hornby Island Sunday. (A week on an island is almost as good as the logging road option).

I have been undergoing a transition over the past while – perhaps as long as the last year – which has culminated in a few realizations recently. The first of those is that I am entering my period of middle-age very definitively. I turn forty early next year, and I note some physical changes that hallmark a different kind of body than the one I had five years ago – which seems so blastedly unfair (I have to do even *more* work to keep in shape, with less inclination to do so) – but at the same time, I’m on the cusp of the liberation that aging can bring to women. Yes, I’m losing my fertile, youthful self – but at the same time, I believe that only brings more latitude to act outside of the gaze (middle age making women invisible and all).

This is coupled with another feeling of purpose that is new….. if I am nearing the end of the first half of my life – what do I want the second half to look like? And that question has both propelled me towards more schooling (working on a Master’s Degree in addition to accreditation as a mediator through the Justice Institute), and away from negativity. My bullshit tolerance is way down and I find myself not only willing but eager to rid myself of connections, political (union) positions, and commitments that don’t bring much positive return.  Rather than follow my life long pattern of hanging onto things because I fear being left out (or that I’m not good enough), my recently developed sense of stability and future-orientation allows me to walk away from negative situations much more easily and with less regret. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I left a union conference early, and then resigned from a union-management committee because an individual (with whom I have been close in the past) has taken to yelling at me with some frequency. Unlike my old self (who would have tried to work it out), I felt strong enough to choose my own happiness, time and emotional health over some perceived need to “stay involved” with a negative person (symptomatic of the nastiness that pervades a lot of voluntary organizations). A union movement that makes its members fight to stay involved is one that is sure to fail – why would I waste my time on that when there are so many other things I’d rather be doing?

When I examine my life over the last few months, a pattern of letting go emerges – house and stuff purge, union positions relinquished, friendships left to wither. And while there is some anxiety in the transition, I recognize that by emptying out my mental and physical space, I create room for new things, people and experiences. The beginning of a mid-life crisis? Except it doesn’t feel sudden or like a crisis. Instead it feels like the place I’ve been working up to for a long time, and one I am supported in by my partner who is also moving through his own transition toward new and different relationships and activities. (Rather than growing apart in what we want from this second-half of our lives, I feel like B. and I are even more in sync now than when we met five years ago.)

In a beautifully serendipidous way, this Rilke quote (via BrainPickings) just came across my screen – and it’s what I hope is the case, that I am living my way into the answer of who I want to be. It seems like such a privilege to have gotten this far in a life, and to have the prospect for so much more.

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

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