Yesterday evening, we attended a wonderful musical concert at Our Lady church in neighboring Stonewood, WV. The Peanut's choir ensemble from school had an opportunity to sing along with John Angotti and his band.
John is a local success story -- loves to sing and write music, and has converted that into a career instead of just a hobby. The music was lovely yesterday, not the least of which because The Peanut and her pals from school got to sing along with several songs, their enthusiastic little voices lending a sweet innocence to several Christmas carols.
In a pew several rows back from the front, I sat there, watching the kids glow with excitement at their chance to perform, and watching the members of the band and John Angotti playing and singing with such passion and love of what they were doing. My initial thoughts were about what a miracle it is that we have The Peanut at all, given all the infertility hell we went through for years before we finally got our beautiful little wee girlie.
But then I started ruminating on the enthusiasm of John and his band doing the thing that they clearly loved to do and how infectious that joy in doing it well gave them. Even allowing for that persona that most performers put on like armor when they go on stage, there was still a lightness to all of them as they played and sang and interacted with the kids on stage and with the audience.
It was infectious.
But, at the same time, it was also frustrating as all get out. Because, to be honest, I have no particular thing that holds that same level of excitement and passion going on as a "vocation" at the moment.
Don't get me wrong: I adore my family, and my wonderful child and incredibly supportive husband constantly make my world so much brighter and lighter every single day, and I am incredibly grateful for the life I have with both of them. That said, there is some sort of internal yearning for something more that will not let me be fully satisfied with just what I happen to be doing at the moment, and that restless, internal, infernal nagging to do more, be more, strive more...is wearing me out lately.
In one of those "the universe is trying to tell you something" moments this morning, Mr. ReddHedd forwarded an article by Kathleen Hughes to me about "greatness" and race with the ticking clock at our age that really resonated with me. To wit:
Here's the problem: As you hit middle age, you increasingly feel that time is running out. If you're ever going to write the Great American Novel or find some way to truly make a difference in the world, the time is now. Before dementia, or just plain weariness, sets in.Holy crap, that is me in a nutshell right there, alternately frustrated and raging at myself for all the running to stand still that I feel like I am doing at the moment and shuffling in stark terror at having to select a direction and really put the effort -- the flat out, whole heart, ignore everything else around you and really, truly go for it effort -- that it would require to get the things done that I...think...I want to achieve.
What is "greatness," anyway? Am I defining what it is I think I want based on my own internal compass, or something I think that others want or expect from me? Worse, what if I finally pick something and then fail at it? At this mid-life point, there isn't a lot of restart in another direction time left, is there? But if I never try, I'll never get anywhere, right? Then again, what will I have to take away from my family in terms of time, energy and other important stuff to do something that is important only to me -- won't they resent it? Will they suffer for it? And can I live with that, picking some selfish ambition of my own above time with the two people I love most in all the world, just to selfishly stoke my own ambitions instead of feeding theirs?
What does it say about me that doing something that I want just for me makes me internally start a dialog that berates me for thinking about myself in any way at all as possibly first on my own list? Doing that even a little is emotionally painful for me, even though somewhere in the back of my brain, I can hear Mr. ReddHedd's voice saying to me that everyone would be happier if I would do the thing that would really challenge me and push me forward out of my own self-imposed limbo and, thus, make everyone else happier, too, because I would be happy.
But then I think, how can he know when he has no idea what impact my being really selfish about guarding my own time and space would mean for all of us. I mean, honestly, how can you know? And how can you plan for something that you can't even define as THE direction you want to go instead of what you think you "ought" to do because someone else expects it? It is endless.
Which is really the problem: I think about it a lot, but I haven't really decided, and thus I haven't made a full, whole-hearted commitment. And thus? Limbo, endlessly, self-imposed, inner turmoil churning, ad infinitum, limbo.
Here is my promise to myself, and one I think might benefit some of you who are feeling similarly not quite on your most fulfilling path as yet: between now and the end of the year, I will pick a direction for my next year, and commit to the steps necessary to make it work with everything I have to give it.
Between now and the New Year, I will pick something. And then? I will start to do it.
Because at this point? The not doing of the thing is dragging me down, and everyone around me who loves me as well: I'm like the Titanic of failed ambitions at the moment, and the more I wallow in it, the more I pull everyone else around me down with the ship. But as of the end of this year? No more excuses. At my age, if I don't take a leap now, I'll likely be unable to take a leap at all down the road...and that is definitely not okay.
There was a quote from a long ago Shirley McClaine book that has always stuck with me: "to get the fruit of the tree, you have to go out on a limb." So true.
So no more fear. Being ruled by fear sucks. So what if I fail? At least I will have tried, right?
So pick your own directions and take a leap with me in the new year. We'll see where we all manage to get together. It will be a whole lot better than limbo, won't it?
(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith.)