Posted by: jt | February 2, 2009

a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep

Somewhere along the way we lose track of ourselves. We get caught up in everything we’ve created, in work, family drama, politics, finances, lack of finances, men, lack of men, babies, lack of babies… And you look in the mirror one tired evening and realize that you don’t recognize the face staring back at you. It’s a weird disinterested shell of who you might have been once upon a time, but it’s not you. You got lost somewhere. Left on park bench, a metro bus, the fitting room at Macy’s. Somewhere out there is who you wanted to be, floating along, just waiting – waiting for you to call some Existential Detectives to track it down.

I’m not sure what the solution is. In fact, I don’t think that there is a solution. Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s a drastic life change. Maybe it’s the kind of spiritual epiphany that we all yearn for and hear about in novels and daytime talk shows. The “light bulb” moment. The answered prayer. The hand of god when you’ve hit rock bottom. We’re waiting for it. We’re here, desperately waiting and wondering what we’re doing wrong. And we’re still waiting.

Because you can’t force these things, you can only accept them when the appear.

I had a “light bulb” moment once. I didn’t hit rock bottom – I wasn’t even close. I had a lonely, cold January night. A dreary day in the middle of the endless Minnesota winter faded into a desolate night and I snuggled up under my comforter and tried to pretend that it was comforting.

I fell asleep and dreamed a dream that changed my life. That is to say, I dreamed a dream that altered my perspective, freaked me out and pushed me to see a therapist. A dream, eighteen months of quality therapy, and a lot of really hard work changed my life.

Blessed and cursed with a personal epiphany at age 18, I know what a life-altering moment can be. I know what it is to have your entire perspective on the world suddenly shifted into focus, like a dial turned on binoculars or, if you’re old enough to remember, rotating the knob on a television and slowly edging back and forth as the picture becomes clearer and clearer until it finally stands perfectly still.

When this happens in your life it’s a little bit surreal and a lot fantastic. I walked on clouds for three days before it finally occurred to me that, while it was fabulous to finally understand that I sought the attention of older men because I was desperately looking for a father figure, that’s not the end of the story. In fact, for me, it was just the beginning of some searing and twisting soul-searching to figure out how to break my pattern of inappropriate relationships with older men.

That moment changed my life. And as glorious as it was, it taught me that one moment isn’t enough. It will never be enough. You take your moment and work it until the shiny, fresh newness of it is gone and it’s just another part of you. It loses its excitement and eventually you take it for granted, except when you pause and realize just how far you’ve come.

I had another moment last August. Within days of writing this post about feeling completely outside myself, I snuggled up under my comforter and tried to pretend that it was comforting again. And, again, I dreamed a dream that changed my life.

This time, I’d done (part of) the therapy first and I knew (part of) what I’d been working toward. This time, I recognized the epiphany for what it was and while I still couldn’t wipe the big, dopey grin off my face, I knew from the beginning that the work was really just getting started.

As great as it is to be able to identify your own patterns and coping mechanisms (both the good and the bad), it’s still hard. Just because you know what you want to happen, doesn’t always mean you know how to make it happen.

Tonight is a cold, lonely night in Seattle. I’m snuggled up under my comforter, trying to pretend that it’s comforting and I’ll wake up tomorrow morning, in all likelihood, just here. No epiphany, no light bulb, just the knowledge of where I am and a vague idea of where I want to go.

I’m more open to getting there than I ever have been but it feels a long ways away.

Still, despite the cold and lonely, it’s good to know where I am.


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