Not just a Whit for Wednesday

Why isn’t it safe to desire, to want something with my whole heart and believe it’s both attainable and a good thing?

I wrote on the topic of desire last week and what’s at the root of my procrastination: the heaviness, the overwhelm, of getting from here to there. It feels like too much … and I am not enough.

As writer and writing teacher Jennifer Louden suggests:

Desire is not about fulfillment. It’s about working with the gap between reality and our idealized longing — and not clinging there.” ~ Jennifer Louden

If there’s one thing I can lay claim to it’s idealized longing.

Idealized everything, actually. I’m not a realist and never have been. Check my horoscope — sun and moon signs, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Enneagram, numerology reading. They all support it.

I like this about myself. Why not believe in the possibility of something way better than what is?

Except when it comes to my own goals. Idealizing those keeps me stuck, not motivated to move toward achieving them.

Breaking goals down into bite-sized pieces isn’t the problem. I’ve had lots of training in time management.

For me it’s not safe to desire. There’s the fear of not being good enough, of falling short, of not measuring up to my own (super high) expectations and the voiced (or imagined) expectations of others, of embarrassing myself (Yeah, I know. Weird. I’m still working on uncovering the root of this one).

There’s also this other fear: How do I know what I really want? How do I know that I can trust myself and believe in myself, that my desires are really my desires, and that my desires are “legit”?

It’s ridiculous when I write it down. If I desire something, it’s my desire. Simple. But I make it complicated. I think I want x, but do I really? Should I want x? What if I’m only telling myself I want x … but don’t really? Or what if wanting x is not a “good” desire to have? Maybe someone out there knows better than I do what I really want.

And then, what if I get x and it’s not really what I wanted? Then I’d have spent (meaning wasted) all that time and energy on reaching it, all for nothing. (There’s that theme of time again that leads to procrastination.)

I don’t think I’m alone in this lack of confidence in my own knowing. I think it’s an issue and a struggle for many women.

There was — and still is — cultural assumptions and programming regarding what women can and can’t, should and shouldn’t, desire and do. Recall history. There are women writers who used a male pseudonym to avoid discrimination; much made of women who “broke barriers” by entering male-dominated fields; and efforts being made to overcome stereotypes and attitudes that still keep girls and women out of professions in science, technology, engineering and math. Overwhelmingly, men still make the rules that govern women’s bodies; the Equal Rights Amendment, introduced in Congress in 1921, still is not law; and sexism in politics is alive and well. I’m sure you have your “favorites” as well.

Is it any wonder many of us don’t feel safe in wanting what we want, even when in our stronger moments we feel quite competent, thank you very much.

My friend Debbie and I have talked about this a lot over the years since we’ve “awakened.” We’ve wished for some type of program for girls — born fearless — to help them hold on to that belief in themselves, so they don’t have to rediscover their enoughness when they enter middle age as we did.

May it be so.

And yes, that’s an idealized longing. But if we all work with that gap between today’s reality and the goal of us all believing in ourselves and that which only we are uniquely prepared to offer to the world, it can happen.

I want this with my whole heart and believe it’s both attainable and a good thing.

That’s a desire I feel safe in having.

Vive la France

I just slept for 12 hours. All day.

Like so many, I’m trying to cobble together a living by working two jobs … actually three, if you count my freelance writing business, which is getting short shrift these days. At least one of them pays benefits, finally. For a year I was paying out one-third of that meager check for insurances and taxes.

The whole point of this little experiment — working a job that requires physical strength and not mental — was to take a brain break. Writing on command at the newspaper, where the owners cared only about filling the pages and not about the community, took a toll.

Plus I gained 40 pounds.

Disillusioned and stressed out over daily deadlines, I just wanted a paycheck without that kind of responsibility. I wanted physical activity.

I wanted to do more writing. And I wanted flexibility, to still be available to attend meetings of boards I’m a member of and to facilitate my community and prison writing groups.

I wanted to make a life, not just a living.

So now I have that, technically speaking. But I forgot to figure in time for sleep.

The last few weeks I’ve averaged three to four hours a day … in one and a half to two hour stretches. I’ve also begun to look a lot like my grandmother, skin-wise. My friend Amy says it’s because lack of regular sleep doesn’t allow cellular healing.

I believe it. I’m wearing the evidence.

Welcome to America, land of the disappearing middle class. Meaning I know I’m not the only one living like this.

If I want to go all shame and blame, I can say it’s my own fault. I didn’t prepare for retirement.

At my age a generation ago, workers were retired or getting ready to. I’m afraid only death will bring my retirement. And I’ve talked with more and more people who say the same thing.

We should have planned ahead. But if we’re going to “should” all over ourselves, let’s include this: People should be paid a living wage. Wages should keep up with the rising costs of everything else.

Gas prices go up every week. Thirty cents a pop. Workers don’t get raises often enough, and when they do it’s in pennies, for many of us once in three to five years, if at all.

Some say, “Well, go get a real job.” These are real jobs, providing services the public needs, or wants. And that doesn’t solve the problem here.

I am college educated, am halfway to a master’s degree. Unlike some I could “move up,” make more money somewhere else. But where I am right now is teaching me something I only understood theoretically before. We have a problem. All of us.

The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and even people working their butts off aren’t able to make a living. Never mind getting ahead.

Earlier this week I watched, heartbroken, as Notre Dame in Paris burned. In itself that was a tragedy. It reminded me of another tragic event: the French Revolution.

I can see this country moving toward that kind of event. It’s feeling more and more inevitable all the time.

Vive la France.