On Stuckness

I am ready to start the new year, albeit two weeks late. My experience of the first two weeks of January this year has been a lot of starting and stopping. I love the symbolism of new beginnings, the chance to start over or change direction, or just tweak what’s not working. I also have come to realize that I am not motivated by restriction or punishment or self-criticism. I’d rather focus on doing something better or doing more of something positive. So I’ve been thinking about what I want to do. Life list stuff, or life menu stuff. And the challenge hasn’t been coming up with things to put on lists. The challenge has been finding the spark to get started, the mojo, the momentum. Instead, stuckness.

Here’s the thing – you know why you feel stuck when you’ve told yourself you are going to give up carbs or go to the gym everyday or whatever goal you came up with that came from some external notion of how you need to change to be better. You feel stuck because you don’t actually want to do that thing you said you were going to do but you think it’s something you SHOULD do. Sometimes you are able to reach the place where the thing you should do also becomes something you also want to do, and while it remains challenging, it becomes something that has an energy and momentum that you can rely on. This is what happened to me when I lost 45 lbs some 17 years ago. It became something I wanted and then it became something I could really do.

So I know how to make myself work for something. And I’ve decided that this is the year where I am going to refocus my energy on finding my creative work, figuring out what I want to do when I grow up, now that my daughter is growing up. My husband is full of support and encouragement (and no doubt hoping that I’ll figure out something wildly successful so he can be a kept man). And I have been feeling stuck. And trying to figure out why.

When I am working, I like to be able to completely immerse myself in it, whatever it is. Distractions (unless self-inflicted for the purpose of procrastination!) are not welcome. I don’t think I knew this about myself until I became a mom. Our daughter was 10 months old when we adopted her, my husband and I in our late 30s after 15 years of marriage. And suddenly it seemed I had no time for myself. I didn’t know it would feel as hard as it did. I didn’t know that I would be unable to not hear her wanting something in the other room, even with her father sitting right next to her. And eventually, I think I just conditioned myself to expect to be interrupted. It’s still annoying, maybe more so now that she’s 8, but I expect it. And it means that I am reluctant and unsure how to commit to more ambitious projects.

I stumbled across The Bridges of Madison County on Friday night. It’s a total tearjerker, but good because Meryl Streep is so great in it. And the soundtrack is terrific. I’ve seen it a few times and always found it moving. This time though, the moment that got me was one I didn’t remember, which tells me I haven’t seen this movie since before Katharine came along. Francesca and Robert are having their final dinner together and he’s wanting her to come away with him, to follow her own dreams. And she says to him:

“Robert, please. You don’t understand, no-one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected to move again only you don’t remember what moves you because no one has asked in so long. Not even yourself.”
I know, I know. She’s a housewife in Iowa in the 1960s. But it seems to me that the struggle she describes is still here, embedded in the “mommy wars”, and the question of whether women can have it all, and why so many women wonder if it has to be one or the other.
I’m incredibly lucky – the expectations I’m not meeting or struggling to meet are my own. I’ve been able to focus on being a mom and the CEO of our home for the last 7 years. But it’s not all I want to do. The life of details, of home and children, is a very comfortable place for me, but it’s not enough. Now comes the time of figuring out how to stay steady for her, and get moving where I need to go for me. I think it’s time to cast on.

1 thought on “On Stuckness

  1. I've always been told that “What Color Is Your Parachute?” is an excellent read for people embarking on a career change. I have a friend who read it then left her 17 year career in the mental health world to open a super-geeky tea shop in Oklahoma City. It's the only one in the state. Here's hoping you begin to uncover your path in 2013!

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