Peering at the clock above my desk at work, I cringe at the realization that I have gone five minutes over the time I had anticipated the project would take. I am now late. And, I have more details to finish before I can even consider an exit. I will be late to my class tonight. This class I had committed to in order to follow my passion. The class that conflicts with my work life even though technically it is scheduled for thirty minutes after my work day ends. The commute is too long for this thirty minute window, so I have received permission to end my day one hour early, giving me an hour and a half to reach my destination.
But now, as I look at the work before me on the screen, as I feel my eyes and their dryness and the painful ache; as I feel the burn in my upper stomach from lack of nourishment, as I consider the exhaustion setting in from a day worked too hard; as I consider all of these things: I cave. I realize that the reality is that I will likely skip class.
I hate myself for this surrender.
I more than hate myself, I sense the guilt and oppression filling in the empty spaces within my soul. I am screaming inside that my life is simply too filled with stuff I have to do, instead of things I want to do.
It’s likely, for the most part, everyone’s story. Most people have certain obligations they are tied to because of what they signed up for: work, marriage, parenthood. The list goes on.
A life of quiet desperation. Have I not read that somewhere? I am sure that I have. It is some other famous person’s words. So of course I google it and I am struck by the fact that it is from Walden- Henry David Thoreau. A good friend of mine gifted me his book a few weeks ago. I have not yet read it, have not even thumbed through the pages. But it is a plight of mine- to live more authentically, to dive more deeply into a world that cradles my true self, my creative self and allows me to work towards my purpose. Isn’t it interesting then that the words about living a life of quiet desperation come to mind. All I know is that those words echo inside me- quiet desperation. Generally speaking, I don’t vocalize this too much with people, I just chug along on the expectations express highway. Each day peels off from the next until weeks and months pass and I reflect on years past when I had the same goals that I still carry with me today. Goals I have not achieved. And I grow bigger, and my face grows more white and splotchy. And my overall health looks questionable. I am not healthy. I am not in my best place.
I wrap up my work day thirty minutes later than I had wanted to and head for the parking ramp. I make it into the car with enough time to technically make it to class on time. Or at least I reflect that I should make it on time, barring any major accident or road construction that might have surfaced since my morning commute. I recall that on one bridge I use each day, the flashing bulbs of warning foretold of a lane closure bringing the bridge traffic down to one lane in each direction. Note to self, avoid that bridge for a few days.
And so I find myself in my car spinning down the floors of the ramp: 3 swing and turn, 2A swing and turn, 2 swing and turn and then 1; ground level and I exit the ramp and I make the appropriate turn to direct my car onto the freeway towards the downtown exits. I successfully navigate through traffic, no major accidents. I am about ten minutes away from class start time. My stomach growls, my eyes hurt. Do I really want to sit in a class for two hours listening to other people’s work? I should do this because these budding authors need my input as much as I needed theirs. It’s not fair leaving them high and dry. They need my insight … Or do they? I reach for the visor to check my reflection as I idle at a red stop light. Uggh. My complexion is pasty, my eyes are bloodshot, my eye makeup has completely rubbed off, my pores are wide open. My hair flat and dull. I look exhausted, I look like crap. I don’t feel like being in that class room right now. I just don’t feel like.
So I find my car passing the building where my class takes place and instead, I work my way back out of the downtown zone, back towards the freeway. But this time, I am on an on-ramp heading to a completely different part of the city, and I am not on my way home. I find myself moving in the opposite direction. What is at the end of this route? What types of restaurants or coffee houses that might offer food other than muffins? A place where there is WiFi and where I can pull out the keyboard and record my thoughts. Work on the novel. Spend time writing. Being alone. No one to bother me and no one to have any expectations of me. I need this right now. Barnes & Noble- at the mini-mall half way to my home. The one with the big cafe and many tables. The one that has the various affinity groups that meet throughout the week. Where community gathers. Yes. That one. I need to somehow navigate my way back towards home so I can stop there on my way and spend some much needed down time.
My car works its way through various routes and waits at numerous stop lights until I am safely situated in the parking lot of my favorite mega book shop location. Yes. Carmel Macchiato with a sandwich. That’s exactly what I need.
I refresh in the restroom and find my corner with the requisite refreshments and food. And, pull out this key board and start working. In the background, a group of seven are talking French. yes, that’s right, that French club that I participated in for one session all those months- maybe years now, ago. They are chatting away. None of them look familiar – for which I find some relief. It’s fun to hear them, I understand every word. But I push myself into a different plane – a space of reflection and writing. A safe space.
And I am glad that I listened to my inner voice. That I sit here instead of in a classroom. That I am allowing myself room to do what I need to do regardless of the class commitment.
Some would likely call me a cop out. Perhaps uncommitted. Perhaps, unreliable.
Today, I have spent each waking hour being reliable to dozens of people- struggling to meet so many deadlines and so many expectations. My body aches from the stress and there is this part of me that wishes I could go home to a space of quiet where no one asked me questions, no one expected an answer. No one would become offended if I headed straight for my own space. No one would ask me to program the new land line phones waiting to be set-up since their purchase the night before; I recall the voicemail at work from Dad earlier today: “Sweetheart- can you program the dang phones when you get home? They are not working. Should I return them? Should I bring them to Best Buy’s Geek Squad to figure them out- pieces of garbage. Why do these things have to be so complicated? Ok- talk soon.” And the phone goes dead. I have a task tonight. Another tech support function to fix the issue before I can do my own thing. With this class, I was meant to be home after 9pm but without my help, the phones don’t work. And I realize that this is part of being at home in their golden years. Each night, always a task- always an expectations. Another reason I am glad to not be in class right now. Instead I am taking valuable time to just be with me, and express and type and figure out my life. As best I can. An attempt at reducing a bit of the desperation and replacing it with some peace and some fulfillment. Something to take me through the next day.