Like 99 percent of all people, I’ve been spending the last few days reflecting on the past year and wondering what this new one will bring. While on the treadmill, of course, as this mama certainly made up for all of the calories lost over the Christmas plague.
In thinking about 2014, 2013, 2012, etc, I have tended to define each year by the big moments. Much like my friend CJ referred to on his blog, the big moments make everything look great on paper. A sampling: In 2010, Matt and I moved to DC together and I got my first “real world” job. In 2011, we got married. 2012, I got a promotion and ran my first half marathon. 2013, we moved yet again, this time into the city, and I ran my first full marathon. 2014: two more marathons and a crazy random move from DC to Kentucky. Oh, and the new Ciao Mama unveil. :)
All of these things, these milestones, meant a lot to me. They were a big deal, I worked hard for them, and they helped define my progress, year after year. But when I dig deeper, past the surface of those celebratory events, I also remember a few other moments, much smaller and insignificant at the time, that changed me more than any milestone could. And many of them weren’t pretty.
The biggest one, and perhaps the one that changed it all, happened in August 2013. The scene: DC apartment. Fresh off an anniversary trip to Key West. We came back from a very uncomplicated, sunny, lighthearted trip to find ourselves back in the middle of chaos. A city where were we didn’t fit. Two $100 parking tickets on our car. An apartment building – which we were paying my entire salary to live in- whose air conditioning was broken, again. On a 93 degree day. Sounds like pretty basic frustrations, except the fact that they came at a very uncertain time. Matt and I were both in a bad state of mind, and we were investing every ounce of our happiness into the future, to what would come after we get over this hurdle, when we move somewhere that we love and are doing what we love and are with the people we love and we just love everything all of the time. You know, a dream world that we didn’t have directions to.
I don’t know if it was the sheer exhaustion from traveling or just the magnitude of pressure that was building, but I collapsed to the floor, sat crossed legged with my face in my hands and just sobbed. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, mentally or physically, and no amount of positive thinking could change that. I sat on that floor for so long, whining and yelling and damning everything around me. Although Matt tried to console me, my stand-off eventually got so bad that he took a picture to try and show me how ridiculous I looked. Not surprisingly, it only made me more mad.
I have to admit: I was being ridiculous. And while it wasn’t my proudest moment, it is actually the one that I come back to, time after time. At first I was embarrassed by it – how can I have been so weak, so pathetic, so incredibly ungrateful and whiny over a situation that in hindsight, wasn’t that bad? But over time, I’ve come to think of it as an extreme moment of clarity. Because right there, on that cold hardwood floor, I realized:
For one, there is no dream world. Duh. But more importantly, even if there was…I would probably be chasing the dream world of the dream world.
I realized that, no matter how hard I try, I will never be content. Which, to me, is both really good and very bad. I am proud of my restlessness, of my constant need to be going somewhere, finding something new, traveling somewhere different. I get it from my Multiple Sclerosis-stricken father and my bingo-trotting, card-club dealing 95-year-old grandmother – one of whom didn’t have enough time to fulfill his promising life, and the other who will be damned if anything takes her away from it. I know that time is of the essence and therefore I want everything I can as quickly as I can have it. Milestones are good for me, as they are tangible moments where I can say, “I did that.” But as far as the moments in between those milestones – I am pretty restless.
All of that discontent…it can get me into trouble. For nothing in the current moment seems to ever compare with all of the things and possibilities that await me next. You know, like when I move to Italy and start working for an old Italian wine maker who eventually leaves me his vineyard that sits on rolling Tuscan hills where I’ll have fabulous dinner parties for all of my family and friends who also live there with me in the sprawling mansion that came with the vineyard deal. How can anything compare to the world that lives inside of my hysterical head?
And no, not all of my dreams are that ridiculous. Honestly, besides owning a vineyard, I just want to figure out what I’m here for. What my “life mission” is. And I want to actually do something with it. (And, well, hopefully get paid for it.) Above all things, I strive to get to a place where I am fulfilled. A place where my talents are useful, where they make a difference and I wake up every morning with so many ideas and such gusto for life that I don’t have time to waste on worrying or dreaming about what the future holds. I want to be content on being content.
Knowing myself and all of my almost 29 years, I know that this reality may never come. Therefore, what I want to keep reminding myself in 2015 and beyond is that we are never out of the woods. We might find a few valleys here and there, but ultimately, we will always be searching, wandering, discovering. Finding beauty, getting stuck, having the crap scared out of us. We will always be looking for the next adventure, but not really knowing which way to turn. And for someone like me, who is already very bad at directions and decisions…this is a very frightening reality. That’s why those “milestone” moments are such a big deal – and why they help keep us focused and content with the way we’re living life. It feels good to accomplish things, to make big moves, to pat yourself on the back, be proud of those months, days, hours, minutes, seconds that the glory was yours. Because it was, and you deserved it.
But ultimately, those milestone moments… they aren’t what will define you. What will define you is every day that it took to get to those moments – the awesome, I kick-ass-at-life-days and the sobbing-on-the-floor-I-actually-suck-at-this-shit days – because that’s where the real “life” happens. Those 365 days in a year are little nudges towards the big picture of YOU. So while I may not be a blogging superstar with book deal or have a thriving Etsy business or simply have figured out what the hell it is that I’m supposed to be doing with the life I was given, I’m learning with each year that passes that I really need to slow down a bit, look around and enjoy what it is for what it is. I may never be fully content, but dammit, I will be happy.
For life is so, so good… and the floor is pretty dusty.
(photo via Note to Self)