I am pretty certain I have a predisposition to constantly being in some form of transition. Is that just life or a semiprecious infliction? I like to assume that the successful – the pop stars and entrepreneurs – have made it past this rainy season. They have found that sweet spot somewhere on a sandy beach in the middle of summer. They have figured out the magical (or secret or laborious or luck bestowed) way to bask in the sun and maybe even possibly maintain their hard earned tan. All the while the sorry-for-themselves folk such as me walk through an endless rain wondering when an umbrella will be found or, better yet,a parting in the clouds will come.
I don’t have a terrible life. Quite the opposite. It is quiet yet busy. I work hard, but I get at least eight hours of sleep a night. But I am a dreamer, and I spend my free time pretending I am an aspiring singer. I imagine I am a ballerina straining for a prima’s spot on the stage. I am a clothing designer beating the odds and on my way to fashioning costumes for Broadway performers. In reality, I am too old and my thighs are not slender enough to be a dancer, and while I enjoy figuring out what to wear each morning, I am not up for the challenge of making my own clothes. And that is where I find the path just keeps on going and the rain just keeps on falling. I’m not even sure this is the right path.
Am I even on a path? I chose my career late in life. Let me rephrase that. I chose my third career in my late twenties. I chose it because I felt old and unsettled. I thought it would make me a real adult. But you can’t take the dreamer out of the adult. While work doesn’t seem to get any easier despite my efforts, while I second guess my career choice, while the stress dreams at night continue, I pretend to be something else. I pretend I am that prima ballerina. I pretend I am a landscape artist. I pretend I am a mailman donned in an unflattering blue gray uniform. Tonight, after an especially trying week, I eat cold pizza in my bed and pretend I am still in my early twenties when life seemed more promising and open. When life said, “you are an adult now and are capable of making all of your dreams come true.”
Well either life lied or I haven’t tried hard enough. I haven’t jumped high enough or thought far enough out of the box or let go of my young girl’s ballerina aspirations. Or maybe I am trying too hard to be settled when all I really need is to get on the right path.
Let’s start this story in the middle. That’s where the cats like it. Where it’s warm and inviting, where the sun casts a glow on the crease between weathered pages and new crisp ones. If this were a children’s story we would be starting somewhere around page three; the part of the story that is climatic for the child, the part of the story where the adult is getting tired of doing the characters’ voices, the part of the story where the adult loses interest and just wants to get it over with. It is that part in your own life where you think, “Six years ago I was going to do this. Six years ago.” You begin to feel old, and you wonder how many climatic experiences you can have before somebody wants to stop reading, before somebody wants to close the book, before the cats jump off of the kitchen table and go hide under the bed.
You still are a little uncomfortable with the sound of your own voice which means you’re not as old and as loopy as you had previously thought. Yet you still like to imagine that someday, after you have passed away, they will find 250 paintings of yours stashed away in a backyard shed. “Two hundred and fifty paintings, that’s all she did,” they will say as they stand gazing at your works of art hung on the large, boring, white wall of a museum. At least that is how you imagine it. This is how you know you are in the middle of the story. Roughly page three. It is somewhere between settled and content and imaginative and fearless. You are too mature to be naive, but to healthy to feel like you need a retirement fund. Your parents would like to see you have babies and buy a fancy washing machine and dryer. Your boss would like to see you striving. But instead, all they really get is a restless look in your eyes. A look that says, “I haven’t figured it out yet.”
In one week two family members died of cancer. One in their late seventies, and one in their mid forties. You are at that age where you hesitate to buy canned peaches to go with your cottage cheese. You hesitate because a recent news story reported that the BPA in the cans may cause cancer. Not only have you stopped smoking, but now nothing seems safe to eat. You haven’t made enough money yet to buy organic fruits and vegetables. But the thought of death is there. This is page three. If this were a children’s story everyone would learn their lesson. The characters would be sharing. The characters would be eating cookies. The characters would be happy; they wouldn’t be thinking about cancer, canned peaches, or what their boss expects of them. But this isn’t a children’s story. This is page three of your life. This is where death and life and money and health and the ups and downs all get a little jumbled. And yet it is all starting to finally make a little more sense. Or so you think, as the cats slowly crawl out from underneath the bed.