I’ve been feeling like a visitor in my house and in my life. It’s a weird passivity. The other day, I came back home from something, I forget what. The husband had been working flat out. It was Monday. I had been away, where was I? I can’t remember. I was tired from traveling. I looked in the fridge and in the cabinets for something to eat and saw there wasn’t anything easy. Just staples, staples requiring some sort of preparation and chopping and there weren’t any onions or garlic. I just felt like lying around reading and I found myself thinking, I wish someone would get us some groceries. Partially, this wish expressed annoyance that the husband hadn’t done it, because usually he goes to the grocery store on the weekend and I go to the food coop during the week. However, like I said, he’d been working that weekend as well as driving the children to their various activities. I was aware of this, so not really annoyed at him. What it really was, was me feeling like Somebody was going to come along and do this annoying stuff for me, so I could get to the real stuff, like lying around reading and resting.
I need a lot of rest, apparently.
I was standing in my kitchen, and I had one of those moments of clarity. I won’t call it an epiphany because I’m not James Joyce, and also, it wasn’t an epiphany. It was just one of those moments when you see something clearly, as if your mind is wearing smudged glasses and you realize they’re smudged so you clean them and put them back on and everything is clearer.
I thought, Ohhhh, Somebody is me. I’m the one who has to do it. So I went to the grocery store.
Now readers, this may be something to which you cannot relate. You probably feel totally engaged in your lives and never wish for anyone to take care of you. I, however, have been noticing ways in which I have that weird passivity about other aspects of my grown-up life.
Like when I’m on the phone with someone, usually I pause a little too long. I’m waiting for them to add something more. Then we both start to speak at once. This is particularly pronounced with my sister the psychoanalyst, whose whole being is geared towards prodding others to speak through penetrating silence. It happens with a lot of people, though.
If I really want to scare myself, I can tell myself I have amniosis. Amniosis, according to a psychologist called John Sanford, is a "malformed condition" characterized by "a total desire to be taken care of--mollycoddled." That's a tidbit I came across in that old chestnut Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. When I read it, I thought, Hell yeah, who doesn't want to be taken care of? Then I thought, Oh, not healthy when taken to the extreme, as mentioned above.
Now, I may wish for some Mary Poppins magic to whisk my house into shape. And I may wish for someone to connect me to someone who will love my latest book idea and agree to take it. But that is not wishing to be mollycoddled. I draw the line. I'm not that kind of passive. I'm not looking for a womb. Pul-ease.
Instead, I think it’s got to do with me developing my observational side. The writer in me is watching and waiting to see what happens. The mindfulness practitioner in me is letting things come into consciousness.
The other part of it, though, as I confessed to the husband, is that I don’t feel like our house is really our home. It’s not my style. It’s definitely not furnished the way I’d feel comfortable. That will take years, at the rate I’m going with my, ahem, career. I feel like a visitor in it. I don’t really know what that’s about. Maybe it’s about needing to move to a house that will feel like home immediately. Maybe, though, there isn’t a house that would feel that way immediately. Maybe the reason it doesn’t feel quite right is that I don’t make it feel right.
Clearly, I need more balance between my observational self and my active self. Otherwise, my goals will always seem like something Somebody ought to get around to achieving someday.
I need to be more proactive—to use a Covey word. I need to work on Habit #1. I need to take more responsibility for shaping my life in little ways. If I want the counters clean, I’m going to have to make that happen, not wait for the dozens of books and magazines splayed over them to form neat stacks and hop away, and for Somebody to also want clean counters and come and clean them for me. Maybe if I start with little things, the bigger things will fall into place.