After being alive four decades we expect to know something. We expect ourselves to be something definitive, easily identified by the world we live in and something that perhaps, has a nice label attached to it.
I strived for this for a long time. Even when I thought I wasn’t. Even when I renounced my worldly possessions to discover another way to live that wasn’t so caught up in materialism and superficial ideas about how life is meant to be lived.
I threw back the goosedown duvet, got out of bed, and never went back.
Well, that was the idea.
What really happened was that I gave into myself, restless without a problem, a drama, or a pain point, a goal to end this ever-present search for something.
I padded my way over to an unfamiliar bed with different covers and fell back asleep.
But not the deep delicious sleep that closes the world down, that seeps drool through our lazy lips, that is deaf to our snores and farts. I kind of dozed in between slumber and wakefulness, trying to enjoy the pleasures of both but never fully appreciating either in its entirety.
I began scratching the surface of a thousand ideas but never digging down into one.
I gobbled up books about truth like they were my eyes’ last supper. Most of them half-read, stacked on top one another beside my bed so they could leak their knowledge while I slept, and my skin could absorb it, prompting my body to start moving the right way.
Toward that place where all the answers are so I could build a little nest and settle back down with knowledge of who I am and what I’m meant for.
But it doesn’t work like that.
Just when we think we’ve found it, the corpse of ignorance is resuscitated, flashing its toothless grin and climbing into bed with us, invading our safe space.
And the thought after all the books, all the time, all the meditations, all the self-enlightenment smack is––still?
A breakthrough occurred for me last month and damn did I enjoy it. I latched on to it like a hungry infant does its mother’s nipple.
I identified with it.
I attached myself to something I barely understand because I want so badly to be someone who does understand. If I swallow this discovery and call it knowledge, then I become someone who knows this or that and I grow an identity like a plant grows new shoots.
Then I have a solid, visible place in the world.
I become something that can be seen.
I may not require an exact address, a goose-down duvet, or even a five-year plan, only an identity that can be verified by my superficial, protective self and the exogenous world.
Then I’m good, right? I’ve found my place.
Except that there was never any place to find.
There is no ground beneath my feet because no such ground exists. What I think is holding me up is actually holding me down.
The truth is, I don’t know anything at all, unless how to make banana pancakes and what to do when the power goes out amounts to anything.
(And when the power goes out, we don’t change the lightbulb expecting the light to come back on).
My existence is like that of a grain of sand. But that doesn’t make me inconsequential––even one grain of sand can upset the balance of things. Even one grain of sand to a person watching their life through an hourglass is one more micro-moment to breathe.
I yearn to know and therefore I know nothing at all, like trying to grasp the wind and swallow the moon and pocket the stars because there is a feeling of a kind of bigness inside, the willingness to be something.
And when I try to materialize an identity for myself, it collapses. It becomes the lingering scent of smoke with no trace of a fire.
Then I realize how far away the moon is, and that even if I could pocket the stars, there are an infinite number of them and all the ones I collect would never be enough to satisfy my demands.
Because that bigness is a kind of emptiness.
My sights are set too high, my expectations too great, my patience too hasty, when everything I need–contentedness, joy, peace, and love–is already here within me.
But I’ve been sweeping them into my far corners to make room for their arrival, expecting that the moon, the stars, an idea from a book, a delicious little epiphany about life, a ceremonious shedding of things is going to deliver them.
Another space exists out there that I know nothing about. A new stage of life that beckons my entry and the only way I am permitted to cross the threshold is by leaving something behind.
Not the idea of old me (young me), past me, or should-be me, but by allowing this overly-identified concept of self to remain snuggled in bed for now. I must let sleep what I think I am to become what I am meant to be, which paradoxically, is exactly what I am in this very moment––just another radiant being on this planet.
Now at 40, I am no more becoming something than just being in this moment.
If, for a moment, I can be still.
Photo: The art of Chumpol Taksapornchai, a local artist in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Great article, Colleen.
This is so true! I know this feeling so well. The search for meaning. It’s the never-ending car-ride that never arrives at the destination. Are we there yet? No! We’re never going to be there yet. That’s the point — don’t you get it? Haha!
Thanks Shalon – I knew it would speak to you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂