About a year ago, I went to California to begin my midlife crisis. I didn't consciously plan that activity, but it appeared on the itinerary anyway. I felt an inner "snap." The band holding my life together burst.
I turned the "purse of my life" upside down, gave it a good shake, and all the jumbled contents scattered across the floor in every direction: lipsticks, loose change, market receipts, old "to do" lists, paper clips, keys, sticks of gum, reading glasses... No way to squeeze it all back in and I didn't want to. The purse had become cluttered, crowded and unmanageable. High time to clean it out.
So I've spent a lot of this year sorting. The sorting process is tricky. I'm used to saving stuff, pushing it down, cramming it in to be looked at later. But later had arrived. I took it an item at a time: "Does this go back in?" Sometimes, even if I wanted to keep a thing, it had spoiled and I had to simply toss it and face the truth: it was not what I wanted after all.
It takes radical self-trust to believe in your own perceptions. For years, I've been trained not to do that. Someone outside of me can and should tell me what is good for me, what I ought to tolerate, what I must be willing to live with—as though someone else knows, someone who isn't inside me. But a year ago, on a beach, alone with my sacred cigarette, I knew I couldn't live like that any more. I had to take the first awkward steps toward reclaiming my voice, toward sorting my life.
I remember last April walking the streets of San Francisco while the Final Four were playing, hurrying back to a hotel room to catch the second half where my team, the mighty UCLA, went down. A bit metaphorical, after all. That school bound to make it with Kevin Love at the helm, fell apart. Expectations weren't enough to carry them. I knew I couldn't make it on reputation and habit alone.
Still, it had been such an incredible ten days in California: soaring with emotion, relief, freedom, and peace - an awakening to how life could be, yet with a dawning awareness of the cost to get it to be that way all the time.
A couple weekends ago, while little Villanova stunned the nation beating Pitt, I had a similar, and yet new, feeling. I was also out of town, watching a game on a screen in a sports bar at a hotel. This time, the team I rooted for won. The evening felt unburdened by my past year. It strangely liberated me. A flood of feelings followed: relief, escape, confidence, optimism, and admittedly, fatigue, too. In that space, I felt free to let down, to recuperate. I had spent myself, but I also liked what was emerging from the depths: my own, original (though still small) voice, undiluted by what others tell me to think or be. I let it all go - the bad, the good, the confusion. I embraced myself and knew I'd be okay.
"But the little things they make me so happy
All I want to do is live by the sea
Little things they make me so happy
But it's good it's good it's good to be free..." (Oasis)