Saturday, April 18, 2009

"It's Good to Be Free"

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)

16 comments:

NoVA Dad said...

I sense this point coming in my life as well - the shaking out of my wallet (sorry, not even a man purse). I hesitate to confront and embrace what I know needs to be done, choosing into to procrastinate and put it off as long as possible...

jo(e) said...

You say this so well. I know that feeling ....

Drew Tatusko said...

and it sounds like you came out of it on the generative side of generativity versus stagnation. change and development generally suck, but those small stops of calm on the way to the final destination are worth keeping for a while...

Bilbo said...

Being trained to not trust in yourself and the subsequent lack of trust in oneself jumped out at me. Reminds me of all the sermons, talks, and discussions with others about not trusting in our emotions, intuition, or self because of our "radical sin nature". I suspect you remember a lot of those kind of admonitions as well. It's a real challenge trying to turn that around in midlife. I wish you well in your journey and the rest of us who are on a similar quest.

Nicole Rae Studio said...

Ditto to what Bilbo said... so hard to get back to trusting yourself after a lifetime of hearing how untrustworthy you are.

julieunplugged said...

You're all such faithful readers of my process. Thank you. <3

Kansas Bob said...

I loved this Julie:

"It takes radical self-trust to believe in your own perceptions."My life started all over again when I began to believe that my heart was good and trustable.. that my gut was where God was in my life.. and when I followed my heart/gut I was following God.. not that it has been easy.. I still battle a lot of those old religious ideas that someone outside of me told me.

I have so enjoyed following this journey of yours Julie.. it has been like the proverbial butterfly coming out of the cocoon. I am so excited to see where your heart will take you.

Dave from Ireland said...

I've been following your blog for quite a while - this is just superb . . .

Full of admiration for you . . .

D

julieunplugged said...

Thank you D! (I wonder if you have surmised yet that I an nearly 100% Irish in heritage...) So nice that you popped up in comments. Do you have a blog?

Peace.

Makeesha said...

Bilbo articulated it well - distrust of self is so deeply and rigidly ingrained in much of church culture it's very hard to escape from.

Searching For My Willoughby said...

I think everybody else has said it well. My whole life has been spent trusting another person (usually male) because I'm fallen, my feelings are not trustworthy. It's good to see you learning to trust yourself because I so desperately need to know it can be done. Thank you for sharing your journey with us

AmpersandToo said...

heart you and your writing and your process.

sending you a link to an image I created for you a while back.

Mike said...

Julie,

You articulate so well what many of us instinctively feel on this journey, but don't have the talent (or courage) to put into words. I think you need a stint on Oprah...

Will said...

Made me think of...

Sea Joy

When I go down by the sandy shore
I can think of nothing I want more
Than to live by the booming blue sea
As the seagulls flutter round about me.

I can run about-when the tide is out
With the wind and the sand and the sea all about
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish
Oh - to live by the sea is my only wish
(Jacqueline Bouvier)

Sentient Marrow said...

Sorting out your purse! I love the analogy. So weird reading this today because I recently went into sentient marrow and found a post i had started writing awhile ago and never posted. I posted it today and I think it has a similarity to yours.

sambrooklyn said...

"It takes radical self-trust to believe in your own perceptions"; what a great line. I so often feel like it's time for me to "take stock" and figure out who I want to be for the rest of this too-short life.

I definitely can relate.