Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Direction

I feel torn. I feel that I'm standing smack in the middle of this pictured crossroads. There is nothing strongly inducing me to move in one direction over the others. However, the feeling of pleasant isolation this crossroads initially brought about is wearing thin. Yet, despite being ultimately free to move in any direction I choose, despite feeling that I could find my way back to this crossroads if necessary, I find myself rendered utterly immobile.

I feel restless. I know myself. I know that I stagnate in too-familiar surroundings. I've known since I was very young that I had to travel, that I had to live other places and experience a significant "out of my element" feeling. However, I'm standing here, in this crossroads and not hearing a sound. I believe I see glimpses of what might be down each road, but just as quickly, I am enveloped in silence.

I feel that I could take various directions with my life and not one seems particularly "right" or "better." All I really "know" is that I'm a writer. That is the only constant. There is no fixed physical destination in my mind but rather, a myriad of places I could live. I see a life in Paris, learning French at the Sorbonne, writing in cafés and taking the train to the countryside frequently. I see a life in the South, languid days sitting on a porch with ceiling fans, writing in the early morning, watching a huge sun emerge from the eastern horizon and setting over a western marsh.

I feel an ever growing desire for a more rural life. When I drive out to see my sister E in the country, I reach this point when the miserable suburbs and freeways are behind me and the sky just opens up before me and I feel my soul expand exponentially. My dad's stories of growing up on a farm in Illinois speak more to me than ever. I feel such felicity riding his John Deere around the yard and whilst mowing his lawn, I fantasize about having acres of my own land to mow, the sun dipping in the western sky, returning to a house with a huge porch, drinking a beer and listening to Górecki's "Symphony No.3" with a yellow lab at my feet and a strong, masculine man that will pick me up on a whim and adore my paradoxical quirks.

I know that I could have the best-of-both-worlds, living in a rural environment not far from a city. But where? Here? I just don't know. I just feel this enormous internal pressure to go. I feel that there is something out there that is imperative to living a truly fulfilling life. So, why do I feel immobile? Because I don't know where to start, I don't want to completely let go of what is here? Sometimes I think I'm just waiting for life to happen to me. And other times I feel that if writing is my one constant, why don't I start there and fully put myself into that and let the rest unfold? Well, my month in Paris is on the horizon and I've told myself to just weather this restlessness until July and once I'm home in August, go from there.


“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. We would fain take that walk, never yet taken by us through this actual world, which is perfectly symbolical of the path which we love to travel in the interior and ideal world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find it difficult to choose our direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our idea.”
-Henry David Thoreau


*Image from here.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

crossroads of the heart are the best kinds-interpreted using the language of nature and beauty- reminds me of my waking dream poem- joy and gratitude for all you share and all of your supports!
*
bethenais
dancingdocdesign

La Belette Rouge said...

Your post makes me think of the Jungian concept of pairs of opposites. According to Jung if you can tolerate the ambiguity of two oppositional forces a third will appear. The tough part is holding the tension of the opposites. Jung would say hold Paris in one hand and the South in the other and a third an unexpected other will emerge.

Let me remind you again that there are tractors, farmers, and Labradors in France. And, that in August you may be just going home long enough to pack up your stuff and saying goodbye to Cathy cat lady and get your dork-sided self back to France.

I feel certain that Paris will raise more questions and give you more answers and even more questions.What am I trying to say is that the universe is conspiring for your happiness and that your discontent is divine discontent. And, that is a good thing.
xo

Lynn said...

I hope you find the voice within. Ruby's words are wise..

alisa said...

It's ok to be restless....all of us who love france are restless. I look at my life and have to say "is that it"...."that's all there is?"...no way. You can be rural in any country, you can live in Paris and go to the country every weekend...you can live in the country and go to paris every weekend. But I say go....go where the wind takes you. You can always come back. But you'll never know unless you jump. So many people wish they could be in your position, at a crossroads, with decisions to make...most are stuck in a life that isn't bad but not what they had hoped. Life is too short to stick in 1 place...follow your dreams, be brave and it will all work out. It always is worse thinking about it than doing it. I think you go to paris and then see what happens, the month in paris might change your life - you may love it, you may dislike it, you may miss home, you may not miss home..July is right around the corner, so hold tight until then.

Randal Graves said...

I think a restlessness for some is inevitable whether we're in our preferred physical location or not. That restlessness can be physical like our roots, the need to see other places, it could be emotional, an internal journey. Of course, the places are often the magnet that draws those emotions out.

To cut through that convoluted armchair psychologist crap, I guess I mean to say that everything is connected, everything can be a spark to something else. We write, sometimes beginning out of the ether, sometimes at the first notes of a song, or seeing a work of art and looking at the colors, at the textures of the strokes, which can lead to other thoughts, trigger memories, ones we've had, ones we want to have.

I think what LBR said nailed it. There really will always be more questions because even our idea of perfection isn't concrete. We have a rough idea of it, but it's malleable. You will get some answers in France, and you will get more questions. It's always the journey, isn't it?

F.O.T. said...

I know this restless feeling. I've felt it my entire life. Maybe it's something in us that needs the difference in life that goes with the difference of our personalities. I too feel the pull of a "country" and "city" life. I do, however, know that I would like to try this in France. That is my one constant which, at this time, seems so difficult to get too. There always something in the way that I HAVE to consider: money (usually), dogs, people, friends, spouse, no-spouse, WORK. Frankly, I am getting tired of thinking about everyone else and not myself.

I know you will get there. As you move forward, you will have questions answered and more arise. But I know it's tiring to always be asking the same questions and seemingly always be answering them over and over.

Lothian said...

I could have written this post myself. I too am stuck and need to move on. Good luck to you.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

I identify with much of your post. I have ALWAYS felt this way about being restless...even when I lived in France. I think it is part of my personality, my character, and my genes. Though I have a lot of things in my life in place and that I wouldn't change, this feeling of being trapped where I am is constant.
I think your month in Paris will definitely give you some answers, I know our month in the country in France answered most of my questions about living there, and where to go from there...

Richard said...

I completely empathize, except for the part about the marsh - mosquitoes, the beer - I don't drink, and the bit about the strong masculine man - not quite to my tastes.

I can completely imagine you standing at the crossroads, because I stand at my own crossroads. Sometimes I move on, but, inevitably, I stop and wonder which is the best direction to continue.

As I've gotten older, my expectations and have changed. When I was younger, I set out confident in the certainty that I would arrive at a destination. In general, my trip has been good, full of fair weather and wondrous sights, but it has always been alone. (Let's ignore all the negative implications a literal interpretation of this metaphor raises about my relationship with Sofia, the kids, friends and family.)

I look down the paths and wonder which is the best way to proceed. In all likelihood, any path is fine, except the way back; I want to move forward, but not backward. I look down the various paths and see nothing but endless path vanishing into the horizon. My imagination bristles with hopes of what I may find just beyond the horizon. Then, before taking that first step, the memory of travels past sets in and I know that most likely what I can look forward too is a long journey, alone, until I tire and stop and wonder which way my seemingly increasing mythical destination lies.

I am tired of journeying alone. I want to have a group of peers with which I can resonate. I don't want to partner, I don't want to collaborate, I just want a group where oscillations and resonances occur and I can feed off that.

I can't deny that over the years, I hoped I would find such people. But, like all other people we seek relationships with, it seems that finding these synergistic people is quite elusive (and, perhaps illusory). On the other hand, I suspect (or perhaps idly fantasize) that I have met a few such people through blogging, but lament that geography and completely disconnected lives (never mind the myriad responsibilities and obligations) preclude any effective synergy. Virtual friends are nice, but they do not come close to equalling flesh and blood ones. (On, the other hand, at least in my case, they at least allow me the option of handling the interaction on my terms at my pace.)

I'd offer you a hug, but, at 3 letters, it is too fleeting. An embrace is much more what is called for.

b said...

Bethenais... Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement, always!

LBR... I absolutely can tolerate the ambiguity, almost too much so. I hope a third and harmonious alternative will make itself obvious but I think that part of the fulfillment for me will require a leap... rather blindly (or aimlessly) into some direction.

And I do think, as others mention, I will always be a wandering soul. It is not as though I am unhappy or have that fatal "the grass is always greener" perspective. It's just so in my blood. As much as I embrace solitude and isolation, I feel I must shake up my surroundings frequently so as not to stagnate. Does that make sense? But I do love having a home and that sense of comfort of familiarity. Ugh. I must sound cookoo crazy! :)

Yes, there are tractors, farmers, and labradors in France. Funny, today I was working on some images of rural France, most of them in Languedoc!

I'm more than ready to say goodbye to Cathy cat lady. I think those are good moments of clarity however... meeting people like that. They remind me of what I am deathly afraid of being. And I know I could be, if I just sit here waiting for life to happen to me.

Paris will definitely raise more questions but that's okay. I think it will be so well worth it. And no, despite this inner turmoil, I have not lost faith on the universe and the power of divine discontent! :)

Thank you for your never ending hope and friendship, mon amie!

b said...

Lynn... What if the voice within is actually multiple voices? :) Ruby's words are wise, as are yours. I think that despite all the seemingly conflicting voices within me, there is one reigning voice and opportunity and circumstance just need to give it a push! Thank you for the encouragement!

P.S. I love that you gave LBR the nickname Ruby. My friend's daughter's name is Ruby and I so love it!!

b said...

Alisa... Thank you for visiting my blog! You are absolutely right. I don't feel that I must be either country girl or city girl. The ability to move between the two is available and in many, many places. I guess it is just a matter of where. France? South Carolina? Vermont? All sound equally desirable. I guess a part of me wishes I could be the person that goes to live in each of various places for a year or so at a time. And when something/someone compelling inspires me to linger longer, great. And why can't I be that person? What prevents me from such?

And yes, I have to jump. And it is worse thinking (over thinking!) about it than actually doing it. I know that the month in Paris will be wonderful and I have a lot of faith that it will give me that needed push to make a greater leap.

Thank you so much for the encouragement!!

b said...

Randal... I certainly feel that way, an inevitable restlessness regardless of where I am. I wonder if I really put myself into writing, if that restlessness could find a fruitful outlet. And I do see the beauty of things being connected and all that such triggers. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I get lost in the inner turmoil and start convincing myself that all that is arbitrary.

Haha... yes, it is always the journey. I'm okay with the questions. I just need to move in some direction and not just stand here much longer.

Thanks for the support. And you're always welcome to play armchair psychologist! :)

b said...

F.O.T.... You are definitely a kindred soul in this regard. I'm so happy that you know it is France and that you now have your house there. I know that doesn't make everything else particularly easy but it will work out. It is exhausting, always trying to make decisions based on money, responsibilities, family, work. I do believe that if we make our bliss our true number one priority, everything will be okay and life will be truly fulfilling. Every time I compromise my bliss for those other things, I feel tangled and the longer I compromise my bliss, the more lost I feel.

Thanks for the encouragement. I really do believe I will get there but there is always the fear that I will wake up and be that woman in the Paris, Je t'aime short. So, this constant struggle and phases of immense discontent are important to heed to. They nag at me resiliently and I suppose that's good. It always gets me to do something. :)

b said...

Lothian... Thank you for visiting my blog! It is so nice to know that others can relate to this. Sometimes that inner struggle is a very isolating experience. I look forward to reading your blog and hopefully gaining insight as to what you are going through. Good luck to you as well!

b said...

Cassoulet Café... Hooray for blogging. It is so nice to be able to identify with other kindred souls. I too have always felt such restlessness and I do believe it is innate. Although I feel certain that the restlessness will always lie within me, I do feel that I need to take some action and experience someplace(s) new.

I'm glad your month in France gave you those answers. I know I said this on your blog, but I was so happy to read your open and honest account of how you felt about not wanting to live in France. It really was so authentic and so inspiring. It just reinforced so much about being alive for me. So, thank you for extending yourself and inspiring me!!

b said...

Richard... Haha. Well, the marsh, beer, and the masculine man are somewhat trivial details to the overall struggle! I do believe that age gives us greater pause and in some cases, that is wonderful. But yes, I do feel that the experiences and self-awareness that accumulate over time can be really limiting when it comes to putting things into motion, taking risks, living freely.

No, I know what you're saying about being alone. Although I don't have a family of my own and I'm single, I do have my parents and siblings. And I do have a few very close friends. But often, it does seem like a lonely journey and yet, standing here at the crossroads feels even lonelier, despite those people being within reach.

Somehow, that motion, that change of scenery... it is far less lonely to me, even in the absence of other human beings at times. The change of physical scenery, being awakened to nature in ways I've never been before... it is a companionship that I crave. Yet, here I am... standing and waiting for some divine sign or something! Ridiculous.

I do think you are right. I think that any of these directions will be fine and there will be other crossroads allowing me to alter course if desired. I do feel so torn about which path is most desirable and fulfilling for me and it is as though I'm trying to answer a multiple choice question about which I have no clue! Going backwards is definitely not a possibility. Nor is living in the crossroads. My indecision is crippling. :)

Blogging has really helped in this regard, yes. I do feel that I've met more similar souls here than in my physical day-to-day life. it is nice to connect and identify with others. And it reinforces that we can only do this when we are truly authentic. For me, that alone, the ability to be authentic and open, has been huge.

Do you feel that you've "met" people blogging that you could resonate with? How do you see such a group working effectively? For me, I feel it most when I post and read posts that resonate and the comments that stem from such.

The geography issue is somewhat problematic but I don't necessarily need constant physical presence of friendship. Yet, I do know that desire, to be able to meet such a kindred soul on a whim for coffee or a walk.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. It really helps more than you know. Thank you for the embrace as well. Your sincerity is truly felt and greatly appreciated.

Betty C. said...

Well, the beauty of this post proves you're a writer, that's for sure.

I definitely agree that if you've got a month planned in Paris, try to let go of all thoughts of restlessness and doubt -- and let Paris happen to you.

You may have a lot of answers when you get back.

Richard said...

I have definitely found inspirational people - like Carra. Reading of her writing and business achievements are very inspiring for me. Wednesday night I sat and wrote for a bit because of reading her blog.

I don't know if it is the same for you, but I have lots of dreams, and my mind explores what seem to be limitless expanses of possibilities. I am drawn to and excited by them. I sit in my cubicle at work and dream of going home and writing something, or designing something, or building something, or, well, doing something. Or maybe as I read through a magazine on woodworking, I am filled with hopes and dreams and the need to do. Yet ... when I approach the task at hand, I find pushback. I don't know what it is. The popular name given to the root is fear. But I don't believe that. I think calling it 'fear' is convenient, but not accurate.

What once seemed so desirable, so clear and bright is now nothing more than a blank sheet of paper before me, a bunch of tools in a workshop.

Having read a lot about writing, I know this desertion of creativity and motivation is common, perhaps even the norm. I read I, Asimov recently and Asimov throughout the book quite clearly attributes his prolific writing to one thing: he likes to write. He prefers writing to any other activity. He doesn't want to go for a walk, or enjoy the sun, or play with his children, or socialize, or do anything, except write. Period. I don't have that narrowness of focus. I want to do other things.

Anyway, getting back to Wednesday night ... I wrote because I wanted to and I wrote without feeling pushback. I didn't write much, but I didn't struggle to write. I want that experience more often.

I am not sure a virtual peer group would work. I am under the impression it needs to have physicality. One recommendation in a book on achieving success I read years ago, was to have a peer / mentor group that regularly met (say once per month). Everyone would share their dreams, the goals, their accomplishments (for the particular focus that group was for). The idea is that the group help you accountable to your dreams. It also provided you with advice and assistance as necessary - so it should be a diverse group. So, you might actually be part of several groups: a writing group, a inventors groups, a quilting group, etc. While I can find people who share similar interest, the problem is finding people to resonate with. Sofia calls it a "question of skin". Perhaps I need to learn to be more utilitarian in my use of people.

cw said...

strange... I just recently kicked back into doing my blog and what I wrote down today is about what you have here. Of course it is on the simpleton side and lacks the grace you were born with to write with, but it is kinda basicly the same. I realy should get my own 'panuter and online stuff so I don't have to borrow...blathering, thats all I'm doing right now. Ha!

b said...

Betty... Oh, thank you so much. I know I'm a writer and that constant is there but to hear other people affirm it, makes it even more real, you know? And it is truly inspiring.

Yes, I think it is best to let Paris happen to me and go from there. That month will be wonderful and will help me in huge ways, no doubt.

b said...

Richard... For me, I too find inspiration through other blogs and just reading other people's experiences helps tremendously. The rest I know is truly up to me. I tend to not do so well with groups, although I've never fully tried it. Somehow though, I know myself. I derive inspiration from other people's experiences, even fictional literary characters, and then I isolate and produce.

Have you tried starting a group where you are at? I imagine it is difficult finding the "right" people but maybe not as difficult as we assume. And I agree, I think I too would be more inspired by a diverse group.

That accountability factor is helpful. Even when I've posted goals on my blog like going to Paris for a month and losing 10 pounds in two months, I've successfully accomplished such because of that accountability I have created with myself, even knowing that other bloggers would not ostracize me for failing. Just saying it aloud often proves motivating enough to stick with something important.

I definitely have lots of dreams and my mind goes crazy with possibilities and such. The pushback that you describe is one I understand. There are many interests that I have and once I have the tools or such in front of me, the enthusiasm seems to wane a bit. Most recently, I would say that has been photography. I bought a digital SLR camera and a book and I've done so little to learn anything and have experimented minimally. I use the camera and enjoy it but I think the pushback in that regard is more about it being a lesser interest to me than say, writing. I agree, it is definitely not fear in this case.

Where writing is concerned, it doesn't feel like such a pushback for me as it does a kind of overwhelming sense of something, maybe a kind of fear. And yet, in this case, fear also doesn't seem an entirely apt way to describe it. I think a lot of it is my inner critic. I want to write and write and write. But that inner critic nags at me, telling me that when I commit to writing something, it needs to be so well done each and every time. I think it is more pressure and anxiety than fear for me.

I'm trying to work on embracing the "good enough" approach lately, where I tell myself that I can't possibly write brilliant pieces each and every time. So, I tell myself to write something that is good enough to put on my blog, good enough to put on a sheet of paper. And that does help. Waiting for that brilliance to show up is not going to do anything but limit my writing and make me less of a writer.

I think I also feel this overwhelming sense that I will not be able to capture my thoughts accurately. My creative mind is a bit chaotic and very fragmented. Capturing thoughts and ideas has been difficult for me. And often I feel that if I cannot completely convey that thought in writing, I need to chuck it. But I just jot things down on post-it notes and stick them in a notebook. I somehow believe (hope) that one day I will pull that notebook out and read all those fragmented thoughts and be able to compose some kind of great narrative, weaving those fragments in.

I don't know. I have a very difficult time being "utilitarian" in my use of people. I know that networking, etc. is useful and in doing such, opportunities present themselves. I just don't do well soliciting myself and I don't like the thought of approaching people for help. But that is ridiculous. Of course, we should be happy to help other people and ask for help when we need it. For me however, I think my primary concern/goal/focus is on writing. Just writing freely and without constant judgment/assessment. I just feel so strongly that if we really put ourselves into our bliss, surrender to it, the details will work themselves out. Easier said than done though, right? :)

Okay, I've really rambled on in this comment, haven't I?

b said...

CW... I'm so glad you're back blogging! And yes, you literally did post about this very restlessness on your blog recently! It is really neat for me to know that of our entire family, you and I are the only two who possess such wandering spirits. Sometimes that feeling is a lonely one (especially within our family) but it always brings me so much comfort to share that with you and hear your thoughts, ambitions, etc.

Nonsense about the simpleton side. I think simplicity is wonderful and speaks volumes. I do hope that you get your own "panuter" and can blog more freely and more often! And blathering? Haha... why do you think I blog? For the freedom to blather at will! :)

susan said...

If you're in Paris in July and traditionally all Parisians leave the city for the month of August.. maybe you should follow and see where they go. Then you could drop us all a line about where the really cool place is to be found. We're all looking.

Dr.Bethenais- Languedoc's Lady Doc said...

b- consider a dream quest or a walk down a road and ask your heart knowing nothing is irreversible except death and for me I can not help believing in reincarnation, have since I was a little girl and now living here where the Tautaval man of 450,000 years ago was found it still rings clear- joy
bethenais
and yes, this is my 2nd comment for the crossroad post!

b said...

Susan... That's a great thought and one that has been lurking in the back of my mind. How fun it would be to stay into August and follow Parisians out of the city. I think that would really give me a feeling of what life in France might be like. And then, it also seems appealing to consider staying in the city for part of August, to enjoy a quieter Paris. Whatever happens while there in July (and perhaps beyond?), I will certainly post about it here! :)

Thanks for visiting my blog!

b said...

Dr. B... I'm glad you commented again. You always give me such great food for thought. I'm absolutely not opposed to the idea of reincarnation. It is an exciting thought to me and the uncertainty of such has never been a discomfort. I do want to make this life meaningful however and I do think that there are various paths we can take (and of course, those paths splinter out to many other paths) and not one may be right. But there is a constant me... the writer... and as long as I remain faithful to that bliss, I will be alive. I do know that changing my surroundings is imperative to that creative self. And how wonderful that I ultimately have the freedom to wander.

Richard said...

I was going to respond yesterday, but then I got to thinking ...

Thinking I do a lot, but articulating ... hmmm ... sometimes articulating your thoughts to the right person helps to shed light on things that are there but you are not focussing on or paying attention to.

I have 3 things I am trying to deal with as I try to pursue my dreams and goals (generally wrapped up, packaged and presented as "happiness"): (1) resistance / pushback / fog, (2) uncertainty, (3) fear.

(1) resistance / pushback / fog: I mentioned it in my previous comment, this has nothing to do with fear and everything to do with suddenly not knowing what to do when I actually want to do something. Is it performance anxiety? Feeling conspicuously naked? I don't know, it is just fizzle and very annoying.

(2) uncertainty: the uncertainty that this is really what I want to do, though this does not impede my ability to perform. Maybe I am deluding myself that I want to be a writer, but that does not stop me from writing.

(3) fear: the fear of failure, of being homeless, of quitting my job and discovering I have cancer. Being trapped in a gilded cage makes one cautious about leaving it.

Those last two only affect my ability to quit my job and immerse myself full time in whatever happens to be my passion for that week, but they certainly don't or should not impede my ability to write on the side or in the evenings or weekends. Yet, I don't really immerse myself in my "interests". Why is that?

Yes, just getting things done, even if not perfect, is good. It feels good. Accomplishment is good. And, most disappointingly, people don't notice it wasn't as good as it could have been. That bugs me.

I also find it difficult to maintain the force of will necessary to just get through things. It seems easier to wait for an epiphany.

My experience with forming groups is mixed. Most times I find it takes a lot of energy out of me. On the other hand, I also know that if I really want to I can do it. I would just prefer to do it the easy way by being surrounded with people I don't have to bind together by the force of my will.

I think there is also a lot of "what's the point?" mixed in with my feelings. When I was younger, I was much more likely to dream and talk about my dreams and try to act on them. Now, I am more likely to think, "What's the point?"

Just think how much time you and I have spent in this little micro-conversation. Couldn't that time have been invested in writing? Of course, this micro-conversation has a point, it is social, it is pleasant, it rewards by its nature.

I think I am becoming incoherent. End of the day (at work), so I am not always known to be brilliant at this stage.