This is 38. I love it. And sometimes I heavily dislike it.
There is pretty much nothing I could have predicted my life would be like ten years ago, and that fact is neither reassuring nor discomforting. I am constantly reminded about the unstoppable march to death as my vision worsens, my hair recedes, and my skin reflects my adventures in the sun. I think about death frequently with waves of fear, morbid curiosity, momentary respite, but mostly fear. The fear is sometimes exhausting, but it also inspires me to create the life I want to lead and cherish winning the creature lottery in getting to experience existence with our agile meat containers, powerful microprocessors, and relentless capacities to feel. A paradoxical mix of perspectives and absolutely no idea of where the story will go.
After a month in Bali TAing a coaching course and a bittersweet trip to SF, I am aware and anxious to dive into this next transition phase. It seems like we are almost constantly in transition but how do we know if we’re actually transforming or being tested or just need a break? Maybe it’s the mere suspicion that we are at the cusp of a transformation that actually triggers the change. The epic saga element of life is that we think we know what or whom we are transforming into, and we are almost always wrong. Maybe many intermediate quests await us like Odysseus or maybe we never reach the destination we think we want to find, yet we are always seeking, moving and seeking, staying and seeking. We’re always on a path of change (dare I say progress?) but in any given moment, it can feel like stagnation, or worse, regression, and I’m haunted by an inexorable sense of impatience and desperation lurking around the corner.
And does that make the story a tragedy or a beautiful fairy tale? I guess it depends where you start and end the story as the cycle of challenge and triumph repeat ad infinitum.
Then, what are we as players in the story to do? We get the script as it happens and sometimes can’t understand the overall plot line until way deep into the narrative. So, we do our best from what we know, hope for pleasure, grit our teeth through the pain, and take a deep breath, because the show must go on…
I find myself at the prelude of a new chapter, both by and not by my own volition. I’m tired from traveling: the corporeal movement between continents and cultures, the jetlag that chaotically throws me off my circadian rhythms, and the dread and adrenaline that accompanies my fear-facing feats. I also cherish the the deep sense of specialness artificially created by the urgency of an itinerant lifestyle: friends prioritizing time for me when I’m in town, the excitement of “just going for it” when meeting new prospects, and being in the spotlight with a guest star cameo in exotic new cities.
Transition means going from some-thing/where/one to some-thing/where/one else. And it takes a lot of energy and momentum to overcome the inertia of the former to move to the latter, especially when it’s not really clear what the desired, much less actual, next destination is. For new things to begin, it usually means old things must end–habits, behaviors, activities, relationships, beliefs, identities–and that process can feel frustratingly jagged and non-linear.
Sometimes old things need to end before new things arrive, leaving an uncomfortable void that requires discipline, patience, and faith to allow the time and space for the new things to show up. I must say no to the things that take me further away from I want (or at least think I want), so there is space to say yes to the things I want. Sometimes the universe helps me by ending things I wouldn’t want to (basically being cut out of HER; even though I was barely organizing any events, it still hurt) and sometimes the universe strengthens me through tempting challenges that certainly appeal to some of my inner voices, usually the loud ones! It can look and feel like self-sabotage but it’s really about aligning inner voices. Or like my new Burning Man camp, a collaborative benevolent dictatorship where all voices are heard and an ultimate decision by my highest self is made and enforced with conviction and compassion.
I got an arcane glimpse into my inner psyche while playing Cards Against Humanity on my birthday eve. My made-up prompt was “What do I really want for my birthday?” My chosen finalists were “My Wife (in Borat voice)”, “An ambitious woman wearing pants”, and “Wet Dreams.” In my reasoning mind, I thought, “Yes! I want to wifey up/down though I don’t really want pants because I like femmes, who are naked.” And then I had to make a game-time split decision, and what came out of my mouth? “No! I don’t want an ambitious woman. Just a hot one! Wet Dreams it is!”
I paused for a millisecond in shock and self-betrayal as my good friend exclaimed, “What?! You’re always talking about how you want a partner who has her shit together and is financially independent. And femme girls can wear pants too!” I dejectedly half-shook my head as I numbly handed the black card to the dude who had put in Wet Dreams.
I couldn’t even say no to the red flag dead ends in my mind–how would I do it in real life? Would I be able to turn down the delicious triple-scoop coffee gelato waffle cone sitting in front of me for the potential of broccoli in the future? And just because I decided to head towards exploring Relationship-ville, doesn’t mean the ravenous predator beast that I unleashed this past year doesn’t also still live within.
I realize that a lot of my identity and lifestyle revolve around adrenaline and extremes. Maybe I’ll always be a Type A extremist, but can I detox myself from the activities that no longer serve me right now and still foster a healthy and loving self-identity?
For example, I’m dreading rafting Class IV and V rapids in Patagonia, because I’m scared about swimming. Can I go to Futaleufu and just not raft? Why do I care whether others think I’m less of a badass or cool person for not rafting? Why does it feel like giving up and dying to let something go? Who am I without adrenaline sports, shark diving, Burning Man, lube wrestling, extreme traveling, and teenage boy predator beast mode? Who would like me? Would I continue to love myself?
Perhaps, boredom and being an ordinary nobody scare me the most in this chapter of life. So, in my fear-facing fashion, I want to embrace the discomfort by going into the comfort zone and seeing who I am without all my soothers and shields to the bleakness of boredom and ordinariness. What does that look like? Saying no for a month of boredom in Austin. And out of curiosity, seeing what drops off first:
- No alcohol
- No drugs
- No sex
- No meat
- No sugar
- No social media
- No to red flag dead ends for dating
- No to emotional drains, including:
- People who have some positive effect too (e.g., my ex-bf…our interactions are often inspiring and engaging but I’m always left with a lingering sense of longing and “what if?”)
- Places: my last trip to SF was predictable. It started fairly positive with a joy-filled return to the Gold Club with $5 lunch buffet where I happily fell off the vegetarianish bandwagon for an award-winning buttermilk fried chicken drumstick and the most hospitable bouncer crew, who always greet me with a “Welcome back! How many with you today?” and show me to a reserved table even though I haven’t been back for 8 months and spend on average $18. That’s how you spark customer loyalty! Yet I digress. I have a toxic relationship with that city…after one or two rosy days, I inevitably feel sad and trapped. Too many memories? Extreme homelessness? A reminder of the douchey person I was and can be? A half-life I no longer belong in even though I still have lots of friends and doctors? I need to get out of that city mentally and emotionally; and physically move my stuff out of storage so I’m not bound to returning to that city to repack.
And saying yes to:
- 8 hours of sleep
- Boring activities: grocery shopping, squeegeeing my shower (hopefully I get a glass one!), knitting (?)–admittedly, I need to come up with more ideas
- Building my coaching practice
- Figuring out the next chapter of “work”–how I intend to spend my time, talents, and resources whether it earns income or not
- Healthy eating and exercise
- Meeting people, but not necessarily seeking out dates
- Being the prey, not the predator; the flame, not the moth
- Empowering beliefs around abundance, my attractiveness to the right fits, and the openness to living my dreams in whatever form they come in