Recently I came to a very belated realization: that this, the day-in and day-out mix of editing and copyediting for clients, of writing, of trying to find new work, of trying to sell my novel, of housework and cooking and errands and other homely tasks, is actually my life, and so I’d better start learning to be comfortable with how things are right now, instead of always feeling as though I’m still in the warm-up phase, worrying over how things are going to work out once the action starts.
Funny how we get into the habit early on of waiting for the future. Waiting to start school or even preschool, maybe in imitation of an older sibling. Then waiting every year for summer vacation. Waiting to be a big sixth grader, among the kings and queens of elementary school! Waiting to have a first boyfriend or girlfriend (and in my case that was an embarrassingly long wait). Waiting for graduations – high school or college or graduate school. Waiting for a first apartment, a salary or work experience, an important promotion … or even retirement! Waiting to find a life partner, maybe. Or maybe waiting for a formal engagement, then a wedding, then children … and then, I suspect, waiting for our children to go through these same milestones.
But now, in my mid-thirties – and maybe I’ve arrived at this stage later than I would have had I been born a few generations earlier – it occurs to me that the things that have come easily to people my age, whether through talent or hard work or luck, we already have – and the things we thought we’d have, that we don’t have – well, we can’t just hang in suspense, holding our breath, feeling perpetually incomplete as we wait for them to happen. Not that I know anyone who does exactly this, but there is that feeling of waiting, waiting, waiting, as the months and years go by, not exactly measuring out our lives in coffee spoons, as T.S. Eliot put it, but holding ourselves against a measuring-stick of cultural expectations that may be incompatible with our own abilities, desires, characters, and (at the risk of using a loaded word) destinies. Of course we know we shouldn’t make such measurements, but there’s no way to totally avoid it without withdrawing from a world where others do ask us questions and doubt our choices – from how we spend our time and money, to our social lives and relationships and family plans. Yet, at a certain point it feels good to say, “this is where I am right now, and this is what I do have, so I may as well try and make the best of it—and maybe even like it!”
Platitudes, platitudes, but sometimes the most basic concepts can take me by surprise.
* My husband suggested that this picture was relevant, because the piggie is waiting for something, and maybe the "other animal" is waiting for something, too. (He'd also like me to add that he was laughing as he said this.)