Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
The Black Hole of Indecision
How dark is it inside a cow’s stomach?
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When I was little we summered at the cottage—a log cabin on top of
a granite rock. When we came home late in the evening from some
event, we would feel our way up the sloping granite, one footfall at a
time, following the bouncing beam of a flashlight.
The whip-poor-wills and crickets would be raucous, and the stars
sparkling overhead. I would cling to my dad’s hand and he would
declare: “It’s as dark as the inside of a cow’s stomach!” I used to think
that was a riot—but I don’t just now.
It’s 2:45AM. Son number two is watching Chinatown—his dad’s all time
favorite movie. Son number one is making ginger and lemon tea
to soothe his strep throat. Last night they auditioned for a record label.
They are on their way. In exactly one month from now we won’t be
chatting in the kitchen in the middle of the night—we won’t be here at
all. Where we will be has yet to be determined.
Who I will be is the question. All external descriptors will cease to be and
I will be alone. The black hole is not a hole of despair—although it is a
bit scary—it is like the black of outer space; infinite possibility. I can go
anywhere and be anything. But can I, really? I am technically divested
of active motherhood, home ownership. Widowed three years ago, I am
nobody’s wife. I have my own business so I don’t belong to a company or
have a title. Okay, that’s all that I am not, but what am I then?
At various workshops over the years groups have participated in the
“Who are you” exercise. Partnered off with a stranger, you whisper in
her ear, “Who are you?” and she must answer the first thing that comes
to mind: “Mother,” for instance. You keep asking until there are no
more “definitions” and then the truth emerges: Light, Love. Whatever.
And then you go home. Home… Home.
A week ago today, I said to my agent (and friend), “Let’s buy a house
today.” I knew the one and was eager to put in the offer. “Before you
do,” said my agent, “I want to show you all that I can find with your
criteria. Then you can make the final decision.” He then showed me
a house even better—all the check marks—property, privacy, nature,
light, openness, spaciousness, beauty—and best of all, in my own
neighborhood. A new home!
I was ecstatic. I called Son number two to come up right away. He
loved it! There was room if they wanted to come home for a visit
and a great kitchen for them to create their wonderful meals. (It was
our standing joke since we sold the house that they would have to
come home once a month so that I would eat well.) The next day,
Son number one and Athan came to see it. They loved it too. It was
declared so “me!” Back home, we had coffee on the deck and started
talking about the particulars of the offer. I could feel myself slipping
into a very odd funk.
My oldest was giving me strange looks and finally asked for a private
moment. Off we went to the laundry room. I was leaning against the
washing machine and he was perched atop a ubiquitous load of laundry.
“The house is everything you want,” he said. “Time is running out. Just
buy it! Yesterday you were so happy and now you are glum. What’s up?”
I told him the truth, as I knew it: I didn’t know.
Athan and I went to the boat for the long weekend to gain some perspective.
A vast lake and broad blue sky is great for that. I felt overwhelmed by
everyone’s well-meaning advice, but felt each had his or her own personal
connection to the outcome. I phoned a good friend and, sitting on a
bench overlooking the marina, had a heart-to-heart. “Picture yourself
waking up in the morning, three years from now,” advised my friend.
“What do you see out the window?” I saw it—ocean—but how do I
get there from here?
I felt better, but in the middle of the night, in the tiny V berth, I awoke with
stomach wrenching anxiety and knelt on the mattress with my head in my
hands. I just couldn’t buy a house! My checklist was based on where I had been,
not where I was going! And where was that, exactly? What ocean? I knew that
if I was that conflicted, the decision was clear and that was to rent until I stepped
out of the old skin of mother, chatelaine, and into a sense of who I might become—
where I was no longer defined by external circumstance. Accepting that
uncertainty, I slept.
In the morning I said to Athan that I thought I might be having a
midlife crisis. “I think you absolutely should have one—before you
make any big decisions,” he replied. We went sailing that evening and
watched the blue of the sky merge with the blue of the lake as the sun
lowered in the sky. I was as calm as the water, which is near perfect
sailing weather for me. One knot—no heeling.
Fast forward to today: We’re looking for houses to rent. Athan is on
the Internet—Craig’s List. I called an agent and when she asked what
area, I said anywhere west of Yonge Street to St. Catharines, Highway 9
in the north to the Lake in the south. I’d like property, but it could be
in a subdivision—and I have two dogs. I explained I was in transition
and just wanted a couple of months to get my bearings. I was flexible,
It was a turbulent day. Each time Athan made a suggestion, I became
more and more sullen. This guy didn’t know me at all. And if he
didn’t, who did? And that was the rub. We drove around and looked at
subdivisions, and I got cranky while he got irritated. Then we went for
gelato. Sitting on the patio with the breeze blowing, rhapsodizing over
mango, peach, and lychee, and letting the Friday night traffic get on,
Athan asked me what was underlying my crankiness.
“Just the fact that you don’t know me at all, and what sort of place I’d
be happy in,” I began.
“Oh, no. This is not about me,” he said, “it is about you.” (Will this guy
let up?) “You are not very clear on precisely where or what you do want,
but when you see what you don’t want, some dark emotion comes up
and you project the anger onto me. What is that underlying emotion?”
What indeed? My chin trembled and giant hot tears began to cascade.
I put on my sunglasses. Who is that behind the Ray Bans? Damned if I
know—but she’s soggy.
Here I am, as free to be and do whatever I desire as any time in my life,
and I am terrified. I’m afraid of “leaving home.”
If I go and fulfill my long stated desires, where will I come home to? If
I set out on my dream, where will I bring my world-weary body back
to? Where is my bed, my room, my door to close and be quiet; my own
safe place? Why did that scare me so much? What was my sense of safety
hooked to? Is “home” a place, a protective shell, or a state of being?
Last evening over tea, Athan read me the five stages of midlife crisis—
Jung-esque. Here they are in italics, my interpretation following:
Accommodation—meeting other’s expectations, our roles, building the person.
The realm of the mind, unexamined thoughts—the Ego, in my perception.
Separation—rejecting that role defined Self.
The realm of the Higher Self—calling—creating circumstance.
Liminality—a period of uncertainty.
The realm of Higher Self vs. Ego, infinite possibility vs. limitations of comfort,
heart vs. head.
Reintegration—working out “who I am” and becoming comfortable with
Spirit shines through and manifests in our Higher Self expressed.
Individuation—fully accepting all aspects of self—the desirable and
the undesirable character traits.
Soul—neither “good” nor “bad” but complete and “real.”
Our dreams and desires often keep us sane through the turbulence of
an uncertain world. But what if we get what we wish for? What if our
desires rush right up to us? Are we ready to embrace them or are they mere
displacement, allowing us to live with our mind induced limitations? Our
Higher Self is always leading us through our true heart’s desires to our
fullest potential. And what is our fullest potential but complete freedom
to be exactly who we are, and to love ourselves as we are?
Our Highest Self brings us face to face with our limitations. Limitations that
are of the mind; many times unexamined memories before a time of discernment
of what is actually true about us. Our heart’s desires are of our personal
truth and potential. When we break through and are anchored in our own
heart, haven’t we come home? And isn’t that the safest place to be?
I think I will broaden my search for a place of transition. How about:
East to the South of France, or Greece (they do have trees), West to
California, and South to Costa Rica…or beyond?
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