Someone smashed into the back of our Jeep on South Broadway last weekend, which is how I found myself sitting at a stop light in a strange little rental car a couple of nights ago. It's so odd to not have your own car, and almost stranger that such a little thing can alter how you feel about your day; but it's also kind of like being in a game or on a movie set. When I'm in my own car, it feels normal. But that evening, I tried to imagine what I looked like zipping around in this toy-like blue car instead of my own, tried to feel myself as the controller of this foreign object.
Suddenly, I was so aware--of my hands on the wheel, of the way I made a turn, of the new paint on the house at the corner. Tiny things, so commonplace, I live them on autopilot; and now they felt almost jarringly real.
We all have a lazy way of settling into life, and parts of such laziness can be really lovely. They're lovely in the way my cushiony slipper socks are lovely, or how I keep trying to repair that tattered quilt because I cannot bear to part with it. Not that we can expect every moment of life to be grand, but in this comfort, in the routine, we can slide into a numb state. Again, it's not a bad thing--rest must be built into life; but when we complete almost every action without thought or feeling, I think we've gone from resting to sleeping.
Our family likes to be on the move. I can feel that changing more and more as we grow into life; but it's an energy and a lifestyle I'm trying to preserve as long as possible. I didn't always understand why I did this, why I was like this. I didn't always know why to go fed my soul. I just knew that it did. That even when it didn't make sense, something about it made me feel alive.
A person who thought they knew me very well once called this behavior "escapist". She said I would never be happy constantly moving, constantly seeking. She felt sorry for me, not learning to be content with where I was. Now, I could pick apart that assessment from every angle, and I'd find all the things wrong with it. If I'm being honest, there is plenty right with it too; but as I sat at that stop light, awakened by my own hands on a different steering wheel, I found myself finally making the connection. "This is why I go."
Little by little, I have come to accept the nomadic parts of me. I've let go of pieces of a picture we've been told make a life. I've learned that not everyone will understand or approve of the way I see the world. But this is how it feels to me to embrace adventure, to try a new thing, to venture somewhere at the last minute, or to see where "What if?" leads this time. It's like driving a new car, that doesn't belong to me, that I'm just borrowing. It thrills me because, miraculously, I feel real again. The playing, the change, it shocks me back into the most "me" version of myself. It's like taking off the quilt and the slipper socks, waking up from a rest that accidentally turned into a nap.
Over the years of my adult life, when things have been hard or confusing--and especially in this last year--I've questioned all my choices in hindsight. I've reprimanded myself. I've considered what I've given up, what I didn't settle for. I'll pick up all the pieces of the pictures of everyone else's lives, and I'll try to put the puzzle together for myself. Still even if I taped the whole picture together, I don't think I'd find myself in it.
Every Christmas, I host an ladies gift exchange. We play it like a White Elephant game, and participants are allowed to steal gifts from each other. Whenever it reaches my turn, even if my soul covets what the girl next to me has, I can't resist the urge to unwrap a new gift--uncover what's yet to be revealed. That's just how I live life, I suppose. I always want to peek around the corner, imagine the new thing. To not do so is to betray myself. The idea of new adventure awaits and the pull forward is stronger than the current back. We grow out of and we grow into, and anything else just feels like standing still to me.