I spend a lot of time running around. People depend on me. They have certain rather strong expectations. Things must get done. Even in my stay-at-home life, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. There are dogs to bathe, yards to clean, shelves to dust, laundry to wash, hamster cages to clean, groceries to buy, and errands to run. When I was a kid, I daydreamed about how great it would be to be “all grown up”. I would be free, at last, to live my life as I saw fit. I wouldn’t belong to anyone, and no one could demand things from me.
We all know life, in its infinite splendor, doesn’t work this way. When you’re a kid, you belong to your parents. You’re subject to their seemingly random whims and demands. And, yes, it’s maddening. I’m surprised more kids don’t try running away from it, because it’s no fun. But, much as I hate to say it, all that childhood torture pales in comparison to the frustrating frenzy that is “adult life”. Once you reach that magical age of “freedom”, you cease belonging to just a few people. Now you belong to the whole world. Your boss, your spouse, your kids, that annoying, overly-enthusiastic and unhelpful soccer mom on your committee, the random policeman lurking behind that bush, just waiting to give you a ticket, the crudely insensitive neighbor who always lets his dog poop on your lawn. And on and on — a never-ending list of people who now have a claim on some part of your life.
This is why I believe we don’t truly live in the world around us. This whirling cacophony of noise and light and raw emotion surrounds us at all times. It fuels our ideas and creativity, but it also, slowly and insidiously, sucks away the very parts of us that are different. The parts that make us who we are cannot stand against the constant onslaught of “life” and its stressors and demands.
And so, we need to retreat. We need to find the in-between: that spot where we can breathe and recharge and just exist without the world around us wanting or needing or taking or judging. The in-between is where we live — really and truly live.
For me, the in-between changes. Perhaps it is something I carry around with me, buried deep among the worries and cares of my life. I can’t always find it, and I believe this hollow, needy seeking has a lot to do with why I struggle as a writer.
Today, I feel I found it … Or maybe just a small piece of it. A pleasant little bakery/coffee shop, full of natural light and the warm textures of unfinished wood. I sat there, in the corner, and let the voices and chatter of my fellow patrons wash over me. I was one of many, and yet, deliciously alone. I felt comforted by the delicate scent of baking bread. And, as I sipped my tea, I thought, “Yes. This is life.”