Every day I wake up and look over the handwritten To Do list I make for myself the night before because I only half trust technology to remind me and I definitely do not trust myself to remember. I begin the day with: when I finish these things, I’ll be okay.
I enjoy doing quick, mindless work. It’s a lovely mental break from writing, and I can go faster and faster, slashing through photography feeds and placing links and tagging categories and emailing a “thank you” and pressing “publish.” I can maintain and accelerate control toward being finished.
Sometimes I see something that I decide I need, really for no other purpose than a hypothetical I make up in my mind. What if I end up taking a trip upstate for the holidays, and I don’t have this or that thing that I will definitely need for that trip? And I make it my goal to acquire this thing (it can be as small and senseless as, say, thermal socks.) Until I get to the store or online and swipe my credit card and press “complete order,” I am in a state of “not having.” The only thing I can think about is the thing that I do not have and the moment I am not prepared for.
I make lofty financial goals for myself and then I go to nearly unhealthy lengths to achieve them. I think to myself: if I have another $3,000 saved, I can survive for this many more weeks or months if I ever had an emergency and could no longer work and had no income, and until I can stare at a number in my bank account that shows me I will survive for this many more weeks or months, I will be in a state of not having. Of being unprepared. I can take a deep breath and feel at peace when I know I have two years of monthly expenses saved up. Until then, I should bite my lip and work.
I like my hair to be a little bit longer than my collar bones because I have very oddly textured hair and it’s difficult to leave it wavy when it’s shorter, but as soon as it grows to the length I like it, I cut it off because I decide I liked it better shorter. Until my hair is longer or shorter, I am in a state of not looking good enough. I need to have a goal, something to work toward.
More than most things, I’d like to have kids. Not tomorrow or anything, but that’s a dream of mine. I got a little brother when I was maybe 17 and since then some mama gene was activated and I can admit that I feel a little empty, a little lesser, a little more lost and unaccomplished, because I don’t think I’m necessarily ready for a family just yet. I keep myself in the place of “not being good enough for this,” even though it’s just simply not time.
I play a game with myself, and it’s called: “I will be happy when.” Once when I was in therapy in high school, a counselor told me she was very concerned about when I got to middle age, because I would have accomplished the things I was placing all of my peace-of-mind on. And then there would be nothing.
There would be no capacity to enjoy what I have because I never developed it. I would never actually have or experience the things that I worked so hard for because I would always be looking forward, not in front of me.
If someone were to say it, we’d say we know better. We know more money or looking differently or owning one more random thing will not actually change our state of being. We don’t notice this is what we’re doing because it doesn’t sound like that in our minds. It sounds like, “I need to find love, because as a human being, I need love. So I have to find it.” It looks like compulsively shopping and mental –> verbal judgments of people you barely know.
It looks like recreating ideas of yourself rather than actually just being, like constantly seeking more out of dissatisfaction and chalking it up to being driven and hardworking. It looks like the inability to differentiate “settling” with “contentment.” It looks like half of the debilitating habits we don’t even realize we perpetuate all day every day every week of every year. Before we know it, we live entire lives in a state of trying, working, and not having.
How do I know? Because our insecurities are the foundation on which capitalism runs. Because the frequency and maniac-ness with which we consume and demand others change and judge them for what we feel we lack and define ourselves strictly by what we speak out against and continue to try to predict the future and lose control of our minds until we arrive at some irrational notion that we call “certainty” screams (or rather, whispers) “I will be happy when.”
Living in the moment, to us, means forgetting about the future. It means settling into uncertainty, and insecurity, and honesty, and vulnerability. There is no superhero cape off of which we can deflect jibes and failures. We have to feel them, we have to live.
Nothing external will change your internal state, BELIEVE THAT CRAZY NOTION OR NOT. If you are keeping yourself in the experience of “I will be happy when things are different,” you will always need things to be different. It doesn’t matter what changes. You have to change.
And the thing you’ll learn, the thing you’ll find, is that living in your uncertainty and insecurity and honesty and vulnerability and failure is what will make you happy. You are no longer fighting – you’re accepting, you’re laughing at the fact that the things you were running from became the places you arrived at, no matter where you thought you were headed.