Monday, January 26, 2009
We each live our lives at a certain general level of depth. It's entirely possible to go through an entire lifetime operating on automatic pilot, just as it's possible to be so sensitive, so reactive, so introspective that life becomes unbearable.
Last night, at the end of a long, eventful day and week, I found myself wondering if I was satisfied with my level of living. Was I living too much on the surface, just facing each crisis as it occurred, and not daring to go beyond that? Was I ignoring parenting issues that exist due to the absence of another parent? Was I doing a good enough job of taking care of myself? Was I making flawed decisions?
I had just watched Desperate Housewives on TV. It was a particularly moving episode, to me at least, featuring the significance of the handyman on Wisteria Lane. I bawled my eyes out, wishing desperately for such a handyman in my own life. He wasn't a "handyman", he was a "handy man", one who happened to be there at the times when each housewife needed a soft place to fall.
I rarely feel sorry for myself about being alone, but that TV show awakened memories of times in the past when I've experienced the phenomenon of having people around me to help out with life's hurdles. Usually it's my long lost mother I think of wistfully, but last night I remembered the various guys who visited my life, each helping in his own way. One built me a garage; one helped me through the trauma of losing my grandmother; one showed up at my door when I found out about my mother's pancreatic cancer diagnosis; one loaned me a very expensive piece of equipment for me to use at work.
In that frame of mind, I began asking myself if I really wanted to be alone, and if my life was really on the path I had intended. Am I in the right field of work? Are my parenting policies sound, and am I adhering to them? Am I just going through the motions of executing each day's tasks, unaware of my life's purpose and desires?
I come from a family which operated totally on that level. Questioning or deep thinking were simply not on the agenda. Not ever. I rarely see any of my family members these days because they live hundreds of miles away, but when I do, I marvel, unsure of whether the surface-level lifestyle is good or bad.
My father, for example, has his daily routine, which is never broken as far as I can tell. Tending his wife's many cats seems to be the focus of his life (and hers). They are retired, and everything is either about the cats or any impending doctor's or dentist's appointments. For social interaction they go to church and Bible study. Each night they watch TV, commenting loudly while watching, eating butter brickle ice cream.
When I visit (they won't visit me) I usually inadvertently stir up some type of trouble with my intensity. (I have been kicked out of their house more than once.) I tend to want to analyze things, face the past, and discuss any unresolved issues.
But now that I think about it, the past couple of times I visited, I had changed. I had dropped my former ways, and just hung out, trying to be like them. I can do that for brief periods.
Over the past couple of years, though, I think I've become generally more "automatic pilot" than I used to be, even when I'm not visiting them. Oh, I still react to things now and then, but it's not the same.
That change may seem positive, but as I've said, I question whether I'm missing the boat. Always the extremist, I swing dramatically one way or the other. I either spend every waking moment analyzing every thought that comes into my head, or I ignore all of it.
And I'm not sure which is preferable.
Posted by B.S. at Monday, January 26, 2009