I do not like feeling unsettled, but I also get antsy when things begin settling down. I feel caught in this tension of what has been, what is, and what could be. I am perpetually reconciling myself to what has been in my life (good and bad). While also trying to solve my future. I want to know precisely where I will be and what I will be doing. The problem is that these obsessions steal my ability to live right now. I spend all of myself on the finished past and the unknowable future. I cannot seem to settle into this moment.
Why am I so incapable of enjoying this moment? Am I a malcontent person? Am I so immersed in our consumer culture that I will never experience lasting relief from anxiety?
Yes. I am certainly so immersed in this culture that I cannot remove myself from it. In fact, I have a hard time imagining another world being possible. I feel everything it (whatever it is) wants of me. It demands that I used to be a horrible person – I know it is right. It demands that I must never be satisfied with my current life (AKA the American Dream) – I work like a dog to try and earn more. It demands that I, in my current state, am not enough – I concede this truth with a heavy heart.
I cannot remember the last time I did not have a small pit in my stomach. You know that feeling that says, “you have something to do which you have forgotten.” I learned this feeling as a 6th grade student when I fell behind on an English project, and got embarrassed to tell my mother. I woke up each morning for over a month feeling a knot in my stomach – a multi-leveled knot rooted in guilt: level 1: I am behind on a project, level 2: I am too afraid to ask for help, level 3: I am lying to my mom when she asks me about school.
My current state is not nearly as intense, yet I perpetually feel something on the scale of “stomach-pittness.” I am never at rest. I wear my stress like a badge of honor. I have convinced myself that feeling like this is not only reasonable, it would be lazy to feel different. It is like on Tina Fey’s show “30 Rock” when Elizabeth Banks character, Avery Jessup, only wears high heels because flat shoes are for quitters.
I think I do the same thing with stress. I must feel stressed and anxious because feeling content is for quitters.
I need to learn to become a quitter.
I am learning to forgive my past (slowly). I am also learning how to stop living in what Anthony De Mello, in his spiritual exercise, The Absolute, called “future fiction.” Because as he says the extent to which I am living is the past I am fossilized and dead, and the energy I waste dreaming in the future I am missing the present.
The problem is this, I very much like the present. In fact, the rare days or moments when I take the time to settle into the present, I find life to be a beautiful, exciting, unmatchable experience. I wish these times were not so fleeting and hard to come by.
I am reading Bruggemann’s “Prophetic Imagination” right now, and in it he claims that imaginative words and ideas create new worlds. I love this idea. I am not satisfied with the world as it is, nor should I be. I cannot stand by and allow injustice to rule. I also refuse to become overwhelmed by the shouting and hopeless “prophets” who are spouting off fear mongering garbage which births more death and malcontent.
Rather, I must push toward a world (at least in my own heart and mind), where I am loved and content “just as I am, not as I am intended to be, because I am never going to be as I was intended.” I put that in quotes because it is stolen from the late Brennan Manning.
Finally, I must admit, thankfully, that my past has helped form me into who I am now. I must also trust that whatever the future holds for me is good because when I get there, I will be actively living in that moment – not stuck dead in my former mistakes or caught in the dream of what could be.
Today I am a quitter. I am quitting the anxiety obsession that has fueled me for too long. I am stepping down from my lofty metaphorical high heels and choosing to live my current life, because that is the only one I am promised.
I hope you will join me and become a quitter, too.
Grace and Peace,