I just read my friend’s blog entry for today. It felt familiar. I could have written it. Well, maybe not of all it, but certainly some of it.
“I think it is peculiar that I can be happy and excited and optimistic one day and then, given a night with little sleep, I lose my balance and can plunge into melancholy. Yesterday, I was full of hope and promise. I was going to change the world. Last night, I could not sleep. I stayed up too late watching the Super Bowl and Glee, and then sleep would not come to me. Now, today, I can find few positive thoughts. I am not sad, exactly, but I can’t seem to muster the energy to be joyful.”
I have lots of days filled with this type of thinking. While her writing may express some melancholy, it brought me comfort. Comfort knowing that others feel as I do at times. I started blogging as a way to find quiet times in my life. My mission is to find my authentic self.
Today ambivalence was my constant companion. It spends time with me occasionally but today it would not leave me. It is with me now as I struggle to articulate my feelings. It gives me angst — it’s hard to know where to start. Today, when I prefer to feel joy and optimism, doubt and confusion define me. That’s why I relate to my friend’s words.
I think about life in my thirties and forties. How was I able to raise four children, work full-time, go to school nights and help my mother? I could do all that, including school and sports activities, vacations and leisure time with friends and family and still have enough energy for crocheting, sewing, reading or any number of other past times. Nowadays, it takes all my energy just to go to work. I don’t have children that need my attention, my mother is gone, and my husband is extremely low maintenance. I don’t even cook dinner anymore.
In my fifties I felt pretty certain that I had much more to accomplish professionally. I worked hard and my hard work paid off. I am a senior leader at a leading local nonprofit. But, I can’t help thinking, “so what’s the point?” There are days I feel fairly irrelevant. I may be at work or with my kids when this feeling comes. That’s when ambivalence rears its ugly head. My co-workers are supportive and enthusiastic. They are stimulating and talented. I am happy to be part of such a talented group. Our mission demands passion and commitment. Am I still up for the challenge? On days like today I wonder. In the midst of this doubt, I begin to question my abilities. For over four decades, becoming a better version of my work self has defined a large part of my psyche.
Now, nearing my 61st birthday, I am trying to reconcile myself to the journey that lies ahead. Many of my retired contemporaries sing the praises of their lifestyle. They take long winter vacations. They engage in hobbies that are too time consuming when you work. When I see them, they look rested and refreshed. They take good care of themselves, taking time to eat right and exercise. When I ask if they are happy, they tell me life is good, the best it’s ever been. I envy them. I just don’t know if I envy them enough to be one of them. I can’t decide.
I can’t help but think of the ’80s song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by the Clash. Sooner or later I must decide. I know this because being a wife, mother and grandmother also defines me. It’s complicated. It needs more thought and reflection. Like every other challenge I’ve faced, the hardest part is over — naming it. Coming to terms with its existence. Now I must think about a plan to move my life forward. Think and pray. Plan and decide.