Time, when it is left to itself and no definite demands are made on it, cannot be trusted to move at any recognized pace. Usually it loiters; but just when one has come to count upon its slowness, it may suddenly break into a wild irrational gallop. – Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
We’d made the trip to a mall, because my daughter, who wants to upgrade her wardrobe for high school, wanted to visit Old Navy. This is a store I’ve never shopped at, nor had any particular desire to visit, but then, I’m not 14, nor likely to be accused of having fashion sense. It was, however, located next to a Barnes and Noble and as indicated by my last post, Bibliophile Safari, it served as compensation for being among the shopping marauders of what is, essentially, an Indonesian clothing bizarre.
I believe I have raised my daughter well, but we are a tiresome pair. We hate clothes shopping and swap snarky comments about Old Navy’s connection to child laborers and factory fires abroad. Which leads to a whole discussion about the moral ambiguities of modern living and how it is nearly impossible to live one’s life on a high horse and how we are forced to constantly make choices between our desires and the immoral forces that define them. Still, we leave with three new shirts for her wardrobe.
The bookstore is a surprisingly short trip. She wants something by Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, and we both want a copy of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I am alarmed by the numerous signs and large sections marked Christian literature. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a Barnes and Noble and that seems new. The section next to it is a paltry collection of all other religions and philosophy. Tribalism is leaving nothing untouched in this country.
Nearby is a Michael’s craft store. It’s been a good five years since I’ve been in one, so we took a stroll through. The smell was familiar. My daughter said she remembered being here. Craft projects for her at home and for my volunteer activities once led us down aisles of paper and glue and sequins at least once a week. The days of watching her fingerpaint everything but the paper, tasting each color crayon to see if they had different flavors, and messy science experiments have been swapped for Assassins’ Creed video games, nihilist philosophy, and a viola.
This last week was my official end of summer. The languid hot, buggy days that slowed everything down, until one day was very much like the next, are over. The next couple of weeks are riddled with appointments and meetings and preparation – for the school year, the election season, getting some writing projects off the ground. I filed my candidacy application for a vacated city council seat, and am now filled with the usual anxiety and internal trepidation that precedes doing anything out of my comfort zone.
I know that it’s a matter of days, and I will be looking back on this time with a little sadness. Did I make the most of it? Did I spend enough time with my family? Did I embrace my teenage changeling enough? Family life has patterns. You move in the same space, know each other’s preferences and irritants, but there are days when it just seems like bodies in the same house, unconnected. I see how temporary it all is. In only a few years, it will just be he and I, having to learn to renegotiate our life.
Ofttimes when people talk about mindfulness, they talk about being in the moment and being present. This, to me, is a difficult state to remain in for very long. Sometimes instead of connecting with a single moment, our imagination allows us to connect with all the moments. We see the inexplicable blip in time that our lives are, the pinpoint dot on a radar. There and then gone.
It would be easy to see this as cause for depression, but in my mind, it serves the same purpose as the ocean to our physical beings – a reminder that we are part of something vast and amorphous. This recognition of time, of seeing what has passed and imagining what is before us, is exactly what leads us to the moment. We recognize how unimportant our moments are in the scheme of things, but how very important they are to us. A perspective and defense against ego and wastefulness.
Following my application for city council, I began to experience minor panic attacks. Time is speeding up and I don’t know if I’m doing what I should be doing with my life. I miss my daughter, even as she sleeps just down the hallway. I worry that I won’t be able to make the commitments I’ve made to writing projects, that I will let people down. That the imposter syndrome will become a yappy dog constantly nipping at my heels, never allowing myself to feel a sense of accomplishment, no matter what I do. Faster and faster my thoughts come, downhill, without any brakes.
Breathe. Sit still and silent. Watch the second hand on the clock. Tick, tick, tick. Things come back into focus. Do one thing – one task with a beginning and end. Then do the next thing, beginning and end. Make a list, write some notes, make the amorphous blob of tasks and timing concrete. The knot in my stomach is still tight, but the pounding in my ears has receded. I am here. Right now. It’s okay. Whatever happens, happens. Anxiety wastes energy. The cliches, memes, and self-comforting phrases are now beginning to irritate me. Situation normal. I’ve synced up again.
13 thoughts on “On the Verge of a Wild Irrational Gallop”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Michelle. I love your brave honesty, and the way you express it in words: the imposter syndrome like a happy dog, and our thoughts coming faster and faster downhill without any brakes. I recognize both but would not have thought to express either so perfectly.
Thanks, Alison. I have a feeling I’m going to be experiencing a lot more anxiety over the next few weeks and feel compelled to work with it, to try and recognize and lean into a bit.
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I am excited about your city council candidacy! Best of luck!!!
Thanks, Kim. All the other council members are conservative white guys, so I’m going in as a stealth hippie – covering up the tat, brandishing my vet cred, and studying hundreds of pages of minutes and budgets. Not sure what my odds are, but I’m giving it my best shot.
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As usual Michelle, a thoughtful and timely piece!
Self-reflection is so tough, and not for the timid! But you are brave to do and share it with us. So thank you!
Also, the imposter syndrome is real. I deal every day with it in regards toy writing. You’re so not alone 😎
I think I was just trying to ease my anxiety by writing it out. Hope it’s more useful to others than it has been to me!
There are always areas I expect to feel like imposter – writing is one of them. Lately, though, I’ve been suffering a crisis of confidence, so it’s hitting me everywhere. I’m sure it will pass – it just makes things a tad more difficult.
Really enjoyed this. Good luck in the election. I love the combination of Assassin’s Creed, nihilist philosophy and a viola. Seems to cover all the bases!
She’s a pretty interesting kid who makes me laugh with that teenage cynicism I recall so well (maybe I never left mine behind). Thanks for the good wishes!
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I miss you.
I’m wondering if you got my email back in June. I didn’t hear back and wondered if you’d changed your email address or we just missed each other somehow. I’d love to hear from you and about your adventures in OK.
Gosh, June was several incarnations ago. I honestly don’t remember. I’ll write soon.
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I liked that Michelle. It reminds me in a way of the first post of yours I read, about going to the mall with your daughter I think and kind of losing your head there for some reason. That must have been 4 years or so, maybe your last trip to Michael’s! You touch on the nostalgia here without “going there,” which is nice. I read this from bed in a Austrian farmhouse today, our last day in the Alps. Good way to start the day.
Malls do tend to set off all kinds of debates in my head – from the overwhelming sensory issues, to consumerism, to just being surrounded by people. I try to avoid them most of the time, if I can. But they’re definitely a great source for writing material.
I have to admit to feeling some envy for your travels this year. We are in a tight, immovable knot of family circumstances (ill parents) that restricted our travels to family visits (and I never call them “vacations”). Next year, perhaps, I’d really like to go somewhere green and just stay a bit.