© Patrick Lentz, 2007.
I catch myself walking around the city in all sorts of weather, all different times of day. Yoni Wolf is singing in my ears over and over again, “And always one rose grows though a littered lot of gravel/Or we’re struck dumb and doomed when it doesn’t.” So I start searching out what we can learn, how we can grow. Yes, something good will come of this, too.
We tore it all down to the bones and analyzed it. First alone, then together, then alone again. All the big decisions get made in the dark spaces. In the time I walk out into the woods alone and stare up at the trees, trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. What kind of story I want my biography to be. In those quiet moments, with nothing but twigs breaking and heavy breathing my brain pulls the strings out of the tapestry I’ve been weaving and examines each one individually. I’m constantly boggled by how many I didn’t choose purposefully. How many I felt forced into by long-standing patterns that are useful to nobody. We come back together and I show him what I’ve been looking at and he nods his head and smiles proudly at me.
Pulling back we can examine it. Feel it and name it. Sort it and slowly start putting it back together again. There still aren’t answers to everything, but we’re figuring out that there are no paths chosen for us. I remember long phone conversations in seventh grade where we just went over and over song lyrics. Suddenly a friend I used to have is talking Led Zeppelin to me again, “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run/There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” I’m struck wondering how many times I thrown up my hands and yelled, “What the fuck am I doing!?”
Over the past few years I’ve found myself feeling more and more stuck. Stacking more and more responsibility I don’t particularly want on myself to the dismay of the people closest to me just because I thought that’s what I should be doing. How I was supposed to be. No, it doesn’t have to be this way. Almost the exact opposite, in fact. I’ve spent so much time thinking that I need to take care of people around me that I forgot the best thing I can do for everyone is take care of me. So I stuck that Jim Rohn quote up on our fridge.
The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, “If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.” Now I say, “I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.”
Right underneath our wedding photo. I read it every day and I dig my claws into the things I want. I look at all the things I can do to better myself and understand that those things are not done to the detriment of my marriage, my relationships. That taking the time to develop and nurture my passions must always be my first priority. That doing those things does not place unnecessary strain on everything else in my life, but radiates outward and strengthens everything it touches. I remember that the greatest gift I can give to myself, to my spouse, to my parents is doing what I know I have to do to make myself happy.
I spent the month plotting. Studying. Developing plans. I enrolled at my local community college and developed a lesson plan to remember my forgotten years of mathematics. I started asking all those neglected questions. Started answering them. Started acting on those answers. Sketched out what I needed to do before attending university (with an actual focused goal this time). Poured over transcripts and read everything I could get my hands on.
It’s exciting and it’s terrifying all wrapped up into one. We spend so much time making excuses. So much time telling ourselves that if this or that were different we would be, too. I remember when I was growing up my mom had a piece of paper stuck to our kitchen cabinet that read, “No one ‘does it to you’. You do it yourself through other people.” I didn’t understand it then, but something about it wrapped itself around my memory and it squirmed its way back out when I started digging around, trying to figure out where my sense of purpose went. It spoke softly at first and eventually started screaming.
Going after what you want is terrifying. But existing only half-fulfilled is life threatening. I’ve spent so long explaining why I couldn’t do the things I used to care about that I’d almost convinced myself it wasn’t just because digging down and finding out what you’re really made of is really fucking scary. I’d almost convinced myself that I wasn’t just afraid of failing. I’d almost convinced myself those things didn’t matter. That I just wanted different things now.
Nothing is the same as it used to be. But at the core, the flame is still there. It’s been waiting patiently for me to remember it, to feed it. To stop telling myself that the circumstance is too different. That different fires need my attention now. I’m sure in a few more years I could even convince myself that all those things were true. That I don’t need to test myself, that I don’t need to constantly be pushing my boundaries, that I don’t need to see exactly how much I’m capable of. But I don’t think I’d ever be able to convince myself that I’m as happy as I could be without taking the chance to see.