Somewhere in the Distance

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Photo by Annie Spratt

I’ve been taking an online workshop, mostly in preparation for trying to create one of my own. Now, cue the impostor syndrome, which kicks in…right…about…..now. Yep, right on cue.

No sooner do the words “I want to teach my own workshop” or “have my own business” or “create something inspiring” leave the thought bubbles in my head than the thought police come to burst each and every one. Putting the crazy dreamer in chains. “Lock her up,” they shriek. “She’s crazy,” and “Who does she think she is?” they continue, laughing my brave, but wobbly-kneed, spirit back into its shell.

Performance anxiety goes along with my many other anxieties. Those pesky critters can fill up a box of crayons – the big one with colors like burnt sienna and honeydew melon. (Did I make up that last crayon color?)

Anyway, I am taking this inspiring and thought-provoking workshop that my friend, Katie, created. And in the process, I have been thinking about my fears. There are so many of them (see crayon box reference above). As opposed to the jovial auto-pilot setting that characterized my 30’s, my 40’s have been complex and confusing, even if amazing. This decade is paved with potholes of regret over the past and angst for the future, just to make the trip interesting.

William Blake, the 18th century British poet, captured the fading innocence of youth well in his poem, “The Ecchoing Green” from Songs of Innocence and Experience. He paints a scene of old folks watching kids play in a grassy field as the sun wanes toward sunset.

…Old John, with white hair
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk, 
They laugh at our play, 
And soon they all say,
Such, such were the joys.
When we all girls & boys,
In our youth-time were seen,
On the Ecchoing Green.’
Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end..

 

Who “Old John” is doesn’t matter so much as the sentiment of a man smiling happily at the carefree youth while he sits on the sidelines. (Cue “End of the Innocence” music from Don Henley).

I would characterize my own messy midlife as “not a complete freak-out about getting older,” but a period of deep analysis, longing, and even paralysis. The latter is in fact the best word to describe my feelings of late. I am so bizarrely paralyzed about going forward. You see, options close more quickly as you age. There isn’t the same time to “do all the things.” So, the “things” suddenly seem monumentally important as does figuring out which ones are still in stock.

This is a time of moving cautiously into the unknown future, tallying my experiences and talents, holding them up to my dreams. Seeing how they all fit together. Relishing the moments I have in my classrooms, moments when I can gently mold and shape the students whom I love, watching them from some sort of distant sideline, while “Old John” smiles and laughs – and another part of me looks toward something unnameable somewhere off in the distance.

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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

One thought on “Somewhere in the Distance

  1. I’m glad you are liking the workshop! The fears exercise is one I find I need to keep doing. Some of my old fears stay just the same, and some grow and change. Age is a refreshing perspective … even if it sometimes feels like a ticking clock.

    Liked by 1 person

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