Posted by: scintillatingspeck | November 17, 2012

Now what?

More and more often I stop in my tracks.  I could be scrubbing a dish, or poking around the web, or helping Lily get her shoes on, and the questions start hurtling through my awareness.  What the hell am I doing with my life?  What am I doing, right now– is it worth doing?  What is my role, and am I really stepping up to it, whatever it is?  How do I figure out what are the most important things to do?

It’s an uncomfortable, in-betweenish place to be.  I’m attempting to resist the cultural prescription that demands we have well-defined identities (like “stay-at-home mom” or “reference librarian” or “radical activist”).  Surely I’ve latched onto some of those, regardless; on my About page I list some descriptors in a probably futile attempt to convey who I am, or what I do.  It still doesn’t add up.  It doesn’t help me figure out how to prioritize what to do next.  At some level, with each of those descriptors, I feel like a fraud.  And yet I know that looking outside of myself for someone to grant legitimacy to whatever path I’m on would be a big mistake.

I tend to throw myself into projects.  I know this impulse well.  It carries with it the danger of burn-out, which I have experienced in dramatic fashion on several occasions.  Another danger is losing sight of the bigger picture, committing to more and more details and losing the ability to step back and prioritize other needs.  Maybe those dangers are really the same thing.  It can happen with the most worthy of projects, too, the most notable recent example for me being my involvement with my beloved Grow Food Northampton.  I resigned from the board last February, with a terrible ache in my heart, but knowing that if I continued at the same pace, both Lily and I would suffer more consequences.  (I’m still a volunteer for GFN, gladly so.)  I decided that I needed to spend the bulk of my time focusing on homeschooling Lily and developing our mini-homestead, instead.

And yet.

It isn’t enough, is it.

Some voice hisses back, you should be content with your lot!  You should make it be enough!  Why isn’t your child and your home enough for you?  Why do you insist on going on a tear, charging forth to shake the world?  You had to uproot your whole life to create and live in intentional community.  You had to uproot it again to leave.  You had to take on the mad mission of Grow Food Northampton.  You had to step away from that as well.  And further back in your life, as far back as you can remember, you have been chasing revelations, changing course, swerving around, wearing 37 different hats at any one time, burning the candle at both ends, because everything felt so damned urgent.  Why are you living this way?

Existential dread, maybe?  The assumption that if I just get it right, if I just get my priorities straight and work really, really hard, then everything will be okay?  There it is, that illusion of control again.  Mind you, I don’t want the flip side either, the quicksand of catatonia.  But I’m starting to run into some walls, thinking about all of this.

Does it help to be hyper-aware of mortality throughout all of this?  to know that the sand timer of life is running out?  Sometimes it makes me appreciate being alive so keenly, I could sing like a wood thrush, and other times it feels like I’m being throttled by a pair of brutish hands around my neck.

I want my life to matter, see, no matter how finite it is.  I want to be more than enough.  I want to blaze so brightly that every act is a sacrament of fire, every breath is full and deep, every word, every gesture is implacably shooting sparks, cutting through the darkness.  I can’t stop the wanting.






  1. Think of life the way you think of parenting, maybe? You’re never perfect, you’re never what you wanted to be– but you’re always AMAZING! and WONDERFUL! You can’t solve it all, but you always make a difference! I think you can afford to spend a lot of time on the next week, the next day, the next five minutes–everything you have done so far has brought you here, and that will continue to be so.
    Much love–I’m so glad you’re in my life.

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