I've figured out that life is a never ending game of tail chasing. Either you're chasing someone else's tail or you're chasing your own tail of self-identity. If you're lucky, the game of chasing tail that does not belong to you will be short lived and the victory will remain for ages. Or, if you're like me, it's an endless game of both. Many of us find ourselves in the confusing world of perpetual self-tail chasing along with the constantly frustrating and disillusioning chase of tail that isn't our own.
I've got no advice to offer on the subject of chasing the tails of others since I have little success from which to draw, but I am gradually learning a thing or two about chasing my own tail.
Lately (loosely translated: all the time in my whole life), I find myself in the midst of an identity crisis. When I was 19.5 years old it was the teenager fresh from the bunkbeds of a shared room with a little sister to the bumperpad-to-bumperbad cribs of two small infants in a studio apartment with a husband I barely knew. When I was 26 it was the almost-certified wildland firefighter banished from the practice controlled burn because it was "unsafe" for me at 6 months pregnant with child number four. At 32 it was the untapped teenage angst in the body of a single mom with four kids, three jobs and a full credit load of online college classes and a penchant for microbrews. I've always been seeking "myself," but it isn't until I got to be 41 that I realized that my "self" might be just as enigmatic to me as it was when I was three years old and climbing to the top of my Dad's Oak etageres to see if I could fly. But my "self" is also as familiar to me as the pillow I keep tucked between my arms every night. I know who I am. Sometimes, I just can't see the forest for the trees.
Mark Manson talks about the diversification of identity, and I guess that's what I've always struggled with. I know how many things I am, and I know that a lot of those things don't fit the prescribed mold, or at least, not in the moment. Three year olds don't generally fly, even from a six-foot etagere. 19 year olds aren't the best mothers, unless they're a saint, like my younger sister might have been, or maybe even my Second Daughter given the chance (but thank you for waiting). Pregnant ladies aren't the best suited for wildland firefighters and 32 year olds should just stay away from microbrews, I've learned.
But through it all I keep pushing, keep seeking"myself." And now I am 41. I am older and wiser and doing 41-year-old things. Going to my kid's ball games and graduation ceremonies. Paying my bills and having a savings account and learning the correct pronunciation for Roth IRA, etc. I wear jeans without holes (occasionally)(unwillingly) and craft lofty and condescending justifications for my tattoos. Deep inside though, I am still chasing my own tail. Trying to figure out just who I am, and the difference between what I WANT and what I NEED and who I AM. Those lines get blurry. But the definitive moment is always just barely out of reach. Like my tail.
I always imagined that grown ups had no question about who they "are." They are just THEM. Doctors, teachers, mothers, transportation planners, rocket scientists. It seemed so simple. I thought maybe if I decided What to Be, that I would suddenly find this serenity and zen about self-identity that would once-and-for-all end my need to climb etageres. (By the way, if you haven't Googled etagere yet, you can click on the link.) But I've decided at least 23 times what to be when I grow up and I am still not completely sure that I can't fly. Because what IF?
So the tail-chase has continued. Sometimes I thought that if I caught the tail of someone else that I was chasing, I would suddenly KNOW. The epiphany of why I exist would descend upon me in an opaque and irrefutable destiny and all of my seeking would come to an end in the person that I belonged to. I'll admit, it seems to work for a year or two, maybe even close to a decade, especially if you bury your soul in the fabric of another person and/or community who Clearly Know What's Best For You and Don't Mind Telling You. But at the end of the day, or the decade, it's really up to you, or, in this case, up to me, to know who and what I am, and what's best for me, and if I know ANYTHING, it's that nobody can tell me What's Best for Me but my very own self. (I have at least 6 for-real psychologists who will back me up on this in their less-than-helpful-self-help-techniques. For a fee. )
But anyway, here I am, 41 and still chasing tail. Still slightly insecure about what I know about myself, but knowing, deep-down and just-the-same that I KNOW who I am. I am Liv. Not Liv the mom, Liv the firefighter, Liv the Writer, Liv the EMT, Liv the girlfriend, Liv the NOT girlfriend, Liv the former wife, Liv the messy, Liv the teacher, Liv the Cashier's Assistant, Liv the student, Liv the Avett Fanatic, Liv the emotionally unstable, Liv the self-aware (The psychologists told me that. For a fee.), Liv the beer girl, Liv the wannabe... I mean, yes, I AM all of those things... but I am not just one, I am every one, all of the time. And if Liv the writer is feeling angsty at Liv the mom's basketball game, then Liv the self-aware can take the steps to do what she needs to do and get the words out. And if Liv the former wife (please review my stern disapproval of "ex" terminology") is making a mess of Liv the girlfriend, or even Liv the NOT girlfriend, then Liv the self-reliant can make the adjustments she needs to make because ALL of those things in me have given me the tools to adapt.
Chasing tail makes the world go 'round, as it happens, both biologically and psychologically. It's the ones of us that keep seeking and keep asking questions, like "Why am I cooking french fries at 41 years old?" that make life bigger than a single wide mobile home and a 1992 Ford Escort. Not that there's any shame in starting there, Daughter with said vehicle.
Mark Manson, whom I clearly revere and tend to overcite, says that the idea of seeking your passion is bunk, because we're already putting our time into the things we're passionate about. For some of us, that's a 9-5 job that gets us where we need to be financially, a legitimate passion to pursue. For some of us, that's hours of journaling hopeless love letters that will be burned, unread at a later date. I know people in both camps - some more intimately than others, and I believe it's true that we put our money (read:time/energy) where our real passion lies. For me, when I get writer's cramp from journaling, it seems to be at the local brewery. I am not ashamed. I am me. And I've got some fine tail to keep chasing. Plus I MIGHT be able to fly. Who knows?
|Did I mention Liv the Whisky Drinker?|