It’s questions… so many questions. I used to ask, “What am I doing?” But I realized a better question is, “Who am I being?” I suppose it always comes down to a moment. A choice. Choose or be chosen. It’s in that moment, that space just before the choice that you are the clearest, most authentic form of yourself. You are in your own state of being. It’s in that flash, whether it be a retraction, a breath, a surge, a pause, or a pursuance that you are being yourself. To be… The truth lies not in the choice made, it’s in the moment just before. The choice is just the effect of the cause. The output of the design. The result of mathematical differentiation; the instantaneous change of one quantity relative to another. The choice itself has no meaning without the catalyst… the inherent be-ing.
The verb “to be” is said to be the most protean of the English language, constantly changing form, sometimes without much of a discernible pattern. By the time we respond with action (or inaction), it’s already been decided, we’ve already been revealed. We’ve already been. We strive, and struggle to find meaning focusing so heavily on the actions, the outcomes neglecting the precious spark, the essence, the being. Spend time in those spaces just before, the intangibles, the things we can’t define or contextualize easily. It’s only there where there is recognition, there is truth, raw and unrefined. It’s there where we are.
The problem is, we are so vast, so wondrous, unique and incapable of being bounded, defined or articulated we can’t appreciate what that means. That we are so inherently, inescapably complex and simple, complete and fragmented in the same moment that outcomes are no longer deterministic – that makes us uncomfortable. We are no longer predictable, we just are in that moment which escapes definition but is everything definitive. We are, in a state of being as ourselves. Perfectly complete. It doesn’t have meaning outside of itself so the enlightenment is achieved singularly, in a vacuum and without description or contextual value. The significance then is confined to the one experiencing it and can’t be appreciated beyond those margins and shouldn’t… or it would lose all it’s power.
I don’t seek definition, there isn’t a question. There is only space where you exist undiluted by frivolous designations. It’s more than enough, it’s everything actually, but it can’t be shared and it won’t ever be appreciated outside itself. All you can do is be. Just be.
How do you know that it’s happening? That you are be-ing yourself? It’s easy in certain moments when you don’t think about it… when’ your mind is uncluttered and there just is what’s there. I want to be submerged in what’s there and I want it to flood my senses. I want it to be undeniable and that’s why I am doing this. Why I am taking this year of my life to live.
My journey of one year actually started over a year ago. I am hopeful that it will extend far beyond the one year I’ve laid out as the timeline for this body of work. There is no reason to return to the past but to say that I wasn’t happy isn’t exactly right. I experienced moments of happiness, I had plenty of things in my life that were beautiful; my children, my family and friends. I don’t want to appear ungrateful I think the proper word is incomplete. But mostly because I was denying myself, stifling my voice, and slowly sinking in a ship of my own creation. I’d always felt “different” somehow, not quite having the words to or the metaphors to articulate why, but it was always there. This whispering in the back of my mind, that would rise up from time to time and I would ignore, brutalize or otherwise argue the musings away because it was contrary to what was known in my life. My friend Meghan calls it trying to put a triangle inside a circle. “I’m a triangle,” she says simply, “I’m never going to be a circle.” I guess maybe I am a triangle too…
Like so many I did the “right” things. I went to school, got good grades, went on to college, graduated with my undergraduate degree (I did have a baby in there – I couldn’t completely follow the path as intended) get a job, get my Master’s degree, move up the ladder, get married, have another baby, get a “better” job, lather, rinse repeat.) I was told that the slow dying feeling I experienced every Sunday night leading into another work week was normal and that the stifled, unhappy person I became as a result of the work (which I was quite good at by the way) was exactly what was supposed to be happening. Actually feeling the life force of your soul being strangled slowly every day is natural. It’s the price for having the life that you want. But was it the life I wanted? It didn’t feel like any life anyone would want. At least I didn’t. But I was probably wrong. Millions of people did the same thing I did every day and they seemed satisfied with their Starbucks at 7 AM and their regular jaunt to the break room at 12 and the mass exodus from the office at 5:01. Why couldn’t I just be like that?
Rather than waste precious page space dissecting the basis of my loathing my professional existence, I lost my job. Twice actually in six months both times the victim of down-sizing and once immediately following my divorce. Ah the divorce. That’s a whole other book, but suffice it to say the marriage was a failure and as a result of my trying yet again to be something I inherently wasn’t with a good man who just inherently wasn’t either. I realized, as I looked around at the professional and personal shambles of my life that the whispers in the back of my mind were tired of being ignored. They were fighting back and this time they were taking 2 x 4’s to the back of my head and it was time I start to listen. The second time I got laid off it was an awakening, a weight being lifted, an opportunity being presented and I had one chance to take it and I knew what was being given. A chance to commit to a journey that didn’t have a predetermined destination and didn’t have any specified outcomes to find out what a year of life without limits could look and feel like. What overloading my sensory perceptions with living could do and what being around people who live that way every day could teach me and anyone watching. And the looming 30th birthday milestone has been staring me down for the better part of this year making it nearly impossible to focus on anything else so all the pieces seemed to be lining up.
That opportunity comes with a few catches, of course. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, nothing worth having is easy to attain, and I am going to have to spend the next year getting to know myself (that’s daunting), being really uncomfortable physically, mentally and emotionally at times, there will most likely be failure and loss and at the end of a year I don’t know what I’ll have or where I’ll be. Oh, and I have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Those two a pretty big ones and my journey of self-exploration however noble and beautiful is not tied to a line of credit nor does it have any capital resources for me to draw from. Part of this is going to be about making it all work. It’s a lot of unknown variables. Rather large and imposing unknown variables at that.
In my professional life I was quite good at getting from A-Z when the variables in between weren’t defined, but I had an outcome, a measurable goal to shoot for. This is different. I don’t know what “Z” is and I’m not entirely sure where “A” is at either. So, that’s just slightly scary. A critical part of this is taking a leap of faith (my former self as a corporate figure would classify it as poor project management planning) but regardless, I’ve committed, it’s happening, it’s decided. Another critical part of this is being prepared. Journey’s generally require distance and distance means endurance. Physically, mentally, emotionally, I have to commit to what doing this will take. The ultimate investment of myself…. in myself. I see this as an experiment, but also as a lifeline, I am going to spend a year answering to my own life’s calling, living, bearing witness to the greatness in others, and rediscovering myself along the way and earning it along the way. The question becomes, “how?”
I don’t entirely know the answer to that but the academic, logical part of me knows there has to be something solid to tie all of this together. There has to be a beginning, there has to be a journey, there has to be an end, and there has to be a what now?
So, I think it begins and ends with a race. Everything in between is up for grabs, but for this life quest, I think it’s going to require me to face Death… twice actually. Once, at the onset as an observer, a student just beginning my journey and once, at the conclusion of my year as a participant who is (hopefully) full of enough life that I can find my way out the other side. It begins and ends with a Death Race.