It's been five weeks since my life turned upside-down, and I am amazed and pleased (and amazed to be pleased) with the changes. I live alone and I like it. I sleep smack in the middle of the bed – that is, unless I have a guest. I've quit, effortlessly and all-but cold turkey, some nasty avoidance patterns: watching television, eating for distraction, spending too much time in isolation. I've dropped twenty pounds my body didn't want to be carrying in the first place. I'm breathing easier, and so much more deeply. I've been out dancing for the first time in years. I've fallen in love with myself, with my family, with my friends, with a man and and his boy. But perhaps the most amazing of all is that I look into the future now, and I feel excited. Scared sometimes too, but that's part of the thrill.
In her fascinating book, <Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, Temple Grandin writes about experiments with humans and animals showing how the pleasure centers in our minds light up when we are working toward something we are hopeful, but not quite sure yet that we can achieve. For instance, dogs that can smell a bone and are free to sniff it out wag their tails throughout the entire process. The interesting thing is, once the achievement is made, once the dog finds the bone, the pleasure is done. Well, maybe the dog will wag its tail as it gnaws away, trying to get to the marrow, but the seeking is where the pleasure's at. The marrow is just the marrow. The bone is just the object. It is the seeking, not the having, that makes us come alive.
I look back to my single-minded focus just a few weeks ago, on creating a secure family niche to keep me comfortable and safe and needed forever, and I see how invested I was in being done with all the endeavoring. I was the dog sighing into her paws, longing for a steady supply of bones, cleaver-split and dropped at regular intervals, directly under my nose. No seeking. No striving. Hold the thrill, please; I'm done feeling vulnerable.
How wrong I was. And how very sad.
This is not to say that I don't still like the idea of that secure family niche, that I don't still grapple with the question, "Babies or Not?" (I have plenty more to say on that subject, by the way, so stay tuned.) All I'm saying is that being vulnerable, opening to all that can be both pleasure and pain, is the joy of life. And I am done avoiding joy.