A friend of mine was driving with a pal into big sky country to do some birdwatching. The conversation turned to my friend’s current mindset. In spite of having a great husband, interesting friends, and a fine home, she felt as if she was missing something. She was neither homeless nor hungry, her health was stable, and she knew there were folks who would sell their eye teeth to sleep in her bed and live her life. She was grateful for all she had, yet lately it all seemed to be a bit stale. Why, she asked, was she feeling this way?
Her friend – an astute observer of human nature (to almost witchlike magnitude) – responded, “You feel this way because life is short and you are restless.”
There is a crossroad where curiosity meets desire. You reach this junction not because you are desperate or in dire straits or even particularly dissatisfied, but because you want to see and taste and feel and experience what else is out there. You have an itch that needs to be scratched. An idea that needs action. An urge that makes your everyday comfort now seem confining. The status quo is no longer enough. You have a craving for uncharted territories.
But there is a roadblock. Or two. Perhaps several. Bills to pay, mouths to feed, projects to finish. You’ve got responsibilities at work and home and school and church, around the corner and with friends and family and even with enemies. You cannot pick up and do what you want to do – not just yet. Your time and money and energy and weekends and willpower have to go to those necessities that need to be met and met right now. So you plan and dream.
Face it, if something needs to be done, we do it. The house is flooding, we’re out the door. Someone is sick, we comfort them. No negotiation, no delegation, we handle our obligations. But our aspirations, our desires … they get pushed back, packed away, put in cold storage. Whereas we stop and meet our needs right away, we defer our dreams while we carry on with life.
But what happens to those submerged desires?
Some fade – time can change your cravings. Some have an expiration date; once you pass the point where you can follow these desires, they become the stuff of daydreams. But a lot of our desires start to invade our thoughts, tap us on the shoulder, whisper in our ear, “Have you forgotten what you were going to do? Who you were going to be?”
Restlessness is often thought to be the exclusive enclave of youth. The young and the restless … of course. You want to get out and see and do it all and you can’t (cause no one gets to do it all) so you are restless. Pain is an element of desire and you sometimes want something so bad that it hurts. This is understood, expected, even applauded. But frankly, there is even more reason to feel restless in later years and to feel it more intensely. After you have lived a while, you become acutely aware of the fact that, yes, life is indeed short. When you feel the passage of years in your bones and see it in your skin, you realize that while your desires may not diminish, your strength will. If you are going to have some new adventures – whether it be visiting a foreign country or finally studying physics – you need to do it now. Those roadblocks need to be torn down or run over. You don’t have the luxury of saying, “Okay, this can wait.”
And this is good. You see, restlessness is not a sign of dissatisfaction, but rather desire. You don’t hate your life and want to run away, you love it and want to expand it. Whether it is to travel all over or stay put but live very differently, you are ready for something new. Yes, the status quo is comfortable, but you want more than comfort.
So happy birthday, my sis in Chicago! Celebrate your restlessness. It may make you uncomfortable and out of sorts and even exhausted at times, but it is a sign that you are living and thinking and love the world and want to experience more of its delights. Go, get out there … and do it now. Because life is indeed short.
And please drop me a line from your space in time.