I remember being seven. Lying awake at night. Dreaming. Wondering. Thinking. If only.
If only I were older.
If only I could make my own choices.
If only I could get through elementary school.
If only I could get through middle school.
Then I’ll be in high school.
Then I’ll be closer to college.
Closer to the first day of the rest of my life.
But back to being seven: I remember lying awake at night. I remember squeezing my eyes shut so tight that I would force tiny specks to appear, bright little lights that would shimmer and make me think I had dreamt up a magical place and this power, this ability to create shimmery specks, meant I could do almost anything that I ever would want to do in all of life.
Years went by, as they do, and my dreams changed, but the idea of a dream remained. I didn’t see my shimmer as often, and I grew increasingly uncomfortable in the waiting for my dream to come true, as if it were in queue but its number never called.
I don’t think my seven-year-old self would ever invent, understand, or imagine that a dream could be lost or unfulfilled. And yet that is exactly what happened as the courage and wonder of thoughts I had at seven faded only to thoughts of: if only. As I grew closer to if only, I grew further from that little shimmer that encouraged my desire to dream and seek the impossible.
I seldom let myself be completely honest with myself. That’s a terrible space to be in, to hang around in. A space of complete honesty. It’s a space I do visit occasionally, but if I were to spend real time there, I might start into an alarming path of unraveling, which is unthinkable, as I’ve spent the entirety of my life completely satisfied within a personal labyrinth.
Despite my desire to keep my honest self secure and hidden, I occasionally meet another who sees through my fortress with ease. I find that annoying. I tend to avoid these people.
One of those people once told me I needed to spend time alone. Well, alone, but out in the world. Does that make sense? To be alone in the world, not running errands, but being. Maybe in a restaurant, or to a concert. To those places where, traditionally, it should be group event or shared experience. Not sitting at a table with a book or journal, but just alone. Eating. Staring. BEING.
Sounds awful, yes?
It was. But this person in my life, well I saw her then and still do, as: confident, smart, and independent. And amazing, generally. Qualities I wanted and desperately ached to call my own.
I completed the task and it was grueling. I have complete unease, distrust, and skepticism about time spent in solitude or any time spent not on (a) task. It doesn’t matter what the task might be. It could be scrubbing grout, or cataloging spices and their expiration dates. It could be pulling weeds. Painting a room. It could be reading or re-reading a favorite novel. It could be writing. It could be cooking. It could be making lists for future tasks. I have complete comfort in the doing of all these things and even doing them alone. But it would be something. It wouldn’t be idle. It wouldn’t be just being.
And yet, I have finally opened the door just wide enough to my honest space self to know, really know, and accept and welcome, that this is one of my burdens to bear, and hopefully, eventually, overcome and love and squeeze-hug ever so tightly, this concept, this ability to (just) be.
The weight of decisions overwhelms me. Sometimes to the point of inaction, but usually to the point of overexertion and overthinking. I fervently want my life, my path, my career, my family, myself to be on the right trajectory, I’m concerned only with outcomes.
And the space between those outcomes? That is my personal misery. That is where I fall apart. Over question. Over process. Over think. Over do. That is where my sea of if onlys begins to swell in infinity and I lose any ability to BE.
And yet, that is where I need to be. I need to be in between outcomes. I need to be in that ocean. I need to be in that state of not yet there and no longer where I was before. I need to be okay in the in-betweens,
in the hallways.
It’s the hallways that matter.
It was in one of these hallways that I became a mother.
A thinker. A musician.
I’ve avoided the hallways, quickly hoping to duck into the next door, hoping it would be THE door. Any answer, THE answer. Desperate for the relief that this door might hold my path, my yellow brick road, my calling.
All these years of rushing through the halls and I’ve finally realized: this is where life is lived. Where joy is found. Where love is had.
It’s the hallways that matter.
The more time I spend in preparation, the more courageously I can open and enter and choose not to knock on just the next door or any door that I find. Hallways are where I meet others, learn of their experiences, learn about the lives they’ve had behind the doors they’ve ventured, packing their experiences and lessons into my bags as my own, as I continue on, forge ahead.
Hallways are where, if I allow it, I can understand that the door I have just left, was not wrong, but was just next. Next on a delicate path that only asks from me to be on it. To be aware of it, embracing it, and finding the joy in its space, so that I might be closer to propping open the door to my honest space. To begin to live in it, dwell in it, explore it, and BE within it.
Will there be another door? Almost certainly. Hopefully. But until then, I’ll be in the hallway. Singing, writing, creating, playing, laughing. And finally, oh-so-finally loving every minute of just BEING in it and rediscovering the shimmery specks left there by my seven-year-old self.