Saturday, December 29, 2012

mapping a life

Let's jump right in, ok?

There was this moment right when I got back from my trip and was walking through the airport to catch public transportation home, when I caught my reflection in the darkened window. Walking beside me was my mother. The facial expression, the way the hair fell in my face, the tilt of my shoulders: it was all her. I hurried on, avoiding eye contact with the eerie and unsettling doppleganger walking beside me.

Perhaps the last few days here, in the place I've chosen as my adult "home," have been such a struggle because I have been haunted by that moment.

Whenever I go to my childhood home for a few days, it feels like exiting one life to enter another, rather than a seamless movement between spaces, a consistent life. I feel different there - more exhausted, more withdrawn, more critical. It's especially bad, I'm realizing, to go home when my heart is hurting.

I don't feel myself when I'm in my childhood home, and my parents and I don't have a relationship where we confide in each other our hopes or joys, let alone our heartbreak. When my heart is aching, I just want to feel whatever I am feeling openly and connect with the people who know me best. So to be in the space where I feel least like myself, is like an affront to the self that is barely keeping it together.

And then to be back here, with this shadow reminder - this literal reflection in the glass - of how much we are parts of our past, even when we've built a whole life to be distinct and move confidently into the future we dream of, well it's a lot to carry. Things start to fray a bit...

I want to enter 2013 with a refocus on my intentions for my life and work, which at the core is about the ways my life can be giving and be connected to community. Which, I know, is a rather funny sentiment to be expressing in a completely self-indulgent blog. Let's just say, baby steps

I thought of this today, while I was driving to meet a friend and her boyfriend. I was feeling dull - this new word I have been overusing that I think represents my greatest fear for my life and myself: that I will do nothing and live a rather forgetable life. A radio program was on, and as I heard the voice start to talk about mapping, I started to shift my focus from my fear of dullness to the conversation coming out of my car speakers. The host was saying something along the lines of: Map making means ignoring everything in the world but the one thing being mapped. 

He went on to say we make maps to make sense of the chaos in our world.

I suddenly realized, the map I have been making for myself has gotten me off-course. It's been adding chaos instead of clearly away clutter.

It's like I have been frantically trying to make sense of everything such that I have way too many keys on my map for it to tell me anything. I've been mapping the ways I'm broken, the ways I am alone, the reasons I will always be alone, the ways I am stressed, the ways I don't have enough time, the ways my family is screwed really, the map I have been drawing for myself for some time is a map of all my failures and fears. And when this is what I am referencing all the time, it's no wonder I feel I have lost my way.

I am mapping the worst, so I am ignoring everything else in the world. For me then, it's true: map making means ignoring everything in the world but the one thing being mapped. 

Perhaps the bigger fear, the fear at the core of feeling dull, is that I will get so trapped inside the worst-case-scenario-map of my life, that I won't do anything. I won't move out of my fears and my criticisms of the world, I will be so scared of the world being disappointing, that it will be. It's easy to  lose sight of the good when your map is focusing on the potholes, the cracks in the sidewalk, and the dark corners.

It's time to draw a new map.

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