I tell myself that I need more time for the thoughts to fall neatly into line. That if I just had a few quiet moments, my life might make sense again. I give up on order, and hope something useful will emerge.
Here I am, midnight in the middle of the week. The list of "to-do" grows longer, while time runs short. And I am fighting against apathy and loneliness and this deep emptiness that nobody and nothing can seem to fill. What is causing this sensation? That has been the subject of much discussion between myself, my family, my friends, and I come to no conclusions. In truth, I "have it all". I spend time on my calling - dancing - with a great partner, I am working on causes that I care deeply about and that I have vision for, and although my family is still far, Ben is closer than before, and I have caring friends all around me.
And yet, in this full life of mine, I can't seem to find contentment. I feel empty and cheap when Ben hangs up the phone, despite the fact that I have no conversation to make, and keeping someone on the line to listen to my breathing just so I don't feel lonely is like some type of twisted girlfriend torture. I feel accomplished but also questioning when I leave practice, because yes I'm improving as a dancer but I've lost sight of my end goal. Then I sit here, reaching for an inspirational "writer's voice" that seems to have permanently ditched me. This, despite the fact that I am writing in my personal journal every day. It isn't for lack of practice that I have nothing to say. It is for lack of self.
One of my best friends in the world, Janet, says the aspiration of daily happiness - the kind of glowing, I'm-changing-the-world happiness - is only for those young people who have never experienced the difficulty of reality. Reality is hard, life is imperfect. We have to change how we see life, in order to be happy with what we have. Dan Gilbert said in a TED talk that happiness is a state of mind. That someone who has just become a quadriplegic, and someone who has just won the lottery, experiences the same amount of happiness as the other. He says happiness is an exercise that we must perform every day, as a choice.
I'd rather just run away. On Monday, Ben and I will take off for a 16-day trip to South Africa and Namibia. We'll be camping for a week and a half, then spending the rest of our trip in Cape Town for the marriage of my dear friend Robert to his equally dear fiance Roxanne. I hope that this trip, away from the disconnecting force of the internet and my fragmented life and in the companionship of Ben and other deeply trusted friends, will help me "find myself." But I also recognize that for me, being on the move is just a way for me to stave off this sensation of being permanently lost. I believe that going to Africa to "find myself" is nonsensical navel-gazing. It would be much better to travel in order understand how my work might inspire or help others.
Woody Allen said in a recent Esquire interview, "It's just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don't have to really face up to the fact that, you know, we're just temporary people with a very short time in a universe that will eventually be completely gone...The best you can do to get through life is distraction."
Allen recommends love and work as two pretty good distractions. And I guess travel, and dancing, and time with friends, are all pretty good ones too. But.. distractions? Doesn't that just cheapen the sensation of living? I am reminded though of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. He writes, "Anyone whose goal is 'something higher' must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves." And perhaps those defenses are the distractions I throw myself into - traveling, dance, work.
I remember a time when I rejoiced constantly in the breath of air in my lungs, the color of the sky, the feeling of living a free life. I still do, at times. When the sun begins to goes down and the Queensborough Plaza platform gleams suddenly like beaten copper through the window of the subway car. Or I push my bedroom window open and a cool breeze lingers on my face. This is the connection that I seek - to find meaning in what I see of this world, in my relationships with others, to feel that my efforts are made for something meaningful.