The Reader, Part Two

The strangest thing happened over the weekend. I dropped off the kids with their dad for a bit, and headed back home, intending to check a bunch of things off my to-do list (fold laundry, start dinner, vacuum, whatever), and then I thought…f it. None of these are things that can’t wait. I’m going to do what I want to do for a minute. I’m going to do something that makes me happy.

And then I realized that I had absolutely no idea what that might be.

I’m serious. I had virtually no idea what I might want to do – just me, with no one else’s wants to think about. Did I want to…read? Nap? Watch a movie? I sifted through all the things that sounded like, you know, things people do when they’re relaxing, but nothing sounded even vaguely appealing. You know what I really wanted to do? Fold laundry. Start dinner. Tick boxes off lists.

A week or so ago I had an online tarot card reading done. I’ve always been a big believer in tarot – not because I think the cards will “predict the future,” or anything like that. I view a reading as an opportunity to talk through the central issues in your life with someone who’s objective, and theoretically very intuitive. Ultimately it’s up to you to figure out what the reading means, and I think there’s something very powerful about exploring a problem from a completely new angle.

The reading – from Queen of Wands Tarot ($33! You should do this, seriously) – was almost stunningly spot-on and thoughtful and relevant to my situation, but one of the many parts that I keep coming back to was this: the reader told me that the spread was about taking ownership of enormous internal resources, and being proud of them and the things that they have helped to create.

Am I proud of myself? Of the life I’ve built? When I stop and think about this idea of pride, the easy answer is yes, I am proud – but what strikes me is how many of the sources of my pride are external to me. A book I wrote. A pretty room I decorated. The fact that I’ve been teaching the kids to read, and they’re doing such a great job at it. I’m proud of the fact that I do so much, all at the same time, and that I never stop, ever. I get shit done, and done well. That’s my thing, you know. My personal narrative, or whatever (thanks, therapy).

But standing there alone in my silent house, with really nothing at all that I had to do, and yet still unable to stop trying to figure out what “needed to be done,” for the first time, maybe, it struck me as odd. I had to wonder: what if some (or a lot) of this nonstop work I’ve spent so many years doing wasn’t…well…necessary? What if I’ve spent years creating work for myself that didn’t even need to exist?

And what if –  and here’s the big one – the reason that I’ve done this is to put off what I’m afraid I might discover when all the boxes are finally checked, and all the lists are finally finished:

I might not actually know myself very well at all.

Because “myself” – not the things I do, just…me – isn’t a thing I’ve ever given a whole lot of thought to.

Am I proud? Of myself? I have no idea how to answer that question.

I work. I vacuum. I do load after load of laundry and make sure my kids get to gymnastics class on time and fill up the bowl on the table with fresh fruit whenever it runs low. I wake up and roll over and check emails, and then run whatever the day’s marathon is, and at the end of the day, when it’s time to slow down, I sit down to watch a movie with my kids. I sit down, and – like clockwork – my mind spirals off into the dirty dishes in the sink and the proposal I haven’t finished and the fact that I should really check the bank account because the mortgage is due soon, and then all of a sudden I’m sliding out from between them and whispering “I have to do one thing! I’ll be right back!” …but then one thing becomes twenty, and all of a sudden it’s later, and the movie is over.

I want to sit through the whole movie. I want to know whether I like it, or whether there’s one I might like better.

I think this shifting, painful, impossible moment in my life might just be a good time to find out.

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