I finally figured out, very belatedly it’s true, that I was spending my life in the dreaded Waiting Place. The one Dr. Seuss warned me about.
I knew better, I did. I remember having this exact conversation with a therapist when I was 19-years-old (I lived in Manhattan in the 1980s–everyone was in therapy!) and my awesome therapist, Lynn, told me very clearly- “Anne, this is your life, so you need to live it.” OK, good advice. It caused me to pinch myself periodically and think, “This is my life, I’m living it”, which kind of worked a little bit, but not really.
Turns out that time passes in exactly the same manner in my fake life as it did in my real life, so whether I was living in one or the other, time continued slip-sliding away, in the immortal words of Paul Simon. That was definitely not good at all.
Turns out, there were a lot of issues involved in actually embracing the whole “this is my life” proposition. The biggest problem, of course, was that by waiting for my “real” life to start, which sometimes meant the end of a work day, or a work week, or the completion of a major project, or the end of my kids’ school year or soccer season, the holidays, etc., I was actually spending my time, by definition, in an inauthentic way—as in not real.
So if I was spending the majority of my time living an inauthentic life, my very authentic fear was that one day my time would be up and I would look back and realize that my fake life eclipsed any hope of having a real life, and now it was game over.
At this point, a pit stop and lane change were definitely in order.
First, the pit stop- this is the part where we duck and cover, stop and smell the roses, just breathe, make like a Talking Head and then you may ask yourselves “How did I get here?”
That’s a good question, but it’s a bit of the tail wagging the dog. A better first question is, where the hell am I anyway? Seems like the answer to that would be obvious, but not so much.
Sometimes, we seem to be in one place, and really we’re clear across town, or across the country, or, in some extreme cases, not even inhabiting the same astral plane that we thought we were. For example, I was married to the guy of my dreams, I had a blossoming career that was going gangbusters, we lived in a spectacular house and I had good friends and the time and money to have a lot of fun. Seems like Nirvana, no? Apparently not. For some, it takes losing everything to bring what really matters into sharp focus. For me, it took having it all to realize that something was decidedly –and devastatingly- missing. What, you may ask, could possibly be missing? And the answer, I’m sorry to say, was me.
The actress who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy, Carrie Fisher, once wrote, ‘Having a Great Time, Wish I Were Here.” And that was me. Because it turns out that while I was busy creating the life I thought I wanted, I forgot to create myself in the process. For me, there was no there there, and it made for a gaping empty hole where my joy and fulfillment should be.
So what I finally learned, slowly and painfully, was that life really isn’t like my fantasy novels in this particular instance. There’s nothing outside ourselves that can save us. There’s no one—at least in my humble opinion—who can complete us, as Christian was waiting for. There’s no accomplishment that will fulfill us if we’re hollow inside, having failed to do the work to uncover who we truly are and what we are truly here to do. And if we’re waiting for that special someone to be our missing puzzle piece, or the accolade or award that’s going to convince us that we are worthy, we’re going to spend a long time in the Waiting Place. And who wants to disappoint Dr. Seuss?
Better to blow that particular popsicle stand and get on with the business of finding or making ourselves and then sharing that person with the world. At which point the wonderful spouse and beautiful house can be fully enjoyed and appreciated, cause nothing attracts joy as much as truth. And truth is something we live, not something we wait for.