I read a Quora response to the question “What are some things that money can’t buy?” that really touched me. Basically it said that when Joseph Heller, a novelist, was asked why he wrote instead of making money like a much younger man he met at a party who had amassed a large fortune, he said, “Enough. And that’s something that guy will never have.”
I went on some solo travels to the South of France recently, and I just adore the region, more than I anticipated from previous visits to Cannes, Nice, Grasse, and Monaco. I love traveling and seeing new things. I love solo traveling. I have a weakness/strength for novelty. Sometimes I feel like I can never stop exploring, and sometimes I feel fundamentally flawed for my insatiable curiosity. Even if I saw all seven seas, I don’t think I would be able to stop. And there’s been nothing more painful than my recent realization that all that I have ever seen or read in a library is starting to all sound almost like each other, much as summer seems to be summer whether it’s Shanghai or Cassis or Somerville, NJ. The beach is the beach and the sun is the sun, and my constant companion of myself has changed a lot thankfully- very different inner monologue than my last trip to the South of France a few years ago.
Sometimes life just seems like a giant circle, and living in Europe, in the Old World, has really reinforced this. No, you are not special- you will live and and get old and die just like anyone else, your life passes through stages, you belong to a certain category or class or ethnicity, and life will go on, civilizations will rise and fall and your life is just part of a giant wave.
As a special snowflake child, sometimes its hard to realize that my destiny, though its exact details might include a wrinkle here or there, basically takes on the same contours of so many before me, and I find my archetype in others- my mother, Montaigne, a philosopher or saint. I take a personality test and say, O yes, that’s me. And all that seemed unique and special and part of my journey of self discovery seemed a bit typecast.
But this life, this awareness, this body, is mine and no one else’s. I find it comforting to feel a part of something greater yet so resistant to think that I am not distinct at all in the cosmos and I’m just some recycled soul or stardust or what have you, some bit of cosmic ectoplasm or evolutionary soup that is just a little speck in all of Nature. Just an insignificant dot.
I think that stands in direct contrast to all that is great about Western civilization, the great triumph of being modern, the huge burden of creating a self, a la Nietsche or what have you, and Christianity, with its focus on Jesus as a personal savior. It’s not the tribe you are born into , but your individual conscience that is everything, no matter how much that fundamental truth is cloaked in dogma or hidden in ritual. We are both the dancer and just part of the dance after all, and maybe the watcher too.
It’s all very hard to explain, much lss to kknow.
But what it comes down to is that I, <insert name here>, have always striven for more and greater and newer and better. I have never been content, which has fed my success but also led to my anxiety of being constantly a failure because I wasn’t there yet, and disillusionment when I realized I would never arrive, like limit in calculus.
And when I try to be whole, still, in the moment, wanting nothing, when I don’t try to change (often the best method for getting there), when I am so accepting of all that is and even of all that I am, hwen I say it’s ok that I gained weight or am messy or lose things, to admit that life is slightly unsatisfying yet perfectly as it is, doesn’t sit well either. it feels stagnant.
I think this is what they mean by the middle way.
Personaly I have never felt like enough. I have never felt ok about celebrating anything. I have never felt like I am ok as I am, honestly. I have always felt there’s work to be done- and I delighted in doing it, to a certain point, but because I never felt the fruits of my labor, I eventually became discouraged. And I evenually stopped committing self flagellation (mentally) in order to get myself to do things that might or might not be effective, I saw the whip as the problem, and ignored the underlying disatisfaction with the status quo that provoked it. FOr the most part, no goal was achieved from a place of peace, but a feeling of lack, believing that if I can only recover this missing piece, the puzzle will be whole. And what wholeness, what completion, what happiness looks like, just seems to be a moving target at best, a hydra of dissatisfaction at worse.
They say those who chase happiness or try to define it will never find it.
I have this fear that nothing will ever satisfy me, no amount of worldly goods or pleasures, no amount of accolades or fame or fortune or what have you. Not a ton of chocolate, not a sky raining men, no amount of validation or praise from the people I crave it from.
I have grown afraid to dream a new dream, because the most recent one seemed a bit sour at several points along the journey, much as I have come to love my life here once I accepted it.
90% of happiness is going with the flow- getting what you want is a gratifying part of it, but sometimes it’s about getting what you need and wanting what you have.
And wanting what you already have soundslike a pack of lies and utter bullshit. Who am I if not my wants and desires, my unfulfilled needs, my secret, most painful yearnings? Who would I be if my “problems” were solved one day? What if all my inner conflicts sorted themselves out? If I had inner peace, what the hell would be left of me?
And then I realized that, today, I am kind of there. I fucked up on a major thing and still enjoyed my day, realizing that done is done and it doesn’t make me a stupid person, I am overweight, was explicitly told by a guy that I was too round for him, and admitted I too was dissatisfied but didnt’ need his consolation when he tried to tell me he had friends that would lov eme , and I just told him I can live with myself and still love my body anyway, didn’t need his attempted pick me up and thanked him fr his honesty.
I saw a picture of my ex, my real ex that I was in a serious relationship with for 3.5 years, with his arm around someone (I can tell it must be his girlfriend), and it was really ok. Even though I am fatter than I ever was when I was with my ex, who always told me he wanted me to be thinner, and I am not with anyone.
And today is ok even though a friend who I have fantasized about being more htan friends with and had real feelings for for years hasn’t gotten back to my gchat about when I’ll be around again, and he’s always the person I felt like I would “arrive,” to, who I imagined seeing shocked and applauding now that I”m a traveling solo badass like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider and all that’s missing is thd hot, fit, bod to go with it, which honestly I can admit to myself that I would like regardless of social pressure to look a certain way, who, like being thin without effort, would be the prize that would finally come around when I reached the finish line.
Well, there is no finish line. And even though I love him, maybe I only still want him because I can’t have him. And maybe I know he’ll never be satisfied with me, because I love and accept him as he is for the most part, and he can’t love and accept himself and would rather chase people that don’t feel taht way about him. And yeah, we live on different continents.
Last year, I let myslf gain a ton of weight and get “bad” grades- Bs- to see what would happen. I remember when I was young, and liked to read instead of playing sports and just generally felt like I didn’t fit in, I felt like people only accepted me for my gifts and accomplishments, not for who I actually was. Now that I have let the real me show- hidden behind landscape photos and inspirational quotes on facebook- I have gotten to see that for most people, it doesn’t matter. ANd they can even stand me when I am depressed and selfish and a total pain in the ass. Not everyone can, but some do anyway. And yes, guys do still like me, and some probably lov me more, while others don’t go for a few extra pounds. All are entitled to their opinion.
And what do I think? Well, its more fun to play games to win, in general, but getting over perfectionism is worth mroe than an A in my book. And finally, I have my own book and my own values and I can break away from the normative values of society when I need to. Which is huge, huge, possibly my biggest accomplishment yet since now I can ick and choose which rules I want to play by, and finally play a game where when I win, it means something to me.
Not that empty feeling of “is this all there is?” when you cross some other fiish line, be it high school or masters graduation, getting into a relationship, or as I imagine, getting married. Milestones worthy of celebration, to be sure, for everybody, as long as existential goals are fuflilled by them. Adn to go in the opposite extreme, personal achievement by subjective values ie bucket list, as also sort of empty. Yes, it’s great to have visited City X, and maybe it will change you and give you a peace of what you really needed, but in the end it is just a city, and you could have gone o CIty Y instead, although it would have been different. Or you have stayed home, and who knows what would have happened then?
But yeah, for the most part, if you don’t really have it, you don’t really need it.
And if you get more money, at some point you will make yourself have more bills too, your wants will tend to expand with your salary.
And if you meet someone, no, they will never be perfect, they will never reach your expectations.
And life might go exatly to plan o wait, it never does, but you might feel completely different about it that you expected.
These things have sort of killed my libido, not in the sense of sex drive but as in semi self actualization, goal setting drive.
I’ve been a bit cynical, thinking I was better off eating pizza and doing whatever I felt like since goals are pointless anyway.
But here’s the thing- they are not.
At least 1) if you set the right goals tha are actually in line with what you want
and 2) if you don’t try to hate yourself into getting there. I’ve been so meanto myself everytime I tried to do anything big, eventually I withdrew even from myself.
3) you let yourself celebrate, all the while knowing this just moves the finish line to a different place.
The thing is, I’m already there for a lot of my goals, still working on others. I don’t really ahve much of a plan these days, preferring to go with the flow, and my life circumstances/feeligs about thigs are changing. 90% of happiness might be going with the flow, but that doesn’t mea nwe shoudln’t ut in the effort for things we think we want. Without that, life can feel kind of sterile and pointless. Serendipity is great, but so is hard work.
Frankly, I am enough today. I was enough yesterday. But at least now I realizez it. I can be enough yet still reach for me, a paradox, a contradiction, a truth.
Without being a little dissatisfied there’s no room for hope. But without satisfaction in the present moment, there’s no basis for joy, and the only thig we’ll ever get to feel is anxiety and fear for no reason, becasuse it’s already pretty good.
Can we have dreams and still be happy? yes, indeed, and without them we will just be dull.
But chances are if you are not satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with what you get in the future. So better to be happy, then leave for the greener grass.
I find myself an American in Europe, the has-been continent where life is chill and free and almost inconsequential. Where people get lots of vacation days because besides that it can be hard to find meaning. more or less instead of wanting to “make it” at work like n american.
So I’m here, I’ve arrived. It feels good, like a solid foundation to build osmething on, and yet, complete in itself.
I know who I am.
Sometimes I feel like my life is still so many question marks, and I am afraid to get rid of the question marks, which makes me even more afraid and self doubting.
I’m still struggling with this question of “enough,” and I realize that path only goes on, sometimes I am happy that I got here and that i have already trod so far.
And I realize there is no path, just here and now. sometimes w ego in the wrong direction, yet still the path will always find us again if we dare.
so here’s to satisfaction 😉