Adrift

Sometimes you spit off a story for work and feel a pang of hopelessness as you hit send.

You are the problem.

You are just another average human contributing to the accumulation of bullshit on the internet. Or at least that’s how it feels. I mean what do you do when your work doesn’t feel meaningful? But when you are just grateful for the work. When you aren’t sold on the idea that all of your work has to be meaningful. When you think that sometimes maybe it is simply good enough to get paid for doing something that you set out to do and do the other things that make you feel good on the side. When you are appreciative that you even have the time to ponder these privileged concerns.

When what you’re really worried about is a story about wasted time. About the feeling of despair you get when you feel like time is slipping through your grasp and you don’t have anything to show for it. When it’s all you can do to keep the blahness of the world at bay. When there are half a dozen half-finished books on your shelves and at least ten browser tabs open, searching, calling for a way to become engaged, for a way to find something worthwhile and focused to do with your time. When life becomes an endless litany of “exercises in how to live for something” while at the same time living a pretty great life that you wouldn’t ever want to trade for someone else’s. It’s precisely these objectively petty whinings that can make a person feel sick.

George Harrison wrote “When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there.”

And that does seem like the ticket. We need to get outside of ourselves, outside of our heads. So you think, Be less conceited, less focused on my life, my fulfillment, and make myself useful to others. But then the next day rolls around and you are at a loss for the how part. What should you Google? Who should you contact? Do you really have the time? And then it all falls by the wayside. And, once again, you’re peering your eyes over the edge, looking for a way to have a good time, to make friends, to take care of your body, to live some kind of life. A life you love and a life you aren’t so fixated on. A life that can breathe.

If this feels indulgent, then that’s probably because it is.

If the answer feels mind bogglingly simple and obvious to you, then maybe that’s because it is.

If it feels like a very “American problem”, then maybe that’s because it, in fact, is.

As Rebecca Solnit pinpointed it, “that American anxiety of being adrift without an anchor of stable identity or community.”

An aha moment. Yep. That’s what it is. Adrift in a floating mind of thoughts. Adrift without ties that can rope you in to the center. Adrift in possibilities, flooded by guilt for not capitalizing on any of them fully.

But adrift, of course, doesn’t have to mean aimless or hopeless (or American, I might add). When you’re adrift, there is the possibility of new discovery. Of finding a new island of thoughts and actions to live in or another friend floating by on their own personal glacier that you can reach out and touch. Adrift can mean hope in the most capacious sense of the term. Hope to keep on floating while trying to keep your eyes more focused on the water and less on your reflection in it. Hope that the very thing that keeps you buoyed up is the vital force that sustains us all. Hope that by taking little actions every day, you create enough movement to direct you where you need to go, even if you’re not entirely sure what that means or where that is. Hope that is inspired by others, fed by words and images and thoughts acquired and guided by the beauty we run into along the way, beauty that we help create with our own words and thoughts and images and ideas.

A hope we all need and we all seek, even if we’re too in the thick of it to make out its form. It’s a form we can all find ourselves under. A roomy ceiling we can all reach. It’s the theory that those of us adrift can hold onto for now, a theory that takes solace in the fact that we’re not alone. Many others have been here before, are here now and will circle back to this place. It’s a theory that we’re creating now, that meaning is the thing we are creating now.

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