Tuesday, January 03, 2012

My "Duh" Moment

I'm fairly certain that growing up in the 1970s and 1980s was, for me, the moral equivalent of being sold a mirage in the Sahara. Coming of age in that era of instant-gratification and get-rich-quick schemes and ever-present celebrity news (MTV, anyone?) gave me the impression that life comes in bursts and at any moment I could expect all of my wishes to be granted simultaneously, thereby changing my life forever in a millisecond.

I still sometimes believe that.

Turns out that what actually comes in bursts (at least for me) are the revelations that this is all nonsense.

For so many years I believed that goals were seminal events. That to accomplish one of the milestones I set out to reach would profoundly change the landscape of my life going forward. With a few exceptions, that is total BS. But somehow, I manage to hold on to the exceptions in my mind as reality. Marriage was one of those exceptions, or at least I used to think so. In all honesty, though, Bubba and I lived together, sharing expenses and household duties for nearly a year before we actually had the wedding ceremony. And while the honeymoon rocked, when we returned to our tiny apartment with our two cats and our full-time jobs, except for the part where I had to stand in line forEVER at the DMV to legally change my name on my driver's license, nothing much changed.

Having babies changed our lives markedly. I'll give you that one. And graduating high school and college necessitated a drastic shift in the way I spent my days. Beyond those things, though, when I stop to think about it, there aren't many things I can point to that created dramatic change in my daily life. And even the build-up to graduations and childbirth were gradual, so I can't really say that any of those things came all at once.

So why is it that when I fantasize about a particular writing project or personal milestone, I expect things to change radically for me? When I finished my first manuscript I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment - the culmination of three years of research and two years of writing and re-writing. But the next morning, I still got up, made breakfast for the girls, had my latte and drove them to school. Even if I had sold the manuscript, my life wouldn't have become unrecognizably altered.

I have a few friends who successfully published their work in the last year and while I was tremendously pleased for them and a tiny bit jealous, I have to admit that their lives are still essentially the same as they were before. Yes, maybe they are getting more exposure in the literary world. Yes, I suspect they spend some portion of each and every day selling or marketing or talking about their writing. But when it comes down to it, the most basic parts of their lives are still the same - raising children, finding time for self-care (or not), struggling to write new material. So where is that Shangri-La? That, "Oh. My. God. I'm famous. I have 'arrived.' I am [fill in the blank]!"

It doesn't exist. That is truly the exception. If it even happens. Because I suspect that even those folks who become famous overnight or win a trillion dollars in the lottery ultimately revert back to who they really are. If you loved junk food and reality TV before you were elected governor of your state, you might move to the mansion the day of your inauguration, but I won't give you long before the cupboards are full of cheesy poofs and Oreos and someone has set the DVR to catch "Survivor."

Much like the lesson I learned from looking back on 2011 with Eve and Lola, I am reminded that it is the daily things we do that add up. Those moments where we are truly ourselves, doing what we do best without pretense or expectation determine the path our lives take.

Call it a "Duh" moment. I'm pretty sure it doesn't qualify as an "Aha."

10 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I like this. And reading it -- well, it's an AHA moment.

Jodi Lobozzo Aman said...

Did the street sweeper ask Buddha, what do I do if I am enlightened? And Buddha said sweep the streets. Yup.

Victoria said...

"Those moments where we are truly ourselves, doing what we do best without pretense or expectation determine the path our lives take."

I love that line.

The problem with fame is when people let it change them. People in the news are not touched by some benevolent being and told they are superior, but somehow, we make people that "do" into powerful beasts. I do it too, writers I admire, musicians I would never approach for terror of reproach. They're all as we are, people being people.

Thanks for this, Kari. Huzzah!

chris said...

This is all so true, but so difficult to adjust to! It's so hard not to believe that some changes that are so hard fought in the making can make so little difference in daily life. It's important to realize though and to not get down on oneself if things aren't as dramatic as hoped.

thowling said...

Not so 'duh'! Come on! Not many people get that, and will still wait for the lottery, hero-moment, starring a commercial on TV, or finding a lamp with a genie inside...

Carrie Link said...

I've come to the same conclusion. We both know the story of someone that did become an overnight sensation, and well, we know how that turned out. Perfect timing reading this right now, I was just settling down to write a blog about something similar. No accidents!

Catherine Green said...

An excellent post, thank you! And so true. I realised this fact a few years ago, after finally setting out on my spiritual path and accepting the direction my life needed to take. Once I went with the flow I felt much happier, and I know that a slow journey to the magical destination is much better, because otherwise we would all be bored, having achieved what we wanted too soon.

Dee Ready said...

Dear Kario,
I wouldn't say that this posting was either a Duh moment or an Aha moment. I'd say, quite sincerely, that it was a Wise moment. A moment in which you saw clearly the span of years and events and changes and knew that it is in the dailiness of our lives that we find contentment.

Coming to this realization takes so long--or at least it did for me. While I was longing for possibility, life was happening within and without me. And so, my eye on the future and what it might hold, I missed the present and the Presence. I'm so glad this wisdom has come to you so much earlier than it did to me.

Kari, I'm sorry to have missed your blog for so many postings. As you know, I've been under the weather. Today I'm trying to visit all the blogs I read and comment on the latest posting. If there is one you'd especially like me to read, please let me know.

Peace.

momentsofexhilaration.com said...

Have you read "Bird by Bird"? She talks about how becoming published doesn't really change your life, and certainly doesn't make you magically happier, even though that's what most writers imagine. Your post reminded me of that. I keep thinking that if I can somehow become a "successful" writer (whatever that means) my life will be different. But you're right - at the end of the day, it will be the same. Thanks for this!

Kathryn Grace said...

"It is the daily things we do that add up. Those moments where we are truly ourselves, doing what we do best without pretense or expectation determine the path our lives take."

Oh yes. Thank you.

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