The Humbling


October 22, 2016 by Julia

Have you ever come across an old journal or letter you wrote twenty years ago, only to find that although your life or even your belief system has changed, your voice is still the same? More than that, your personal challenges are the same? I am not sure how to feel about that. I suppose I should accept it. Every soul has its particular flaws, which on good days can be quite beautiful and more of a blessing than a hindrance – not a flaw, at all. For example, I go through periods of anxiety, depression, social dread, pessimism, self-consciousness, and can’t let certain things go. On good days, those aspects of my personality could be felt as caring concern, emotional depth and authenticity, independence, realistic expectations, self-awareness, loyalty and tenacity. On the good days, I feel rewarded by the very characteristics that I felt were dragging me down on the bad days.

There have been some bad, grey days lately. I feel defeated by my own nature. I know what my goals are, what my values are, but as a result I am constantly checking the clock, feeling the pressure to fit it all in, and the joy has seeped out of many things for me, at least temporarily. It’s like there is no simple happiness to look forward to – only character-building challenges. I am trying to relax, to be more flexible, to worry less – but I worry I’ve forgotten how. Yes, I worry about how to have fun. It’s nothing new.

I can be very disciplined and focused, and don’t have a problem seeing things through to the end, or following up on what I say I’m going to do. It’s just that life and people are constantly interrupting. Which is no way to think of life, or people: as interruptions. I know that I’ve struggled with this viewpoint since I was kid who couldn’t stand to be distracted from a book. Obviously, as a parent, I can’t be that way with my kids, and as an adult, I don’t want to be that way with people. My loved ones, and just people in general, are more important to me than any project or personal goal. But too many interruptions make me crazy. There has to be some way to keep both the focus and determination while still being cool with the fact that life will constantly pop up and surprise me. I haven’t felt that kind of peace for a long time, it seems. I do know depression distorts things, so it’s hard to know the whens or whys or for how longs.


And then there are the moments I question whether the things I’m so focused on are worth it, or even serve any purpose in the long run. Do I even know how to write? Why bother with trying to make the world better through small work, through little donations of time or money? Am I helping anyone, really? My kids like to remind me of my weaknesses or failings, as kids are wont to do, and sometimes I start to believe that’s all there is to the story, even if rationally I know I’m a basically good parent.

A year ago I figured out how to fix a broken hinge on a corner cabinet door. I was so proud to see it through to the end, despite many setbacks and a total lack of interest in the problem. I’ve probably become a little self-righteous about my tenacity. Well, today that hinge broke again, along with my faith in bothering. Everyone is out there at school or work and I am home with this stupid effing cabinet door hanging down while I’m trying to write. I give up! The hinges of this world will never stop breaking. Especially this one, according to the cabinetmakers I consulted last year, both of whom said no one makes this kind anymore because they break. Is this my life, my entire, boring, pointless life? Sure, we’ll never put our house on the market because of the eyesore, but I’m done! (Sometimes I can only deal with something after declaring that I will never deal with it again, and believing myself for a little while. Let’s see if that worked.)

I also wrote last time about figuring out a schedule for myself at home while the kids are at school. It was all very exciting until I realized after two weeks it wasn’t working. Again, with The Random Life Stuff to Deal With. I kept some routine and goals, but I’m trying to hold them loosely, with room for forgiveness. I want to write two hours a day, which doesn’t sound impossible when the kids are in school, right? It is, nearly, for me, and not because I’m watching daytime TV. I’m trying, though. I just haven’t finished much, which is not a pleasant feeling when you’re constantly questioning everything.

I feel as though all I write are more questions. I’m working on a short story right now, and I keep thinking: not every sentence can end with a question mark, especially in fiction. Or can it? Just kidding. Sigh. (I am so sick of myself.)

I’m hoping by putting my bitter little problems out there, they will shrink in the great wide world. Everyone needs to talk in order to heal, including me. I can usually talk better in writing, so here I am. I also feel less bad spreading my crap over the blogosphere than I do dumping it onto the usual people in my life who have to hear it on fairly regular basis. Okay…you guys hear it too on a fairly regular basis, but at least you can stop reading whenever you want.

But seriously. I know everyone just needs to talk, or listen. I learn this over and over again. It’s a good thing life keeps humbling us, or we’d all be trying to solve each other’s problems, believing we have all the answers, when first we just need to talk, or listen.

Even in my apparently faithless moments, I know deep down that we are all learning, and although we might consciously forget some of what we’ve learned, it’s still buried deep, informing our conversation and work, as we reach for ever more life. Without my phases of confusion, despair or insecurity, I could never listen to others in their times of need without judgment. I could never create anything with depth. I can take comfort in that.

In the Woods – Kasamatsu Shiro 1955 woodcut, found at The Wood Between Tumblr

And this new wisdom will lose some of its resonance over time, and I will feel lost, and then I will find another gem to keep hope alive. I will repeat some of the same mistakes. Sometimes we will break new ground. We won’t always know what we’re in the middle of, or what to do. That’s how it goes.

Not that I really know how life goes. I’m just talking, and hoping to feel better. Thank you for listening.

Mood after dark:

By illustrator Cory Godbey


6 thoughts on “The Humbling

  1. vjthurston says:

    Thanks for being so honest, Julie. I relate to many of the things you are feeling, having felt them all at some point in my 62 years, and some of them I still feel. It is a daily struggle for me to push through the thick bushes of “the land of time and doing” and move into the open fields of eternity, love and hope that lie beyond. It is a daily struggle to hold on and believe that my significance and value are not based on what I do but in just being and loving. Those are the things that will last forever in my life and in the lives of those we touch. Being and loving are enough. And when I can get myself there, I find a lot of peace way down deep. Being the unique creature that you are and letting that spill out to the world in the form of love is enough. Love you!

  2. You’re strong and beautiful. Your vulnerability makes you human. You’re also an amazing mother, I am so proud of you. Love you.


  3. Brittany says:

    Julie! I’m just now getting around to reading this due to all the mundane things a mom has to do before she has the time to leisurely read, and I’m in tears. You are not alone! Many of us feel the same, the difference is you have the ability to express your feelings and to allow us to not feel so lonely out here in the world. You are wonderful mother to your children, sister to me, god mother to our son. Do you think I would have chosen you to be his god mother if I didn’t think there was something special about you 😉?? Keep writing, keep living, and most of all keep loving because we all love you!

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