I was talking to a dear friend, a person younger than I, but not by so many years that I often feel the difference. But then suddenly I did. He was talking about how he hated to sleep, how time spent sleeping was time not spent learning or playing or otherwise accomplishing much and that while he would yield to the necessity of sleep, he resented its intrusion. I recognized myself in that, only I recognized a self from ten years ago and being confronted so with my younger self I drifted into a comparison between us.
I stopped pushing the boundaries of endurance about that many years ago, made the conscious decision that I was a better parent, more patient, less emotionally fragile, less accident prone, more deliberate when I was well rested. I made the decision that is was more important to feel well rested than to get a couple extra hours in reading. I’d been deeply tired for a long time and I set about getting caught up on my sleep. And I have now. And now I’m wondering if I haven’t grown just a little too comfortable. I feel undisciplined, undriven; sort of slow and soft by comparison to the woman I was then. I am less volatile, less passionate, more reasoned. I am a more reliable parent, a more rational partner, but am I a better person, a more vibrant individual? I feel somewhat muted. Toned down. Like wine you add a whole lot of water to so your kiddo can have a taste to toast with. Yes. Now I’m safe for children. No sharp edges left.
It’s not that my days are washing away on Oprah and novelettes. Although I do an awful lot of laundry and mopping. It’s not that I’m bored or even unfulfilled. It’s just all… what? Too easy? Without challenge or difficulty maybe?
Occasional Magic is continuing to make progress, although I’m careful to keep its demands balanced with those of my family. I’m engaged in a form of self-study that is yielding some interesting results. I’m working at expanding my knowledge base and continuing my education into areas I didn’t have in college. I’m making a survey study of philosophy, but it’s all so self directed. I’m seeking mastery, but I seek it without a master. There’s no one there kicking my butt. No one demanding more of me than I knew I had in me. No one demanding anything at all really, except that diners remain predictable and lunchboxes get packed.
I’m not tired of my kids. They delight me and I’m so happy that I can keep the terrain of their childhood even. I’m glad I’m available and stable, able to shore them up when they falter and maintain my calm in the face of their toddler tantrums or adolescent angst.
Still I wish there was something that woke me up an hour before my alarm.
Something that would just flat out kick my butt. Something that demanded from me. Something rigorous and worthwhile.
Maybe there’s nothing like that.
Maybe if there were it would be too great a threat to my family’s harmony.
Maybe I’m just being childish.
Maybe I must create it for myself and be both master and student, discipline and disciple.
I don’t know. I only know I felt old suddenly. Old and safe and soft and I didn’t like it. I caught a glimpse of the woman I had been and she of me. She wondered where the fire had gone and I pointed out that fire burns babies. She shrugged and walked away.
I want to be a moderate extremist- to burn with intensity and fire and passion and desire, but only in the hours that my children are at school, the laundry is caught up and my work already in order and only within a furnace whose door I can shut if I need to and completely contain. I want to be selfish, but only in a way that doesn’t impact anyone. Irresponsible, but only if that’s in no way inconvenient for anyone else. Reckless, but only if it’s safe. Immoderate, but only in moderation.