I’m ready for changes in my life. I’ve been ready for changes, but I don’t know how to make them happen. I can’t conjure up eligible, attractive men or a book contract or a meaningful job somewhere far away from here. But the sameness of my days is making me crazy. I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin if nothing good happens — and soon.
I went into this week with expectations. Saturday morning I woke up thinking, I have taken a lot of time over the past three years to journal and pray and reflect, and now it’s time for action. I need to get my house in order so I’m ready for what comes next.
My friends and family know that cleaning is one of my least favorite things to do — partly because I’m bad at it, partly because it allows me too much time to think, partly because I get bored and distracted so easily. But I worked hard all weekend and tidied my space with some degree of efficiency. It still needs work, but at least the damage has been downgraded from Category 5 hurricane to heavy wind. I even did a little thrifting to add beauty to my home. By Sunday night I felt stupid tired but proud of myself.
All Monday I had a strong feeling that something good was going to happen. And although this will sound hokey, I knew that I had to be in a specific place at a specific time that evening. I knew being there was going to facilitate some kind of encounter that would change my life. I knew it.
I went to that place. I waited, walked around, lingered more. I hung around for so long that I drew funny looks.
So for the past forty-eight hours I’ve been in a space of disappointment, unfulfilled expectations, the same old longings that never bear fruit. Last night I dragged the dog to the park and we sat on the grass in the dark and the rain. I asked why I even bother to hope, to dream, to think that things might ever change. I feel so trapped, caught on a hamster wheel I can’t escape.
Sometimes I think this is an itchiness of the soul, the kind of itchiness that signals when a cut is starting to heal or a snake is agitated enough to rub off the old dead skin. But sometimes I just think I’ll spend the rest of my life feeling as restless and unfulfilled and unhappy as I have thus far. And hope feels like a cruel cosmic joke.
Tonight I went back to the gym for the first time since everything closed down last spring. I didn’t know what to expect, but returning was a big deal to me, overcoming fears to do something healthy for myself. And the working out part was wonderful: sweating, stretching, flexing, remembering how it felt to be in shape and pleased with my physique. But. Nothing changed as a result of my workout. I don’t know what I expected, but something.
And now I’m in the headspace I always occupy after I get a new tattoo or piercing or do something outrageous with my hair or try in some other way to make a change: stuck in the same old life I had before. Bored, restless, impatient. Wanting to scream, needing to break out of the cage but not knowing how.
I want to enjoy my life. I want to look back and say it was worth living and I lived it to the fullest and I have no regrets. But I have so many. Even the “good” choices I’ve made — not having children when I wasn’t in a stable relationship or financially secure; staying in unfulfilling jobs because they offered health insurance and a salary; avoiding relationships I knew would be disastrous — have turned into lost chances and regrets.
I don’t know how to change that. When I do take risks, they often make things worse. And there are people in my life who can’t wait to remind me of my failures. So while I know I need to take risks in order to improve my situation, the stakes are so high that I don’t know which ones I can afford — nor which ones I can afford not to take.
People have talked a lot to me lately about attitude, about accepting what is, about submitting to God’s will. No one ever makes God’s will sound like a thing that’s actually desirable, though: It’s this burden you have to somehow smile and bear. It’s never what you want or even what you recognize as good; you’re just supposed to trust that because God (presumably) wills it, it’s good in ways that you can’t even comprehend.
For anyone who has been manipulated or controlled or abused by people who claimed to be representing God’s will, this whole idea is particularly problematic, I think. Not submitting to men who tried to usurp the role of God in my life was literally a matter of holding onto my sanity, my self. The people who talk to me now about submitting to God use the same language those men used, and they speak of God in the same ways — like a cosmic Dom who doesn’t acknowledge safe words; like we’re supposed to unquestioningly kiss the whip that’s just lashed us bloody.
This is the wrestling match I have had over and over throughout my life, and am still fighting through. To me submission feels like rape, and not in the John Donne sense (although I wrote about that sonnet in college; the professor commented that while my words argued for the goodness of God, they did so against the passion in the paper). The Calvinist God acts not out of love but only for His (always the male pronoun, always capitalized) glory. This includes willing terrible things to happen and damning people to eternal torture in hell. This God gives hope and then snatches it away just to prove He is in charge and I’m not, like my entire life hasn’t proven that point already. Wouldn’t it be kinder not to let me have desires, dreams, the belief that things might change?
I want to believe in a different God, a God who loves me with what is recognizable to me as love. Sometimes I see glimpses of that God: butterflies, the soothing purr of my cat, the way the dog’s eyes crinkle when he grins at me, the play of street lights on raindrops, kind words from a stranger, the embrace of a friend, an unexpected copperhead in my path, bats reeling through foggy twilight.
But that God still leaves so many gaps, so many unanswered prayers and unresolved questions. Why would God give me the passion and gift to write but not enough time or financial wherewithal to write the stories I need to tell? Why would God say, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (Gen. 2:18, NLT), yet every man I meet is so wrong that it’s like picking off clay pigeons in a shooting gallery? And what’s “just right for me” anyway? I’m so scared that “just right” is going to turn out to be a compendium of everything I don’t want, like a kale smoothie: You manage to choke it down because you know it’s so healthy, but the taste makes you gag.
So I don’t know where this leaves me. Except bratty, restless, bored, impatient, with no way to scratch the places that itch. Nor any idea whether the itches signify healing scabs or ongoing discontent that will keep haunting me until I retire or die. I’m listening to the same Sisters of Mercy song I’ve been listening to on restless rainy nights since I was nineteen. Not enough has changed since then. And oh dear God, I am all but dying for change.