My B-day is coming up. I usually do not pay much attention to it.
The only thing that I love about the day itself is my astrological sign.
I’ve done hundreds of personality, career and IQ tests and each reveals something about who and why I am. Some are accurate but nothing envelopes it so well as a meticulously written book about Pisces.
I’ve been a while on this planet earth and as a member of society and human being, from the moment I was born I had one certain destiny and it’s the same for nearly everyone: you have to work.
We bring babies into the world and we are imposing them the same destiny. For some, it will be easy to follow a path and maybe they’ll be satisfied, for others they will follow one without giving it much thought. For others it will be the inevitable “grind”. Some will think about success in the most boring of terms: money, house, possibly a snowblower or something that will disguise itself as “purpose”. For others success might be "to be seen”, to have thousands of followers or listeners or viewers.
For the past 13 years I’ve bobbed like a bottle with a message in the middle of an ocean. Directionless, shoved by the waves in one direction then the other, sunk at times, stuck on a beach bumping into rocks trying to get out. Then a big wave comes and takes me out to sea again.
I am a multi-hyphen person
I have no path.
No real job
I use my skills as I acquire them. At the moment I’m learning SEO. At the same time I’m learning how to use light in watercolor. I do copywriting and at the same time I write spontaneous poems that I show to no one.
I’m a beast when it comes to learning, reading, listening. Unstoppable. I read Georges Perec (Gracias @gristormenta) sometimes in French, sometimes in English, Samuel Beckett in audio and Thomas Clerk as a comforting duvet. Then I break with a good thriller. I reread Anita Brookner, Penelope Mortimer, Helene Hanff. Or endless books about marketing which I am unable to apply.
I live in the lonely crossroads of belonging and not belonging, to a place, a time, a country. I spend an inordinate amount of time alone. Always have. When I lived by myself I could spend up to five days without speaking to anyone and I didn’t notice, but I do love a good engaging conversation. My friendships are long-lasting and true despite most being long distance these days.
But the battle inside… the history of thinking I should be doing something else than what I am:
Being alone - be with people!
Not wanting to leave my house - leave your house!
Being in utter silence, not even music - Let’s play some background music!
Hating small talk - Network!
Explore, learn and experiment - focus on one thing!
Being shy and private - Put yourself out there!
Trying to change is a losing battle.
Tough love seems to work for me, so when my shrink told me once: if you don’t get out of your house and go to a meet-up, I won’t see you anymore. So I went and good things happened but not without excruciating stress and anxiety. I tend to look for books and essays to give me that tough love.
In the beginning of this year, while most people were gearing up for “killing it”, I (the unmoored bottle with a message inside) went in the opposite direction. Or more accurately, in no direction. I allowed myself to float, to wander. I tried to bring myself to a humble place of acceptance but it didn’t work. I started to feel that there was water infiltrating my bottle and the note was getting wet, rotting, the ink was running. In human form, I felt miserable. I spread this misery to the person I love the most. I was grumpy and sad, then it mutated into fury.
I’ve had a few episodes in which the fury turns on me and it becomes so intense that I have to keep my hands from scratching my face or pulling my hair. Which I did a long time ago. This year I had one such episode. My dog was licking my feet while I tried hard to keep my hands a few inches away from my face. I couldn’t find important papers I needed, my attempts at organisation, discipline and order fall flat. The fury vomited: "pinche desorganizada de mierda, estúpida buena para nada, por eso estás como estás, inútil y vieja”…I’ll spare you the translation.
The energy required to not touch my face was the equivalent of staying in plank pose for an hour. My dog licked and licked in anguish. Finally I found the thing I was looking for but the rest of the day I felt exhausted and profoundly sad.
There is one place that gives me solace: A library.
When I was six years old I went into a library for the first time. I started elementary school in San Antonio Texas. The shock of going from Mexico to the U.S. without speaking a word of English and being plopped into what seemed five oceans of people was traumatic to say the least. But when I went to the library for the first time, as choppy as my childhood memories are, this one is clear as a photograph. The first book I borrowed was The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter. I borrowed it many times and I dreamed of living in the little house (minus the mice!).
In college I went to one of the biggest University campuses in Mexico. Again, my only refuge a part from my half-dorm room was the library. There I sat among books that comforted me despite of their titles: On the heights of despair, The inconvenience of being born, The Savage God…
Then a long stretch without access to libraries created a feeling of lacking that was quickly filled by the internet. Almost a decade passed before I had a library card again.
Today, I go there every week. Sometimes I have a clear mission, other times I meet people there but when I’m in full bottle-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean-on-a-night-without-a-full-moon, I browse the stacks. And so, after my little episode in which I averted a self-attack I went to walk the silent bookshelves.
The stars spoke again
What happened next is precisely the kind of thing I tend to automatically qualify as a fluke, but there was no denying that some bored star configured itself with others and with one of their spiky beams they pushed me into the astrology stack. And of all the books that seemed idiotic, my fingers found the most unsuspecting. A little book by a man named André Barbault, with two silver fish on the cover.
I opened it randomly and there I found a paragraph that unveiled the mystery of why I’m floating in space (or in water) and probably will for the rest of my life:
[The piscean] is often attracted simultaneously and equally by two different careers (the symbol of the two opposing fish). Maybe she will make a choice but we must allow her to test the terrain. It’s the only way to save her from the ghostly shadows that would ultimately cause regret. Nothing is more desirable for this being than to have a vocation, it saves many Pisceans from the risk of floating through life and to wander in vain in search of a difficult internal unity.
It is clear that this being does not have the taste for order, organisation. She seems to revel in a chaos that to stranger’s eyes is nothing more than a mess, but she knows how to find herself in it.
It’s evident that the Pisces person has difficulty with finding a rational working method. If she opposes a bit of resistance, she will perform better if she can do how she sees fit. How she approaches work is more self expression and intuition. We must add that she does not have the taste nor the attention to details.
I stood with the book in my hands in a combination of giggles and tears. In French it’s even more compelling. Does this mean that my worst flaws were dictated by planets and stars? That the explanation is really this simple? That I was MEANT to be a bobbing bottle? Maybe? That I should stop the war with myself ?
Not that easy.
I borrowed the book and was pleased to read the disclaimer in the first page saying: if you are reading this book in hopes to find revelations of the future, renounce the reading this book.
Work is by far the aspect of my life I wish I could drastically change. I’ve been lucky in the past four years since I’ve been sort of working for myself. An opportunity offered by a small web design agency plus my old employer who kept me on retainer to manage their online presence and occasional freelance jobs have kept me afloat while I pursue all the rest of the unseen, unpaid, unknown work I do and which feels like the REAL work.
But this romantic notion about celestial destiny does not save me from the fact I must make a living and tempted as I might be to wave my little book as a shield from life, this won’t work at all.
What it does is to help me avoid episodes of fury with myself. It can be a reminder that water is rarely still. No wonder I was always so attracted to the word “Flow”. To read that because of certain planetary alignments my wandering will go on forever makes it pointless to be angry with myself when I feel lost.
I despise tidy endings in any piece of writing. This is why I love Anita Brookner. She won’t give us the satisfaction or the comfort. Some things will never be resolved. And this is why I don’t usually connect with wellness book and their unlikely success stories.
So there is no tidy ending to my “bobbing bottle” metaphor, nor to my work dilemma. I followed paths that seemed a good idea at the time, all while working hard at things that may or many not see the light of day.
I guess this new chapter, working under my own name might be the direction I was meant to take, but at this point, I welcome certain ideas and unlikely practices, like the Metta mediation by Sharon Salzberg:
May we be free of danger
May we feel capable
May we love ourselves
May we be healthy
May we live with ease