Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Identity Crisis & Lust for Life

Because of some debilitating chronic health problems, two months ago, this was my daily routine: I would wake up, check email for five minutes because that’s all I could handle of looking at the computer screen, then turn on an audiobook, put a cloth over my eyes, and just lay there listening for hours. For days on end. For weeks. Just me laying in bed, listening. Unable to work at all or write or even watch TV. I listened to 26 audiobooks in the month of February, almost one a day, no lie.

Even though it was just a month and a half ago (I’ve been gaining more and more strength back ever since), it doesn’t seem real. The time had a dreamlike quality, even when I was living it.

It’s kind of throwing me into a weird identity crisis now that I’m feeling better. Which I guess happens to most people during periods of great change. Like culture shock, or when you went away to college or lived on your own for the first time, or get married. Suddenly you’re in all these new circumstances, surrounded by new people, and the patterns of identity that used to characterize you are suddenly all in flux.

The Buddhists would say this is probably an accurate picture of how life is, constantly changing, ever moving. That periods of stability in our life are really only an illusion, an attempt by us to wrestle control from an unsteady world.

And the past two years have been full of dramatic changes like that, often because of the ups and downs of my health. Two years ago I was the healthiest I’d been since I got sick a decade ago. I was able to drive, stay out all day, and come home and take a twenty minute walk. Then last year I crashed so hard I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks at a time. It’s enough to make a person screwy in the head, because sick-Heather is a different person than well-Heather. Healthy-Heather is a confident bad-ass with tattoos and pink hair. Sick-Heather is reclusive, meditative, and very, very quiet.

So, in spite of the Buddhists, I would really love for things to be stable and placid. I would like a period of rest where I continue feeling healthy and am able to work without interruption, and I would like to know that I can plan something a couple months from now and rely on the fact that I’ll be feeling well enough to do it. I would like to figure out faith and what I think about the world and have it remain stable. I’m tired of feeling like the floor can drop out from under me at any moment.

I want so many things. All these zinging firecracker desires.  I feel like the world of wants has suddenly opened back up to me, now that I’m feeling better and am able to do more things. I feel almost frenetic, I want to do ALL the things, ALL AT ONCE! The name of that movie about Van Gogh keeps pinging around my head: Lust for Life. Yes, I think, that is exactly what I’m feeling right now. Lust for life.

Desire strikes me as this deeply human and beautiful impulse. The Buddha might say desire is the cause of suffering, and that’s true to a point, but there’s also something explosive and beautiful-unto-weeping about wanting to gulp in the whole world and savor it on your tongue.

So that’s me lately: gulping it all in. And writing a ton, as if I’m making up for those months where I couldn’t write a thing by writing like a speed demon now.


  1. Glad you're feeling better! Here's hoping you continue on the road to recovery!

  2. Thanks Cole! I'm optimistic about continuing to improve, started some new meds that are helping!