It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when they have lost their way.

One meeting, just one. That is all it took for my world to come crashing down and for the realization to sink in – I am lost. I am actually lost. On some level I had always known, but that one sentence – ‘You should know’, opened up something I had been running from my whole life. When you spend your whole life running, half of that time is spent looking over your shoulder, wondering when it will catch up with you. When will you get tired and let it take a hold of you? Hoping you crash and burn long before you have to deal with it.

You suss me out immediately, and I am unnerved and intimidated and embarrassed to be here. ‘This is not me!’ I want to scream. ‘I am not this pathetic lost mess of a person you see in front of you’. I don’t say it, and I am almost sure you sense me thinking it, and your eyes are saying ‘Who are you kidding?’

You say that first meeting was awkward for you. I retaliate with some lame joke about it having been worse for me, sounding like a schoolgirl with unrefined social skills and like this is the first time I am interacting with another human being. I sink in to the couch and let my sentence fade away, half unfinished. You don’t seem to notice. You want to get everything about you out of the way. You start on a high and I find myself enjoying your anecdotes on shopping and work and family and the whirlwind of a life you seem to lead. I pick up on a few things you hint subtly, and I question you on them. I realize suddenly, here is someone who has their life down pat. I picture it as a series of boxes and compartments from which you choose your day-to-day existence. And you seem happy doing it. Married to your job, making it seem effortless to be working 14 hours a day 5, sometimes 6, days a week and be a health and fitness freak, and have time to kick back and relax.

‘I could up and leave tomorrow’ you say several times. After almost 10 years on the job, and on the track to becoming Director, I somehow doubt the authenticity of that statement. I smile. Inside there is a fire raging within me. Where it is getting this heat from, I don’t know, considering I am an icebox inside. Frozen, stuck in limbo. You are sitting with ease and emanating a calm confidence and awareness of yourself that comes from a discipline and focus of the mind that I so clearly lack. This, this exact moment, is when I realize I am a fraud. What have I been doing with my life? You ask me the same, jolting me out of my thoughts. I look at you and am at a loss for words. This never happens. I always have something to say. I give some lame story about what I did from high school to where I am currently. My dog could have barked more interestingly than that garbage I utter. Sensing that an awkward silence is imminent, we do a round of questions back and forth with no real meaning behind it. Silence ensues anyway. Your eyes seem to look right through me, and immediately you have sized me up for once and for all. Your casual and unreserved demeanor make it hard for me to dislike you. Before we leave you say very succinctly that you are happy to be friends and I should let you know when I am free to meet up. Translated – this was a waste of time and you need to sort out your priorities in life. You add you are in no hurry and are very happy with your life and career the way they are. I want to ask you – ‘what are you running from?’ No one works 14 hours a day and thoroughly enjoys the kind of lifestyle that ensues. Small victory moment for me, picking up on that. You are human also, and not this super-efficient robot with the perfect life that you have been painting. Alas, the moment is short-lived.

I come home shaking, unable to process what just happened. I want to cry, to throw things, to lie to myself that you were wrong in your judgement of me. But I can’t. Your astuteness has let rip an inferno within me, one I cannot run from anymore. I have been living a lie. No, it’s more than that. I have merely been existing in a bubble of ignorance and avoidance. Today that bubble burst. To make it worse, you send a message thanking me for the coffee and hoping I got home okay. Do you not know what you have done to me?! Asking me what I want out of my life and when I say I don’t know, uttering ‘You should know’ in such a gentle non-judgmental way that rocks me to my core.

In retrospect, this chance encounter, seemingly uneventful made me aware of all that I was avoiding, running from and unhappy because of. Before today, I would never have admitted to myself, much less to anyone else, that I was genuinely unhappy with the way my life turned out and the decisions and choices I made that led me here. I thank you for opening my eyes and being a less than gentle reminder that life is made for living, not for coasting through with no real purpose or sense of meaning.

I will look you up on that second cup of coffee you promised, but not before I start living.

“I’m not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” – A. A. Milne

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