Am I Bad At Being Satisfied?

The spring equinox often signals a metaphorical lightness to supplement the physical one… Bethany Toews asks if it’s really as simple as that.

I am a writer. So I write. I write to make sense of my suffering. To try and uncover some universal truth. Hoping to help. A map for the dark places. A way out. But it’s been so bright lately. It is sunny in Los Angeles.

After an exceptionally wet winter, spring has already erupted with flourish. The hills are alive. Millions of Painted Lady butterflies are fluttering by in record numbers. Tall grasses appear as though breathing in the breeze, a vibrant green exhalation. It is spectacular to behold. And I am happy to behold it. Happier than I’ve been in a good while. I. Am. Happy. But I’m starting to think I might be bad at being okay. What do I do with okay? Who wants to read an essay about smiling?

So lately, when I sit down to write, I find myself absolutely stumped. Stuck. Lost in a gentle calm of contentedness with nothing much to say. I am afraid I don’t know how to create unless I am suffering. 

Writing has been my lifeline for as long as I can remember. When the pain is too big to bear, I search for words to break it down into manageable pieces. Overwhelm turns into comprehensible sentences. Depression is made survivable with the help of these guidebooks I’ve been putting together over time. On nights when I’ve thought I couldn’t make it to the morning, I would write until the morning came. A new lightness arriving. Writing as a way of shedding the crushing weight. Articulating the hopelessness so as to learn to navigate it instead of drowning in it. In some ways, it has been very simply what has kept me alive, and more than that, what has kept me company in the isolation of my grieving. 

But now, now I feel I may be standing on new and stabler ground. It’s been quite a process, learning in time what I need to take better care of myself. Finding the courage to ask for help. Gathering the tools and the support to take to heart the task of tending to my mental health. For the first time in my life I have an understanding of how to hold my hurt without believing it will destroy me. I am getting bigger than my pain.

Add to that that after two decades of trying to find a partner I could grow old with, I find myself beside a wonderful man. He makes me laugh. He makes me breakfast. He is a fantastic kisser. He listens when I talk. He holds me when I cry. He’s impatient and apologizes for it. He’s real. And he’s here and I feel with more confidence than ever before that he’s not going anywhere. That I am safe.

And that has unsettled me. What do you do once you’ve gotten what you’ve wanted for so long? 

Am I bad at being satisfied? It is starting to occur to me that, like pretty much everything else, it might require practice. I am unpracticed in peace of mind. Discomfort is more comfortable simply because it is what I have known. Distress itself being the familiar tension that ties me to life. Tranquility can feel so strange. A foreign state for my body and mind. Almost like a gentle dissipation, a non-becoming. The absence of feeling. I suffer, therefore I exist. 

Anxiety has been my North Star for as long as I can remember. 

So where do you go once you’ve reached your destination? When you’ve built your whole life on the glory of going? A latitude and longitude of longing. What does it mean to stop? Am I capable of simply sitting down and settling in? Patiently watching my mind as it desperately grasps for something to fret about. Gently reminding myself over and over again (as many times as it takes) that it’s okay to be okay. That settling in isn’t the same as settling. Surrendering my obsession with striving isn’t the same as giving up.

To learn to be okay with being human. To set free the idea that I need to be anything more. To stop relating to myself or my life as an endless pool of inadequacy needing to be forever filled. To know that I am deserving of love just as I am. That we all are.

I want to be good at living. That alone seems a worthy enough pursuit. I don’t want to worry about how that might look on paper or spend my precious energy on some outside assessment of success. I want to live a life that matters to me, no matter how small it might seem on the evening news.

I want to taste my coffee in the morning. To be kind. To listen when someone is talking. To laugh when someone says something funny. To reach out and touch other humans with love. To be honest about how I’m feeling and to challenge others to share with me the same. To be patient and forgiving of myself and others when we give less than we are able. To recognize growth just the same. To celebrate it.

To accept every time I shrink, too.

To be oh-so-gentle. To be generous of spirit and open of heart and mind. To be a safe place for others to be seen. To see. To really see. To acknowledge. To be someone who gives what I hope to get. To show up for what the day holds. The glorious, the awkward, the painful, and the dull. To show up and catalogue the beauty and the wonder. To thank the gray and rainy days for all the spring blossoms. To honor the decay for feeding what is now growing. To enjoy being content. And to endure feeling unsettled. I can’t imagine a more impressive profession. A Lover of Life. A Holder of Hope. Someone to remind us that there are infinite ways to measure a meaningful life.

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Yes, we’re only human after all! It’s normal to always want more. Take it easy on yourself!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

5 years ago

What a poignant, beautifully expressed piece of writing. I feel the writer’s former pain, and wonderment that she is in a new, more desirable and perhaps deserved place. She, surely, must have had an abysmal history to have felt so low to the ground. We are not all loved or even liked as maybe we should be…It is a human need to feel affection. And some of us are unlucky – finding and then losing people we care for. It sounds as though she has found someone special. I hope she continues to find happiness with him and through her own endeavours and the gifts of nature and life.

5 years ago

I needed this. Thank you!

5 years ago

What’s stopping you girl?

5 years ago

This spoke so deeply to my heart. I didn’t know anyone else felt this like I do- thank you so much for sharing this part of your heart!

5 years ago

feeling this so so so much, thank you <3

5 years ago

There is never too quiet, there is always that silent prayer that keeps you active and from being too happy. The sadness that still lingers that remains untouchable it seems, the abuses that continue to go on that are untraceable to the eye, that what you are doing in those little things are making the world all the better. Embracing your cup of coffee and instead of feeling that warmth of the mug pour into your heart, passing it along to someone who doesn’t have the feeling, that lives without in the cold abuse of what their family feels is necessary to give in order for them to make it in the real world. I learned from this game in an acting club called the “Wah” game where we pass our energies to other actors by saying “Wah” and realized at that moment, that if I can pass my energy to you, then what else could I do?

5 years ago

So timely – thank you, your honesty and expression are gifts. This piece resonates with me

5 years ago

Life is beautiful and you deserve only the best in life.

4 years ago

Thank you for sharing your beautiful words. They are received!