Tying Myself Down

Here are the first few paragraphs of an essay I started writing a while ago but have gotten somewhat hung up on. I like the way it starts, but I think that I might be getting off track by the end of this excerpt. (There are more problems later on, but we’ll start here.) What do you think? What do you like or dislike? Any questions or comments? Thanks in advance for any feedback you may have. And if you don’t have anything to say, I hope you enjoy reading it anyway!

–lizzie

I walk down this street several times a weeks, sometimes several times a day. The stores and sights and sounds and smells are all familiar. But something is different, something that leaves me feeling slightly unhinged, afraid that I might do something rash. Run into the street, trip over a cat, get myself maimed in some unimaginable way. It’s an eight minute walk from my apartment to the train station, but it feels much longer this evening. I feel like I’m bumping along, clumsily bouncing down the sidewalk, driven by a silent wind, uncertain of what will happen next.

It isn’t until I’m on the train, or perhaps until after I’ve arrived at my destination that I figure out why I am so unsettled, untethered, undone. It’s because I am alone. My two sidekicks, both less than four feet high, are at home with their dad, taking baths, being put to bed, read to, sung to, without me. I’m used to having them so close, to holding my older son’s hand, to wearing my younger son on my back. The weight of their bodies holds me down, steadies and focuses me.

That night as I walked down the street without them, without my husband, I felt almost as if I were a decade or so younger, a high school student with vague, but high ambitions, few friends, and a penchant for keeping myself from being “tied down” – to one set of friends, or a particular subject, or even an idea of a career goal. At the time, I thought I was free to do whatever I wanted, to hang out with those I felt most comfortable around – or no one at all. I was free to explore the range of human knowledge with out getting too involved in any one area before I was ready. I would, I was sure, stumble upon the career path that suited me as long as I kept my options wide open.

What happened instead was that I spent a lot of weekend nights alone in my room, waiting for the phone to ring or trying to muster the courage to call someone else. I spent a lot of time fretting that I wasn’t good at anything, that I had no talents to develop, that I was doomed to watch as those around me found happiness, success, and fulfillment while being unable to partake of it myself. But such, I thought, was the price of freedom, of being open-minded and adventurous, of hoping that, through all this stumbling, I would one day find the golden fleece and my ambitions – no matter how vague they were — would be realized.

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5 Comments

  1. I love love love the first two paragraphs. I see where you are going at the end, but the last two paragraphs don’t speak to me quite as much. I have felt the same way when I am without my kids.

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    lizzie Reply:

    I’m really glad that you picked up on the disconnect between the two halves. I thought I needed to do some background work so people would know where I am coming from, but now I think it is a little distracting and off topic. I’ll for sure try to rework it.

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  2. Perhaps your discontent with the last two paragraphs is based on your sense that your judgment of your earlier self is too harsh. Our protracted childhoods, our long years of schooling and job preparation necessarily mean that we often long to cut the tethers and dash off to claim our autonomy and our adult lives. World here I am! And in many ways we are ready. The body is mature; we have some knowledge and wisdom. We revel in our youthful beauty, energy, and ambitions. We are ready for center stage and the spotlight. But we wait because we know that an early entrance into adulthood often means truncated hopes and dismal options. We chaff against the ropes that hold us and dream big dreams and wait for that opening. The dreams help us cope; they release some of the tension of preparing and waiting. The chaffing and the self-doubts just go with the territory.

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    lizzie Reply:

    I really like your thoughts, Aunt Ruth. I hadn’t thought of it in that way and it definitely gives me some food for thought as I revisit that section and rework it. Thanks!

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  3. i like it all madam. i like it all very much. i like the tone of it: honest without trying to spin it positive because that’s more comfortable. Honest because you’re trying to figure things out. it is so honest and brave. it takes so much courage to take an honest look at our pasts, especially when we were unhappy or wanting. I have more but i have a person beside me saying “make dinner now! make dinner now!”. yikes.

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    lizzie Reply:

    You are so kind. I hope dinner turned out well.

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  4. I like that I can imagine feeling the array of emotions you describe. I am 100% with you when it comes to going out alone. I always feel like I’m missing something. But, as of late, I feel very free for the moment and very happy that I have my boys to go home too.
    Also, I completely connect with your description of your single days. Amazing what we go through, in different stages of life, as we are trying our best to be our best…or something. : )

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    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks Lindsay. I am glad that it comes across as something relate-able. Especially back in the single days . . . which I am very glad to have survived and moved on from. 🙂

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  5. Lizzie, it all makes sense to me and I can relate to both feelings. Quite often my past feels a million miles away as if it was my ‘previous self’ instead of an integral part of what defines me today.

    I wonder if that previous self’s decisions to stay aloof causes a little bit of chaos even now- pulling me back to a time when feeling free and aloof might have been perceived as safe and limitless; whereas now I feel somewhat unsettled by those moments of freedom and usually feeling wary about missing out on some moment with my family.

    Ha, not sure if that makes sense but I definitely relate to your experiences!

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    lizzie Reply:

    I think I understand. It is interesting how we often slide back into old habits and patterns when given the chance. Going home to my parents house definitely brings out the teenager in me. I often think I’ll go home and be a big help, but I still avoid doing the dishes and hide in my room more often than I should. It’s not a good feeling to go back to that “comfort zone” and it makes me antsy to get back to the adulthood that I have come into — even if it is a little bit more difficult and energy intensive.

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