My dad used to call them “your itchy feet.” He had them, too. He loved to walk, and he loved to travel. When we were kids, he would look longingly at roads that forked off the highway, characterizing each enticing one as “a road that takes off.”
As a lifelong salesman, he was perhaps yearning for his pre-family days a little, though he never couched it that way. He still got pleasure from taking us places, whether we did or not. But it was his nature from start to finish.
So it’s no surprise that a lot of the pictures I take, and post on my Facebook pages, are of roads, or paths, that stretch to the horizon. It’s apparently in my genes.
But given our current moment, there won’t be any taking off any time soon, and it’s an interesting thing to observe my spirit struggle with that limitation. It’s physical, of course, but I can deal with that: My homeless-populated, post-industrial, highway-bound neighborhood isn’t walkable in any sense, but the American River Parkway is enticingly close, and I’m reacquainting myself with it. It stretches a long way, further than my upright city bike (or legs, given that) can take me. I’ll keep pushing further out, it’s soul-refreshing.
But I also recognize that my urge for going, as Joni Mitchell put it in an early song, is an impulse that is worth observing. It’s a flight from a kind of discomfort, a move to soothe some anxiety with what needs to be done. It is familiar to anyone who has tried to meditate: You sit for a minute, and you think about something you forgot to do; you fight the urge, and stay seated. You sit for another minute, and you have the impulse to call someone; you observe the urge, and stay seated.
Right now, I’m observing it regarding work. Not all work, and strangely (and happily), not this, not blogging. After putting it off for month after month, I now feel fully committed, even eager to write. Writing has never been challenging for me. I’m a writer: Fish gotta swim, etc, etc.
But SOME work I will put off; SOME writing, even, I will delay. When I finally get into it, it almost always flows, and the feeling of having completed a freelance assignment, or something for my book, or something for my website, is virtually always the BEST feeling. I still remember certain stories I did while a full time journalist, that incredible buzz of getting a piece done quickly and well, on a tight deadline.
Being self-employed is a whole other thing, one has to keep one’s focus. And for me, it’s always about getting started; and that means not running away.
As I write more through this coming time, I will try to address this directly, because despite the discomfort – or perhaps because of it – this is a time of tremendous opportunity. This is the time to get things done that you’ve been putting off, that you’ve been delaying, that make you uncomfortable.
This is the time to expand yourself, to focus, to push through that resistance into something new and exciting and scary and ultimately, satisfying.
And this is the time to stick with the people you’re stuck with, the people you’ve chosen, the people who you may be spending a bit too much time with right now. And if you’re alone, this is the time to stick with yourself, to ride out those moments when the urge to bolt is strong, to zone out or to smoke another bowl or have a drink to dull the anxiety.
I’ll write more about that, too.
I’m not heading back to New York next week the way I was planning; I’ve still got a ticket to Barcelona on May 12, but we’ll see on that. But it doesn’t matter; as always, I’m right where I need to be, facing the lessons that I need – and want – to learn right now.
What are you going to do with this precious opportunity?