On the train on the way home last night, I had one of those moments where my heart swelled with gratitude and I gulped and tears came to my eyes. I’d done it again: envisioned something, worked on it, and then: bam. Got it. It’s almost frightening. I’m not talking about getting an “it” really. Not “I envisioned my perfect luxury car, and went out and bought it on credit, yay!” I’m talking about big life goals, big picture kinda dreaming: how to have a happy life?
It’s not like I’ve figured everything out. I get massively depressed sometimes. Awful stuff happens, and the world can seem a chaotic and angry place. But when it’s up to me, I can’t accept being miserable for long. After wallowing in self-abusive misery for a while, I start asking myself what would make me happier? If I’m super stuck–so stuck I think everything is crap and so am I–I’ll ask for help in figuring it out.* Three examples of how it’s worked out when I’ve invested in defining a vision for a happier life:
At age 29** I recognized I wanted to write the book, no matter how freaky-deaky scared I was to try. Some of my crippling fears before I turned this corner: Most simply put, I was an idiot. The words wouldn’t come, and if they did, they’d be utter crap. If I looked inside myself, I’d fall into an abyss. Or worse, find nothing there. My dream of who I should be would be cracked, and to fill the void I’d have to accept working in a laundromat for money and doing something extreme, like hang gliding, for sport.
I took a dorky class based on a book called Creating a Life Worth Living (I already have one! I wanted to scream to the book’s author. But for some reason, I was there.) Some of the exercises included writing down activities that made you happy, and how you could look at your time in different ways, to do more of the good stuff. I envisioned my ideal day job, and my future life as a novelist.
At age 30 I started writing the novel (in pieces, a grain of sand at a time), and a billion years later (I’m not really that old), I work at a great place and I’m standing here saying I’m a writer.
Over a year ago, at our old pad in the heart of the Mission, Rafael and I jotted down what we’d want if we moved. In pencil, on a little white square: “Extra room. Space. Light. Backyard. Good school. Easy public transit. Ali can ride a bike.” We stuck it up on our fridge with a Guinness glass-shaped magnet, amid some sticky photos and never-used coupons.
The last time I had that contracting-and-expanding feeling of good fortune–other than last night I mean–was when R. told me they’d excepted the offer on this house in Rockridge. I was on an odd little hill in Potrero Hill in S.F., standing outside our car, which was of course parked at a psychotic angle. The sun was shining and I was on top of the hill talking to Raf on the phone, staring at a mailbox, thinking mother fucker, I am so fortunate.
So here we are–granted, a kinda painful year after we decided to move. In this beautiful place. It’s even better than we could have imagined. The light more light; the weather softer; the neighborhood friendlier; the whole lifestyle more relaxed; and fruit trees everywhere…We both appreciate being here and are so freaking grateful every day.
I have to ask myself: well, how did we get here? (Talking Heads: the days go by / water flowing under ground…) I think the results of our move had something to do with the broad brush strokes on that piece of paper on the fridge. We weren’t studying it, but it was at eye level, and it reminded us what we wanted. It was a vision, a loose outline with lots of positive intention.
Lastly, the more recent event. My awe-inspired moment of gratitude on the train was surprisingly work-related. I found out I’ll be able to move from my producer role at Hot Studio to bridge two fields I’m passionate and curious about: Brand Strategy and Content Strategy. I’ll get to focus on language, and its integration into our strategies and designs. I’m not going into details about the job here. The point is, this is a significant transition, a way out of something I’ve long known I’m over. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel of a “doing the same job forever, because you’ve no big complaints and you need money” track.
In a large part this change is happening because Maria, the owner of Hot–imagine her Staten Island accent, and her hands opening a space on the wood table into which I could put an idea–said: “Margot, just tell me what you want to do.” With her encouragement and help from my immediate boss and my career-coach sister, I did it. I drafted a vision for a new role, with a plan for getting there. It’s mutually advantageous, the approach is approved, and I can just see it all working.
Now for the transition part. Oh boy. Not quite as fun as the beginning and end of the process (the crystallization of a vision and then the shocking granting of your wishes.) But oh so necessary. Oh yes. Learning. Adjusting. Waiting.
Everyday life. It’s what we do in between the moments of despair and the ones where we feel like everything’s so beautiful we could burst.
* I’m the child of a psychotherapist and an electrical engineer, if that gives you any idea of my polarities.