Once in a while, I’ll be thoroughly engrossed in a movie or television show and then a character will say something that flips a diverter switch in my brain. The sentiment will kick me out of the show altogether, and my brain will go wandering off, down trails of its own. Before I know it, such a chunk of time will have passed I no longer have any clue what’s been playing out on the screen.
That happened recently as I was watching the HBO Western “Deadwood,” which originally aired from 2004-2006.
Luckily, it wasn’t my first time with the show. I’ve watched it start to finish three or four times. It’s coarse and bloody and crude, yet so brilliantly written and acted — and beautifully filmed — that I become deeply immersed every time.
Until I got to that line, spoken by the widow, Alma Garret.
Said Widow Garret, “I am so afraid that my life is living me and soon will be over, and not a moment of it will have been my own.”
As some of you might’ve noticed, this is something of a theme with me recently. It felt a bit odd to hear a television character from a show set in the 1870s be describing, quiet aptly, my own situation.
Over the past few decades, there have been many times I’ve felt my life was living me, rather than the other way around. Many years were spent operating in crisis mode. If I were to assign a single visual to my life for those years, it would be of a small, dry forest that is randomly sprouting with flames — and me trying to fight those fires by slinging teaspoons of water.
Just as I would muddy one down, another would appear. They weren’t often huge, raging fires as much as threatening embers, yet I’d race from one to the next to the next with barely a rest in between. My life felt slapped together and jury-rigged and frequently aimless — yet simultaneously heavy with laughter, often so hard it brought snorts. (I suspect strings of swine in my DNA.)
The fires are further apart now, or perhaps there’s less left to burn. But I still seem to mostly react to what’s before me rather than work deliberately toward what I want. If someone were to tell me I need to “be proactive, not reactive,” I’d probably let out a quiet little “pffft” and think something a bit grumbly about vacant platitudes.
Except, truth be told, I’d also know they were right. I just don’t have a clue how to go about making a change.
My job routinely involves working long hours. It can take big bites out of me, and by the time I get home, there’s little of me left on the plate. The job before this was the same.
For me to take classes would require both energy and income, and unless I’m working full time, I don’t have insurance. There’s no easy answer. No simple out.
I want to be smart about how I spend the rest of my tickets because I know I don’t have a huge amount of time left at the fair. But how do I get to where I want to be?
I’m open to suggestions. What worked for you?