“I have this friend who says that she just does whatever her energy tells her to do – whether it’s paint a table or work at a non-profit – until the energy for that particular thing stops. Then she waits for her energy to tell her to do something else, and she does that.”
My therapist gave me this indirect piece of advice toward the end of today’s session. We’d been talking about my ex – the loss of an entire created world that came with my decision to get out of my marriage – the way I felt I’d never been fully accepted by anyone in his family save his father – the “on the outside” loss I’m experiencing now, in the wake of my brother’s breakup – the time I’d told one of my girlfriends that, after we got married, “all the good parts of our lives [would] be over”… It was an almost manic hour of story-telling.
It goes like this: “I was in college, enjoying being free and independent without any of the financial burdens of true independence, reading and studying during the day, partying at night, relishing all the drama… And then college ended, and suddenly I was married and boring.”
“You went straight from all that energy and youth and freedom, to being isolated, in a little house, in a little village, in Wales, with no transportation and no one to talk to,” she commiserated.
“Well, there was France in between. But yes. And then when I got out of my marriage, it was like I had lost three years of my life. So mentally, I picked up where I’d left off, and went straight back to being 22. Doug’s three years younger than me, and I’ve never even noticed.”
“You lost three years?”
“I mean, I’m not delusional. I know how old I am, chronologically. But that whole relationship [with my ex] was so not me, it’s like it wasn’t me living it. Even now, I live my life as though I’m a 25-year-old. Look at where I work, the people I hang out with – and I have little-to-no desire to change my situation, start a career, move up in the world.”
“It’s interesting, though, that you say you lost three years,” she mused. “Alcoholics, or people who have suffered a trauma, often report having lost large chunks of time. And your memory is good – it’s not like you’ve blocked anything out – but I feel like there’s something to that sensation. So tell me. When you say it wasn’t you…”
“Before I went to France, I knew who I was and what I enjoyed. My life wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly my own. Then I moved to a foreign country, met my ex, and it was like I threw all that out the window. I became a boring married person – I didn’t see it as my new, married life beginning, I saw it as my old, fun life ending. I felt like my life wasn’t about me anymore, and I was miserable.”
That was when she brought up the thing about the energy – as in, I’d been following my energy, being a college student and seeing the world, and then I’d stopped the energy prematurely, before it was done. So, theoretically, once my marriage ended, I picked up the energy where I’d left it.
I loved college – I love all school; I’m a nerd. But it’s right on to say that the energy of being an undergrad fit me perfectly. There was always something going on, always someone to hang out with, and always a perfect excuse to say no on days when my hermit side was acting up – after all, we were there to study, right? And studying, for me, mostly involved reading novels and writing poetry. I was in heaven.
“I’m not going to grad school, though,” I told my therapist quickly, when I saw the spark of the idea cross her face. I didn’t want to get into the explanation of how impractical grad school would be for me now, now that I’m actually independent and therefore have the pesky burden of financial responsibility thrown into the mix.
“Okay, but what if you just – for your homework this week – what if you thought about, if you were to go to grad school, what would you hypothetically go to grad school for?”
In other words, since it’s impossible to actually go back and pick up the stilted energy, what is my energy telling me to do next?
It’s a valid, and exciting, question.
(By the way, the answer is still not grad school.)