I saw Boyhood over the weekend. At one point, toward the end of the film, the mother — played by Patricia Arquette — has a breakdown. “Is this all there is?” she wonders. “Is my life just a series of milestones, and then death?”
Lately I’ve been wondering the same thing. At the same time, I’ve been giving myself a pep talk: Each day is stitched together by moments, many of which are full of beauty and wonder and laughter. That is grand enough…at least, it should be.
At the end of the film, the main character — Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, whose boyhood we’ve been watching unfold for the past 3 hours — has an interaction with a girl on his first day of college. She says something like, “People always say, ‘Seize the day.’ But what if it’s more like, the day seizes you?”
I’ve spent my adult life in a tumultuous search for meaning. Every time I’m content, I eventually find a reason that some variable is off, some problem needs to be solved. I’ve often attributed this existential restlessness to being an artist. The other day, I said to Jordan, “I feel like I need a big new creative project.” But at the same time, a different voice inside me wonders, “Am I just being a drama queen?” In other words, does true maturity come from accepting that life is about daily moments? That we don’t need a grand gesture, artistic or otherwise, to register with the universe and our fellow man?
I have a feeling my fellow artists reading this will understand. And that my fellow yogis will understand in a different way my desire to be at peace with what is, instead of always stirring the pot.
What is it I’m arguing for, exactly? Giving up on art-making? That seems ridiculous (why would I do that?), and yet lately, I just feel like a square peg, and the universe of art-making possibilities is a big fat circular hole. I know that’s silly — anyone can make any kind of art, anywhere — but my inspiration feels short-circuited, waylaid by my energy level. I find myself craving, not for the first or even the fiftieth time in my adult life, the feeling of being surrounded by a community of creative collaborators who will help lift me up and realize my full potential as an artist. Not to outsource the responsibility, just to take all the pressure off this one particular set of shoulders. I don’t know that we can truly make art alone.
Last week I went to a storytelling open mic. I told a story, in six minutes, of my journey from definitely not wanting to have children, to becoming a mom, emphasizing that I didn’t think parenthood was the only path to fulfillment. Afterward, the emcee, who had been making jokes after every other performer’s story, said, “Man, I don’t feel like I want to make a joke, I just want to figure out what fulfills me.”
I felt like such a mom.
My friend Lindsay was there with me — she’s 21, a remarkable young woman who gives me hope in the future of humankind. As we talked after the show, I said something offhand about how we all have a finite amount of energy — and how that pool of energy gets smaller as we get older. I think back to a time when I used to perform and practice improv multiple nights a week, and as much as my soul misses it, I can’t fathom finding the energy.
I caught Lindsay’s eye, and saw her looking at me with utmost seriousness. “I don’t think that’s true.”
“No,” she said.
I can’t remember her ever disagreeing so adamantly with something I’ve said, so I paid attention.
Maybe she’s right, I thought. Maybe the more I seek out activities and people that inspire and energize me, the more energy I can create for myself.
Or maybe she’s a peppy 21-year-old who doesn’t know what it feels like to get old.
I’m still not sure.
I know that I never felt old before I became a parent. (I’ve also never been 38 before.) I think of the wonderful documentary Lost in Living, about mothers who are artists, and I know I’m not the first to struggle to find enough inner resources for both.
The bottom line is that I do need to learn to feel peace and fulfillment wherever I am. I have so many riches, that to focus only on the gnawing feeling of restlessness feels wholly narcissistic and small. Of course, just as I tried recently to double down on my commitment to yoga practice, I injured my lower back.
I always thought constraint breeded creativity, but maybe that’s not a universal truth.
Or maybe I’m just in a funk, and this too shall pass.