Friday, September 21, 2018

Staying put - loss of ambition with age



For the first time in my life, I have experienced a loss of ambition. It happened just as we were heading off to sail for two weeks in Galicia. I had no interest in traveling or sailing, but I didn't say anything to anyone. When we got there, I had no interest in sailing off. As it happened, our 'niece' Joan was taking part in a race which was coming in to Portosin where our boat was. It suited me fine to stay put in the marina for several days, something we would never have done before.

I read books, hung out, did little chores, walked into town, answered email - nothing very stressful. We lived.

After we sailed out to see the start of the race, we sailed over to the Ria de Aldan and dropped anchor. The next day Alex asked if it was okay to stay at anchor another day. We stayed four more.

I read books, hung out, did little chores, walked into town, answered email - nothing very stressful. We lived. I was perplexed.

We sailed around the corner to Ensenada de Barra and dropped anchor (after we managed to get the chain out of the locker where it had gotten stuck again) for one night then motored across the Ria to Vigo and tied up to the pontoon at the Liceo de Maritimo in Bouzas. We stayed there for three days.

I read books, hung out, did little chores, walked into town, answered email - nothing very stressful. We did have to pack up the boat. We took off the sails and dodger, Alex stowed the dinghy and ropes while I did the laundry and cleaned. Otherwise, we lived.

Since we've come home, I've felt that same lack of ambition, so today I decided to look into it. Seems that ambition tends to dwindle with age. It also tends to be blunted by depression. I don't feel depression coming on, but I do feel my age creeping up. One day while in Galicia, Alex and I decided we had reached the age of invisibility. People walking past us didn't even notice we were there. We weren't insulted; we rather relished the thought.

So what is it about age and ambition? In this stage of aging, I suppose that ego is losing its momentum, like an engine running out of petrol. I no longer have a goal orientation that drove me through so much of my life. Those great ambitions that raised tidal waves of energy no longer propel my life. Success means something entirely different now.

Instead, I am content with day-to-day activities that float in and out of my sphere of consciousness like flotsam and jetsam on the tide, the tide that will one day carry me out to sea and drop me on another shore. Daily chores and appointments, the short-term practical objectives of cleaning the house, paying the bills, and seeing the dentist take center stage as the constant elements in our lives. And contentment sets in. This is not depression. This is a new stage of being. Of living, not working, not rushing, not searching, not conquering, not achieving. Just living in contentment.

One day while we were on Aleria, I realized how content I was. I've never been content, always searching for more, wanting to see new things, not 'waste' any time. Instead, the present moment has become a time for contemplation, reflection, remembering and wonderment. There's a peace settling in. And an appreciation for what I have, not what I am missing. It is time to enjoy and be thankful for my amazing husband whom I cherish, my family and friends, my cats, food, drink, the boat, and the gardens. It's a time of increasing simplicity and stillness of spirit.

Gone is FOMO - the fear of missing out. Days blur together, the sky turns from light to dark and light again, rain comes and goes, and I grow a little older as the earth spins on its tilted axis. I know the embers are gradually getting dimmer, and winter is approaching. I settle in to observe the mystery of life around me, to float on a divine tide, undulating with rhythm but not a perfectly repeated pattern. It is a surprising time, one I've never heard mentioned before.

It's strange to lack motivation and ambition. As a writer, I have had the goal of writing the great American novel. Now I wonder if I will ever write anything monumental. Indeed, I wonder what difference it would make if I did? Big ideas come and go, but nothing inspires me to act. I am prone to writing poetry - short and poignant -  and indeed took the initiative to sign up for a one day poetry course. That's a short-term commitment I can live with.

It's strange to lack motivation, not to be propelled through challenges, solving problems, launching global brands, crossing oceans, always reaching for a new level of success. It's strange not to strive for some new accomplishment on the horizon as it takes shape in my mind. Perhaps this time of inertia is just a natural rest period. Perhaps I will get over it, and enter a tidal stream that sweeps me off on a new journey yet to be defined.

But in the interim, I am content to just watch the horizon; study the light playing on the hills, the clouds getting caught on mountain tops and spinning off as flying saucers, the rain blanketing the green hills in darkness as it sweeps from across the sea and over land. The present becomes etched into my soul, every moment of its beauty preserved. I wait, I watch, I remain still.

I started out grieving over my ambition's absence. I thought I had lost something powerful and profound. But now I relish the stillness and contentment. My cats snore in the chair next to me and stretch as they snuggle together for warmth. I stoke the embers of my soul, wrap myself in my warm new blanket of contentment and breathe deeply. I've never been shallow, just rushing from one activity to the next. Perhaps I am discovering something more profound. With nothing to achieve besides stillness, my life is becoming more deeply rooted in this place. I am alive. I am content. This is what I have been searching for all my life. I am home.


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