A familiar longing

A familiar longing

I was listening to a song and got a familiar longing. The song described a place where the singer wanted to go fishing, and watch the sun go down over the hills. Something in the combination of the music and the lyrics struck a cord in me and had me thinking of places I longed to be.

The place or feeling I’m longing for is peaceful, restful, with plenty of time to sit and watch sunsets, cuddle a sweetie and other enjoyable activities. So why did there seem to be a glitch in the happy mental video that was playing out those scenes? When I poked it and looked under the surface, I felt myself having a negative reaction to that longing. After the initial tug of longing, the feeling that follows is something like reproach, a self-criticism of my desire to escape. Unpacking those feelings, this is what I found:

  1. I already have so much, I’m greedy to ask for peace and quiet when others don’t have that privilege.
  2. If I was in that situation, I’d probably like it for a day or two, and then I’d get antsy and bored.
  3. I can create the feeling of peace, rest and time in my own space. I’m the only one standing in my own way. There’s no reason to escape to some other place.
  4. Why should I have peace, rest and quiet when so many don’t and can’t?
  5. I could only have peace, rest and quiet if I ignored my privilege and the lack of it that prevents others from peace, rest and quiet.

Basically, instead of diving into the escapist fantasy of a sanctuary without anxiety, stress and negativity – I can’t let go of reality. I used to be able to suspend my worldly knowledge and indulge, even for a few moments; like mental mini-vacation. Those visions of a time of less stress and overwhelm used to fuel me, motivate me, keep me optimistic.

So what’s changed? Knowledge. The more I learn about the world, the more I know about systems of oppression and the way power is held in this country, the more difficult it is to escape. I can’t unlearn what I’ve learned or unsee what I’ve seen. The Real World, how things really work, the difficulty of uprooting the systems that keep a small group of people in power – these are like lead weights that keep the balloons of my optimism grounded. And when I take into account that my children are very aware of what a fucked up mess the world is, and are looking to me and other adults with incredulity and anger, it’s a whole ‘nother load of bricks. I feel an almost nostalgic sense of loss for the times when I could escape without having a guilty reaction.

Moments of lighthearted joy still exist. I can still have periods of time where I feel content and heart-full. I think I value those moments more now and feel grounded in them, as moments are as real and genuine as the moments of panic and fear. All of this adds up to real life as I know it in this moment.

One Reply to “A familiar longing”

  1. Wel stated, mental vacations are necessary for me to reset. I find myself anxious or stressed and realize how blessed I am…

    Our privileges don’t negate the anxiety and stress, they’re a context for them. Thanks for the comment, Tim

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