Drifts of Quiet

Over the past few years, as life circumstances have changed, I’ve found myself drifting. I’m not great at drifting; I flail and get frustrated and impatient. I like a wee side of control on my life plate and not having a five year plan of any sort is hard for me. My five year plans of late have been either in error or cancelled due to unforseen circumstances, and novel writing isn’t something I feel I can plan on. So I’m learning to let go.

Trying to learn to let go, at least.


I remember the summer after Tate was born sitting on the porch at Mole Hill with a friend. My family was close by and coming for dinner later. I was laughing and holding the baby, who was sleeping, and the older kids were playing in the pool. I’d been gardening. Neighbours dropped by the fence to talk and the world hummed around me. I thought that this was it; we’d made it.

Sure, there were life stresses! But they were mainly the stresses of a life I loved, and in that love I experienced a feeling I’d only recently discovered: fear. I was suddenly confronted with common fears I’d never had – fear of time passing, of illness and death, of growing old and the kids growing up. I had fear that I might ‘get hit by a bus’  and miss out. I’ve never stressed much about these things as a kid, maybe in part due to a misguided belief in my immortality. But in the “we’ve arrived!” moment I grieved the time passing - in a way I hadn’t grieved other moments I’d deeply loved and experienced fully while they were happening.

The difference, I think, was that the moment was a culmination of efforts. I’d been working for that moment for many, many years with those around me pulling also at the oars.

I was a kid like Marcus in Nick Hornby’s “About A Boy” –  a dorky earnest hippie kid who decided that tribe was necessary in order to relax and enjoy life. In that moment that summer, I felt like we’d done it; built family and tribe in a great loose conglomeration of individuals and places.

Suddenly, there was something to lose.  


It wasn’t much after that that life got complicated again, as life does. We’ve lost things and gained things. The moment passed, as moments do; but with it, I lost (and am perhaps still grieving) some of my Marcus motivation.

If my life to 31 was about figuring out how to be with people in place, it has moved on. That 12-year old hippie dork motivation can’t be the drive and focus for me anymore; still important, it’s not gone, it’s just not central to my learning and exploring. I suppose drifting is about searching for another emotional motivation to focus my drive.

Of course, fiction may be it: that fiction is complicated, sometimes painful, and definitely uncertain right now is no different than the fluctuating interpersonal work I was doing in my early twenties. But I’m having trouble envisioning how supporting it is going to work come September, since these days there are other demands than there were in my yoot. So I’m drifting, trying to be open to a stirring of self, waiting for pull one direction or another. Right now, I feel like I’m starfishing through space, not seeing what planet I might aim for.

While spinning I’ve noticed something odd: this drifting has, over the past year or so, been pulling me out of words. Non-fiction words, at least – I have written a novel over that time, so it’s not like I’m completely dry.

But it’s the more everyday words that have been running slower. Online comments, posts, tweets, screeds, and Facebook status updates, for example.  I used to have to work to constrain to reasonable levels, but these days they’re sort of elbows and knees awkward on the page. Simple conversation and small talk also seems awkward on my tongue – I run out of sentence before I get to the end of the thought.  I feel a bit like that Star Trek episode where they discovered an alien race who spoke only in mythological reference -  I’ve gone vague.

It’s a little ironic to spend so much time in considering communication as a possible life path and then realize you’re having a hard time finding words in the day to day.

I’ve attributed to it at times to negative things – stress, depressive anhedonia, anxiety, lack-of-confidence, being out-of-culture. But by itself, without me poking at it for explanation, it’s sometimes quite pleasant. I simply don’t have anything to say.

I think that’s me, with fewer tribal attachments. Maybe the next part is growing up, working; the 12-year old hippie dork now 35 and aiming the energy into other pursuits. 

That’s fine, if strange.

Though I’d still like a pursuit I can envision a five year plan for.


  1. I love the image of the astronaut drifting spread-eagle through space. Just observing, experiencing.
    I can relate to that image.
    My big life projects are complete. I raised my kids, now I can sit back and enjoy watching who they have become, enjoy the family as it grows and changes.
    My career is established, I don’t have to prove myself anymore and I can see the end of that one in sight. So, I’m experiencing, looking for the next experience, the next insight, the next ah-ha!
    It’s not a bad place to be.
    Captcha: richest changes. (Sweet)

  2. Damn! just lost perfect brilliant comment.

    We climb, climb, climb, then coast.

    5 year plan: road trip with me!

    My 20s felt like climbing / building; friends, loyalty, love. I do feel like those things are established now but not necessarily achieved, done, brush the hands off.

    We coast until we start to move downhill. Which is not a dreary Death Is Coming thought but more that we approach middle life as a relief, like Beth says above – don’t have to try so hard to achieve so much. We’ve done what we want to do and now it’s time to regroup.

    Also, starfishing through space is so gorgeous. I love it. I loved it as “a starfish in space” and I love it more as “a fisher of stars.” Love.

  3. I thought I posted something here, but then Mythbusters was dipping their fingers in molten lead so I got distracted.

    Anyway, I feel 10 years old sometimes, and it’s ok to be simultaneously 37 and 10. There’s less anxiety at 37.

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