Or: How I Learned to Stop Fussing and Love Where I'm At
by Daniel D. Maurer
It's that time of year again.
Spring seems just around the corner. But, hey, this is Minnesota. I know it's not.
Today was actually quite warm. A bit windy. It didn't deter us from getting outside though. My wife Carol and I like to take our dog out for a jaunt. Since Carol's a Fitbit user it means of course that her steps invariably become my steps too. I'm not complaining. If it weren't for her (or the dog), I'd sit at my damn computer every day only getting up to get more coffee or pee. Life of a writer. Or maybe of an insufferable Internet addict. But, I digress.
Also, today we had a goal to complete. We enjoy going to open houses. I suppose it fulfills the need to not only gawk and see how others live, but the pastime (I might call it a sport) allows us to get ideas for remodeling projects in our own home. On this day, there were two in our neighborhood. So we strapped on our boots and ventured out to take a gander.
Well, not really. It was fun seeing the homes. (OMG. One of them had a bathroom with ALL MIRRORS on every wall—I can only venture to guess what strange fetishes the sellers entertained.) Going on a walk to see other people's homes was a bad idea, because it put a bug in the back of my head.
February inevitably stirs up wanderlust for me. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because the holidays are long since past, and the days are getting longer. I'm beginning to plan and dream what I want to be doing once it gets warmer outside. I knew also this afternoon that I needed to write a blog post; but, I dunno, the passion for writing just seems like it ain't coming today. Some days are like that.
You know what I was doing immediately before forcing myself to write? I looked at maps, online. On Zillow. At other houses in other locations. Shit, I even looked in other states. For hours! Dreaming. Scheming.
I don't know if it's inherent to certain personality types or if the behavior is more symptomatic for people prone to addictions. One thing is certain: I've inherited the bug. This bug burrows around in my head especially on February Sunday afternoons when I'm unsettled. The bug talks to me, too.
If only you had a writing room with a nice, sunny backyard view, then you'd be really happy.
The schools are better in Dakota County—the kids would be happier there. Safer.
Your wife wouldn't have as far to drive to go to work. She'd be happier.
The city is fun, but the country is better. Think of all the great trails you could explore!
Holy shit! The taxes! The property taxes are better . . . somewhere else! Happy happy happy.
What really cooks my noodle is all of the statements above are at least partially true. The fundamental flaw of this frisky February fantasy (apart from my own fixation/fetish with 'F' alliteration) is the belief that happiness lies somewhere else. And—with me, anyway—this fantasy isn't satiated with travel. I'm relatively well-traveled I suppose, but what I really want is to feel "finally home." I believe it's a contentment I once thought I had when I first got sober nearly six years ago. Now I've discovered that a discontentment is beginning to creep back in.
And it's worse this February.
In 2011, my life had fallen completely apart. I had been arrested twice—once for a DUI and once for felony trespassing. I was blacking out nearly every day with drinking and gobbling down benzos like Pez candies. And I was terrified. I had no idea what the future would bring, and I certainly couldn't see what that future could look like without the lifestyle I had grown increasingly accustomed to. Full-blown addiction never looks as bad when you're in it. Looking back now . . . I was a train wreck.
Then, I got sober. I received first the gift of a Twelve-Step fellowship, then a purpose and meaning for my life beyond chasing after an unattainable high. My family moved with me to Saint Paul, Minnesota, a city I never knew I could live in and certainly one I hadn't believed that I could thrive in. I was published once. Then, twice. Then, a third time. I had established myself as a freelance writer and as a guru of two online businesses. Now, my fourth book is about to be published. (*Note to the reader: It's really cool. I guarantee you'll love it. I'll be posting more soon.)
The point I'm trying to get at is I LOVED every minute of that newness.
But, this February especially, it doesn't seem as new any longer. I want the excitement and the draw that . . . somewhere else somehow promises to appease me.
So how do I deal with the frisky fantasy of February?
I don't have any clear cut answers. However, there is one aspect I've noticed:
The more I feed the fantasy that I belong somewhere else, the more I obsess about it, and the worse it gets.
And that insight, my friends, is a huge growth for me. Before I got sober, I would entertain the fantasies for days, weeks even. The real kicker is it really wasn't doing anything for me. Invariably, I'd turn to booze and drugs (ironically) to both "enhance" the experience of dreaming how wonderful life would be somewhere else and also "dull" the feeling how terrible everything seemed in the present moment.
As a writer, I acknowledge the purpose of fantasies. Fantasies can be great! I love a good movie or the way a good book can suck me into a story. But when a fantasy shifts from being an enjoyable diversion into an unhealthy obsession I know that I'm venturing into dangerous waters.
I probably will always fuss come February. But now, I have the tools to deal with it. The first step is knowing that road I so dearly want to head down (because, doncha know, it's "better") will only be replaced five years later by another lust for something new. The next step is finding contentment where you're at. That's a harder task, for sure.
But, hey, I'm a creative guy; I'm sure I can discover the joy in being home, really home, right where I am.
Besides, I did write today. And you know what? It was fun and I'm helping others who might be struggling with the same thing. Service, baby—it's where it's at.
Daniel D. Maurer is the curator of the website Transformation is Real. He doesn't have all the answers. Nor does he especially consider himself a "change guru." But personal transformation—in all its forms—fascinates him. And that's good enough for now.
He lives with his family in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (In a pretty cool house, too.)