Am I Another “Anti-hero”?

Since last writing, my family and I spent two weeks traveling through Portugal and Spain. I expected to return filled with a renewed zest for life the way traveling usually does for me, but instead I came home exhausted and ready for a solo vacation (that, of course, wasn’t possible due to the return to reality). 

I continue to find ways to hit refresh but then feel frustrated and let down when they don’t yield the effect I’m longing for. Even though I love to write, sometimes I shy away from writing a post because instead of typing an exciting “Top 10 Sites in Lisbon” or “The Best Beaches in the Algarve”, I surface the same stuck truths like a broken record. I continue to ask myself how it can be that I can appreciate beauty and simple pleasures in the everyday but then not have that add up to a satisfied life. I worry everyone is bored of hearing about my journey to joy and are thinking I need to suck it up, quit complaining, and appreciate my blessings, like it’s that easy.

Maybe it’s an instance where I’d like to pawn off the blame on my parents and teachers for convincing me at an impressionable, young age that I could be anything I want and achieve anything I set my mind to. That’s a load of pressure to haul up a mountain of expectations for a life. Most of it is my own fault for setting expectations that are unrealistic for a lack of financial flexibility and years with young children, especially a toddler. Or maybe I’m not applying myself with enough discipline and motivation. Am I another T. Swift “Anti-hero” sabotaging my own efforts to do more with my life in failed attempts to be happy in the present? What an annoyingly heartbreaking catch-22 to spin around in. 

I tread water in the eddy as the tide surges in with contentment and then ebbs back out again with restlessness. I’m stuck with this area because of split custody parenting, stuck with the house and car because interest rates spiked just enough to make a different purchase unaffordable, and I’m stuck with my job due to the hope of student loan forgiveness and job security. I’m stuck with my toddler, adorable as he is, because having a second child was a choice I made. As much as I struggle to recall how I got on board with it, I did. I actively chose it along with everything else I’ve chosen. 

Each choice has led me to this life I’ve built. It’s not one of bold, daring choices but safe ones that landed one after the next because they made sense at the time. I think we can’t help but make decisions this way because it’s so hard to see past the choice right at hand–losing sight of the horizon because the patch of sand ahead looks nice enough.

It hits in small ways, tugs at me, that ache for more. I took such care to decorate our house, but now that I want to rearrange, the furniture doesn’t seem like it’ll work in any other location than the one I planned for. I can only manipulate small details. Will reworking those accumulate like a magic trick that covers my perception in a rosy glow? When I become aware of the rosy filter, I worry I won’t remember how to see my beautiful life as beautiful. I need to level set my expectations, but I also don’t want to. I might be in my late 30s, but I feel young and full of dreams for myself and my future. How does one find their way through the dark, winding paths or move past the inertia of a settled life?

I started wearing lipstick again and have been writing in a gratitude journal at night. I practice yoga on Sundays and signed up for a dance class this summer. I cleared off the kitchen counters and opened the windows to circulate fresh air into the stagnant space. I can breathe in deeply and feel the early spring sun on my face even if the air is chilly and there are dust motes in the sunlight.

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