Terminus

I’m not there yet.

I don’t even know where “there” is.

And it is driving me crazy.

I’ve always expected myself to spring fully formed from the head of Zeus, as it were, and when I don’t or can’t, I’m often profoundly tempted to give up. I have felt that way about this blog. If I can’t offer up something fully-formed—an idea that has arrived; that strikes me as moderately complete and wise and polished—I don’t want to write anything.

But that is not what my life looks like right now. Thousands of ideas, thoughts, problems, and questions ricochet off of each other every minute. The ideas are usually half-baked; the thoughts are mostly gray and dismal; the problems range from petty to petrifying, and the questions have circular answers, if any.

So here I sit, surrounded by used Kleenexes and clutching my aching head, because my instinct is to wait for something brilliant to say, and all I’ve got is this sense of emptiness.

But I am a writer, which means that I have to write, and emptiness is no excuse for not writing.

So in lieu of the brilliant thing that hasn’t come to me, I’ll tell you the crux of one of the ideas / thoughts / problems. It takes the form of a question, namely: What is adulthood?

I think if I could go back in time and ask my childhood self how you know if somebody is an adult, the answer she would give would look very much like the life I’m living now. An adult has a place to live that is her own, not somebody else’s. An adult has a car and is able to drive it. An adult has graduated from college, has a job, pays her bills, and can have alcohol if she wants, sometimes. Also, nobody will make her eat food she doesn't like. That’s an adult.

When I was a kid, though, I believed that once certain thresholds of life have been reached, a person will have arrived, somehow. Now I’m not sure I believe that we ever arrive anywhere in this life. I begin to suspect, rather, that life is a journey and it is (you are) constantly in motion as long as it exists (or as long as you do). Arriving has nothing to do with it.

The Latin word terminus can be translated by the English words term, limit, boundary, ending, frontier, and finish. It bespeaks, if I understand it correctly (which I may not; I am no Latinist) both the act of arriving somewhere or finishing something and, in other contexts, the destination itself; the goal; the Rubicon.

I want a terminus. I want to cross a border that will eviscerate my insecurity—convince me once and for all that I’m Okay; that I no longer need to justify my presence on the planet.

Maybe a Real Adult is someone who wants good things because they’re good rather than because she thinks they’ll be a means to an end; a ticket to there; a way to arrive. A terminus. There are lots of things I want that, I realize, I think of (or have thought of) as terminuses (termini?)… marriage, children, promotion, publication, fame, wealth. Coffee. The list goes on. Maybe, in a way, I’ll be there when I learn to stop focusing on getting there, and learn to be where I am; learn to accept it all and let it be for good. (Sidebar: please follow that link. Those words are a line from a poem called The Singing Bowl by Malcolm Guite. You won’t be sorry.)

I may wake up tomorrow and realize that there’s “more of gravy than of grave” about all of this, but here’s the theory I’m working with tonight: maybe I have to be okay with being here before I can get there. Maybe here will never turn into there unless I am able to embrace here for itself without seeking to make it a gateway to there. I wish I knew the magic spell that would make me able to instantly love what is (accepticarius allthecrapicus ingoodgracibus, maybe?) but lacking that, I’ll go with this, and let that be the end of it (at least for tonight):

Hello, here. Thanks for being here with me. You are painful, but I will do my best to make room for you anyway.

There.

…does that count?