Timeline of Should

When we are young we spend time making up fantasies about how we imagine our grown-up lives should be. The first book I taught myself to read was Cinderella. I played dress up in my mother’s closet, devoured wildly age-inappropriate romance novels on family vacations, and daydreamed about George Michael coming to whisk me away from sixth grade French class in his tight white jeans and mesh shirts. For my 18th birthday my best girlfriends wrote me a poem about how I was most likely to get married and have a family first. It was clear to me and everyone who knew me that my life goals were as follows: Life Goal #1: Get married. Live happily ever after. Life Goal #2: Win an Oscar.

Neither have happened.

My journey to find and heal myself has taken me to the ends of the earth. It has allowed me to experience things I never could have imagined and blessed me with adventures I couldn’t have made up if I tried. Had I not chosen to get on this path when I did–a year after quitting acting, at the end of an engagement to a man I did not love, and shortly after my 31st birthday–my life would have been very, very different.

This past October I turned 40 and I’m the only one from that group of best friends who remains single. CUE THE DRAMATIC MUSIC!  

For today’s woman they say life begins at 40. According to Wikipedia, middle age also begins at 40. So basically life begins in the middle. Which is where I find myself, holding a meditative space over this timeline of should.

Should holds a lot of power. It says, I ought to be somewhere, or someone, or something other than exactly who, what and where I am right now. It is a one-way ticket out of the present moment and into suffering.

It was ‘should’ that kept me in a life I knew I wasn’t happy living. I spent decades trying to fit into just about everything. It wasn’t that I didn’t know deep down inside who I was, it was that the outside voices telling me where my life should be were oftentimes louder than my own.

Now the middle can mean a lot of different things depending on where you are. I have learned that in a city like LA or NY, being an unmarried woman at 40 is no big deal. In fact, it’s common. But when I go back home to Montreal and the community where I grew up, I am somewhat of a unicorn.  

When I went to a suburb of London for my grandfather’s funeral, I greeted the Rabbi at the door. He looked me over, a frown crossed his face and he said in his thick Scottish brogue, “Oh, I remember you. Still unmarried I see? Still no children? Shame.” Then he brushed past me to a table covered in bagels.

In that moment I wanted to stop him and say, “Wait! Ok, so I’m not married! But I help people all over the world find inner peace! I’ve been blessed by Thai monks, sat with sadhus and Maharishi, studied with great spiritual teachers! I learned how to make muesli from a Russian psychic on a farm in Germany in exchange for room and board. I was the first Canadian initiator of Vedic Meditation. I’ve learned to live without material things, without a plan, without a return ticket. I can go out for dinner alone and strike up conversations with strangers. And I know Rabbi, that the dark rings around your eyes means your kidneys are weak, and I can tell you how to balance your system using diet and herbs that I learned in India!”  

Instead I shrugged back a tear and passed him the lox.

I was stuck in the middle of time. Where I was, who I was, and who and where I thought I would be were out of sync.

I have learned that the root of my greatest suffering in life is this unique gift we humans all share; we get stuck on what we think should have happened, or we get fixated on what should be happening. Neither of those things are tangible and yet it’s where we spend the majority of our time hanging out. Finding that sweet spot of the present moment is the only way to keep reminding myself that I am exactly who and where I am supposed to be.  

And now, at 40, I have tools to help me on my journey through the rest of my life. They are all things I have picked up along the road to where I am today: meditation, watching breath, coming back to the 5 senses, mantras and affirmations. I can pull these out anytime and use them as a reminder that everything is perfect when the glimmer of should tries to charm me back into its hands.  

We are all always in the middle of something, and that is truly, exactly where we should be! Though I’ll always be ready to jump for 1987’s George Michael.

Artwork by Michelle Favin of Whys LA for Poppy & Seed. Connect with her @whyslosangeles.

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