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Turning Down the Volume So I Can Finally Hear My Life.

Last night I experienced what I like to call an Existential Movie Moment.

It’s what happens when I, quite dramatically, wrap myself up in a bacony blanket of self-pity like some snug little cocktail weenie and think about all of the things that are going horrifically wrong in my life. It’s a moment made even better when, solitarily confined within the warm cocoon of my battered Chevy Tracker, I flip on the radio and realize that the perfect song just happens to serendipitously complement the scene.



A gray Chevy Tracker. Unkempt but well-loved.

Photography contracts, shopping list covered
sticky notes, and scratched mix CDs from the
1990s litter the floors. The back seats are covered
in a fine coat of short hairs. Presumably canine.
A well-worn hole in the driver’s side carpet marks
the connection between driver and vehicle. Marking
the years of heel kissing car — pushing it hard and

rubbing it raw.

Rain drizzles along the windows. The floor on the
passenger side is damp with leaks.

The odometer reads 174,542.

KATIE grips the steering wheel with one hand. The
other fumbles with the radio.

We see her eyes, terrified of hydroplaning, focused
intensely on the wet, dark road.

She presses buttons blindly, ultimately landing on
a rock station pre-programmed many years before.
When she hears the song, she laughs. Her tension

Her pain, she sees, is self-induced.

Really? I didn’t need System of a Down to tell me my life is disorder.

You see, we haven’t yet gotten orders telling us where we’ll be living by this time next year.

I feel utterly out of control of my life. Rootless. “Home” is nothing but a greased little pig — slippery and wiggly and impossible to grip.

And all of my resolve about sitting back and letting the winds carry us where they may has slowly been leaking all over our pretty laminate floors, along with the slew of marbles apparently escaping from the broken-latched hatch at the base of my skull.


This pretty much feels like the longest poker game in the history of ever, and the truth is — I’m no pro.

I occupy myself by planning trips — Charlotte last month, San Francisco this month, Portland and Miami and Chicago the next — and wrapping myself in the work that’s kind of what I want to do but not really, and reading about learning to accept my situation as it is because it turns out what’s happening right now — right at this moment — is the only reality that exists. And these movies that play in my head all day — these what-ifs and decisions and all of these doors are imaginary and distracting and the heart of my discontent.

My pain is self-induced and also insane.

It’s making me miss my life and clench my jaw and limiting my time with all of the things that are happening now.

The laughable irony of my Existential Movie Moment woke me from my reverie.

I can choose to be unhappy, or I can choose to be happy.

So when I feel myself spinning, I focus on that. The things that are happening right at this moment. The quiet breaths of sleeping mutts. The gentle click of fingers on keys. The hum of a hard drive. The roar of a plane. Then the sound, again, of rain. More rain.

It’s a personal orchestra performing the soundtrack I forget to hear while I’m fumbling with the radio.

It’s calming.

It is.

And I’m getting better at it every day.

What about you? Do you struggle with living in the moment as much as I do? Are you consistently focusing on how things “should” be instead of how they are? Or have you learned how to love every moment of life? I’d really like to know.


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I struggle with living in the moment EVERY. SINGLE. Day. :( Even when I’m driving, which as you know, is AWESOME with my mustang, it sometimes seems difficult to get my mind out of the “cruise” it likes to fall back into. I’ve become better at choosing to be happy most days, however, the last week or so has been a REAL struggle. Life is what it is. I need to enjoy what I can because who knows when it will come screeching to a halt for whatever reason. I allow the little things to make me smile…


The fact that you’re aware that a) you have the choice to be happy and b) trying to live in the moment is better than not trying at all just proves that you’re well on your way. I figure it’ll start with a few seconds at a time, but eventually we’ll get better and better. Hang in there. :)


I understand completely. We’re awaiting orders also. We’re stuck between Norfolk and San Diego and I’m currently job searching and house hunting in both cities. We find out in 2-3 weeks where we’ll be living for the next 3 years (the longest we’ve been anywhere in 4 years) and right now I don’t know where I’ll be next month. Meanwhile everyone seems to think we’re keeping it a secret and asking where we’re going, constantly reminding me that I don’t know and I have no control over it.

Sigh. I needed this post. Thanks.


Fingers crossed for you, Meg. I remember you mentioning in another comment that both places have their merits/fallbacks. I also hope you really DO hear in 2-3 weeks. I thought we were supposed to hear in June, but no dice. It’s frustrating, but all you can do is focus on your work, your friends, and whatever makes you smile. Try to constantly remind yourself to live in the moment when you find yourself playing out those non-existent movie reels in your head. :) I can’t wait to hear where you’re going to end up, but in the meantime you still have 2-3 weeks of “now” to enjoy!


It’s always much easier to focus on what we perceive to be wrong than what things–even a few–that’re going very right. The other day I was having a pity party–playing Korn instead of System Of A Down–and thinking about all of the what-ifs and how much I wanted a job, how much I wanted to get published, etc. And then I stooped to sweep up a dust bunny. And realized it’s a dust bunny in our LA apartment. That we’ve actually done a lot, and have a lot to be proud of. As do you! ;-)


(Oh, and you’re now responsible for me listening to Aerials! Oh, revisiting the goth years.)


Ugh, I know I’m in trouble when I’m reliving my angsty teens…


Such a great point! All you can do is focus on one thing at a time. If you want to get published, you have to write. And then you have to write more. And then you have to pitch. And pitch more. And when we look at it all at once it seems overwhelming which is why you have to take care of it just one dust bunny at a time.

I hope, aside from the job struggle, that you’re loving it in LA! You’re right — YOU’RE IN LA!!! Now go sit at the beach and wait to get discovered. ;)


I have long been obsessed with figuring out what i want–in fact, obsessed with being that proud girl who says “I KNOW what I want,” when I encounter someone (usually a man) who has no idea what he wants. But recently I dumped all of that and I feel so free, not knowing what I want or when I want it. I have decided that there is no way to know what you want. This is all revealed through having experiences and meeting people, and perhaps, most easily figured out by life’s ability to reveal to you what you don’t want. This has helped me in my struggle to live in the moment: I’m focused less on how right now affects the near or far away future. I’m enjoying whatever is happening right now–whatever people have come into my life–because I’ve shed those “I know what I want” pressures.


Such a healthy way to view things! It sounds like you’ve come a long way. And while it’s undoubtedly scarier to admit that you don’t necessarily know what you want than to stubbornly insist that you do (when you don’t), it does seem to clear the way for more possibilities. Thanks for commenting, Madeline! :)


As a naturally impatient person who hates not knowing about things that are to be known, I seriously feel your pain. I hope they put you out of your misery soon. And if you can change your life view to get through it, good on you, because most of the time that is all you really have any control over. There are always things to be happy about and if you can focus on them, it is easier.

As an aside, I love that you find the hum of your hard drive calming. That makes me laugh.


This is seriously tormenting. Thanks for commiserating! It’s not the hard drive itself that’s calming – it’s focusing on whatever’s happening in the present moment. :) (Though having lost two hard drives before, I guess the humming IS calming – that way I know it’s working.) ;)

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