I was supposed to be a home-owner and a mom by now. I was supposed to be out of debt from graduate school. I was supposed to be the star of a popular TV show and have a successful film career. I was supposed to have written a book and started a podcast. I was supposed to be bilingual, well-traveled, better read and in general more accomplished. I was supposed to make a lot of people a lot happier than they are and I was supposed to have a flatter stomach and whiter teeth and more toned arms. I was supposed to discover deeper truths about humanity and life and massage those truths into my work as an artist. I was supposed to carry less burdens and stand up straighter and eat less saturated fats and wear more color. I was supposed to use fewer plastic cups and paper plates and buy less cheap clothing and volunteer a lot more. I was supposed to rest easier and do a lot less waiting for things to turn around and I’ve complained, judged and succumbed to fear way more than I was supposed to.
The present, to suppose, is animated - not dashed, by uncertainty. If I suppose, I assume something to be true for argument or explanation’s sake; a belief on tentative grounds, an unconfirmed truth. But that past tense "supposed to" is colder and I have leaned on its chilling ways recently. Any chance, you are also feeling like you are supposed to be elsewhere or just else, like me? A failed requirement. A broken contract. A punctured, hamstrung intention. Maybe it’s the outset of a new year and the daunting gift of time or the days of rain or the receipts I am tallying for our tax return or maybe it’s the blank pages of my new calendar or the breaths I’ve held tight that are responsible. How does that saying go? Sweet are the uses of UNCERTAINTY? Surely not. My therapist reminds me that anxiety is fear of the unknown to which I reply, "but I don’t know why I’m anxious". The evergreen student.
There is a speech I love - learned it for my acting school auditions - from Naomi Iizuka’s play, ALOHA SAYS THE PRETTY GIRLS. The character, Vivian, is in the middle of a fevered (dream) introduction to a Kindergarten class she is substitute teaching and after fifteen, twenty lines of flailing explanations, non-sequiturs and apologies, she surrenders and says, “This is not how I thought it would be or wanted it to be, but you know what, that’s ok”. Ah, some sense. Like slicing an onion, every time I say that line it fills my eyes, tickles my nose and stops me in my tracks. No acting necessary; I can just tell the truth when I say that. The character / me / me / the character drops her cloak of supposed to's, naked as she came, and says what IS.
What is, by the way, is pretty damn good. I can’t knock it. It was never once supposed to be anything other and it’s really quite something. We’ve been talking, Max and me, about the words, “I don’t know”, as a spiritual practice. Pavement for the rocky unknowable ahead. I think it’s a better way to move forward than coloring every new day with the past, the supposed to, like the guest that never came. It’s not how I thought it would be, it’s better and worse. But I suppose the door is open and the house within full.