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Lessons from an Unfinished Life

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

An excerpt from my mothers journal ~2013

“Sometimes I feel so close to remembering what will make me happy. I started having these feelings 3 or 4 years ago. I would get this real light happy feeling. I was sensing I could almost get what it was. Some small image or a color or something I had done in the past. But just as I thought it would be revealed it just would vanish. It happens at least 3 or 4 times a day. I keep thinking I’m going to get it but it just slips away. It’s never the same. Sometimes it is a place I’ve been or a person in the past. It goes from being young or being older.”

-Linda, 1954-2014

I keep this passage folded up tightly, hidden in a box under my bed, along with my mother’s unused garden gloves, an unfinished crossword, a perfectly sharpened pencil and tarnished jewelry.

I dig it out about once a year. I sit on the floor and I read it while tears flood down my face and create tepid pools of pity in my collar bone.

To me, these 115 words capture a life unfinished.

While ripping my heart out, they represent my worst fear. Each word shines a light on my fear of never finding my own purpose. My sadness for her is painfully mired with my own impending mortality.

No, I’m not terminally ill. But we are all terminally living. It’s the human condition.

I read this journal passage when I am feeling smothered by dissatisfaction. When I have the sense that I’m not living up to my potential. When I feel like I am living only for the pleasure of others. When I’m analyzing a financial statement for a business that I know I don’t give two shits about yet I give it all my capacity. When I’m staring at dirty dishes in the sink and my son is crying and I just want to walk out the door.

I think this is called circling the drain.

Recently, I resigned from my cushy six-figure corporate executive position. This act is the culmination of a 10 year journey of self discovery.

For 10 years I have slowly and often painfully learned who I am deep inside.

But I still had not discovered, like my mother, what it is that will make me happy. Like her visions, happiness only ever partially revealed itself to me and narrowly escaped my grasp.