pioneers of continuing on

i’ve been feeling a little restless lately. nothing particular is wrong…in fact a lot of things are very right for me right now. still i can’t shake the feeling that’s like a match about to strike.

Ten years ago I was sixteen, and spending my June at Missouri Scholar’s Academy. I’d borrowed my dad’s James Taylor greatest hits cd (because I was an old soul), and I remember i would hear these lyrics (from Shed a Little Light) over and over again in my head that summer, as if i knew i was in for a big change:

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

And I’m feeling now (10 years later!) that my heart is restless.
And it scares me a little. Because I know, for me, there’s a fine line between excitement and emotional risky business.

The same part of me that goes skydiving can also jump out of relationships with no parachute.
The same part of me that runs marathons can also run myself ragged with too many projects at once.

I want to do it all because I’m afraid of doing nothing.

Last spring I debated whether I should go to an extras audition for a local film production. (This was during Hurricane Sarah — as one of my friends likes to call that time, not inaccurately.) The audition, and subsequent filming, was something like 90 minutes away in Forsyth. So I decided not to go, and I considered it a victory, a moment when i was supposed to learn the lesson that “you can’t try for every opportunity”…and instead i’ve learned…the one thing you don’t try for turns out to be an oscar contender. See, the local film production was Winter’s Bone, which just this morning on CBS Sunday David Edelstein called the film of the year.

And I know I might not’ve even gotten cast…but the fact that I didn’t try drives me crazy.

Oprah in Rome

Oprah in Rome. ROprah. (from

This morning I by chance flipped to the back of my June O Magazine, and saw Oprah sitting in Rome with the caption: “I know for sure that all experiences contribute to who we’re meant to be.”

So I read it. Then I went to to find it so I could write this entry. And I by chance found this video of Elizabeth Gilbert, the ultimate stuck-in-a-rut-woman’s inspiration, where she says that all the oprah “experts” on “living your best life” are just “pioneers of continuing on,” when failure after failure has knocked them down. And even she, Ms. Eat Pray Love, has haggard moments of self-doubt. Sometimes my head is a neighborhood that you wouldn’t want to walk alone in at night, she tells us…and i know exactly what she means.

Me in Florence

Sarah in Florence, Florah. (from jennie's camera)

Sometimes mom comforts me when i’m feeling like this by saying i need to cut myself a little slack. After all, I’ve gotten to do some pretty cool stuff, and I need to let “real life” be what it is…as if somehow my more “adventurous” times have spoiled me for “real” life.
I don’t think that’s quite it. I think it’s easier to engage the adventurous side of myself when i’ve broken routine, and that’s what i long for. that’s why the 4 years i worked at MSA were so liberating. and that’s why i crave travel and being in new places. and that’s why i feel so restless right now. because i know i have the potential to rock life’s face off and that’s what i want to do so badly.

Help me, Oprah.

Oprah’s What I know For Sure column from the June 2010 O Mag:

“I know for sure that all experiences contribute to who we’re meant to be.”

Here’s the truth: I wanted to do an issue on adventurous spirit so I’d be inspired to experience more of it myself.

My life is overwhelmingly busy, just like yours. And filled with so many responsibilities and must-dos that when I stumble across some free time, I just want to sleep. Or read. My favorite place to be in the world other than reading under the oaks at my house in California is anywhere in Italy. And even then I’m looking for a good place to nestle in with a book.

But I’m open to changing my ways.

The idea of doing something unexpected, something unpredictable—daring myself to tune in to another way of seeing and feeling things—intrigues me.

When I was recording the narration for Life, the 11-part nature series on the Discovery channel, I realized once again that all life has value. (Haven’t killed an ant or fly since.) And I know for sure that all experiences have value and meaning, too, and contribute to who we’re meant to be.

Stepping out and doing what you’ve always wanted to do—even if it’s not dinner at the foot of the Pyramids but just a picnic for two on the porch (both of which I’ve been meaning to get around to)—is saying yes to life. And that’s something I’m sure we could all use a little more of.

And that means saying “yes” to missed opportunity and restless times, too, doesn’t it, Oprah? Balls.