I am starting to realize that I have an all-consuming personality, in pretty much every sense of the word. As anyone who spends more than an hour with me can attest, despite my bony appearance, I can consume a hell of a lot of food. And, back in the days when my bank account was slightly more flush, I was a very good little all-American consumer. I did my part for our economic revival, oh yes.

Above all though, I feel best when there is something in my life that consumes me: my attention, my energy, my drive, all of me. Whether it be school, work, a destructive love affair (and there have been a few), or even my garden — no matter how trivial my daily tasks may actually be, I am at my best when I am pushing the outer limits of my abilities, with everything else fitting into the cracks of that one all-enveloping task. I am used to throwing myself from one activity to the next, never pausing for breath, always driven to stay busy, to either keep learning or keep earning. Usually by the time I complete one project, the next is already on the horizon, and I rarely have any time in between to contemplate what it is I’m really doing.

Now, for the first time in a very long time, I find myself without anything all-consuming in my life. I am not working, my dad’s health is more or less stable, the garden project is finished for the moment, and I am not going back to school any time soon. As for my marriage, well, I think that is by definition something that should not be all-consuming, or else it burns out rather quickly. Or that’s what my therapist tells me, at any rate.

This is a very strange feeling. I am disoriented, like someone took away the safe, white walls from my world and left me reeling, standing on the dizzy edge of all the myriad possibilities that suddenly, starkly surround me.

Unlike most people, I am completely unable to simply enjoy this period of relative inactivity. I don’t allow myself to sit in bed all day and read a book — that feels far too decadent. Instead, I go compulsively from one half-assed activity to the next: reading for twenty minutes, feeling guilty about it and deciding there must be something more responsible I should be doing, then finding something more responsible to do and deciding I don’t really feel like doing it after all… I’d much rather just read a book.

The whole time I am haunted by a vague sense of guilt, a feeling that I should be doing something, anything, other than this. And yet I can’t seem to decide what it is I want or need to be doing. So the cycle continues, on and on. By the end of the day, exhausted from all this flitting about, I usually end just doing what I started out with — reading a book.

I am trying my best to just sit with the uncertainty of it all, instead of jumping right into the next object of consumption solely for the sake of keeping busy. I realize that this time needs to be different. But that doesn’t make it any easier.