lost looking for found

In ALL, INTROSPECTION by Stephanie Klein30 Comments

What happens when your dream comes true? When you get the 3.4 kids and refrigerator magnet of a life you’ve always imagined? You celebrate, then savoir, you remember, then onto the next. It’s our curiosity that keeps us young and passionate, so what is my what right now? Now what? Yes, appreciate, be thankful, give to others. But, seriously, now what?

Get another dream. Or, more befitting, “Get a life.”
Ram more life in and make sure every lick of it is a swirl of delicious.

I’ve been feeling lost lately. Like, talk aloud to the universe, asking for a sign, lost. “Be still,” “be quiet,” “’it’ will come to you,” this “calling,” and then it will all be clear. Only, I feel like these flashes of enlightenment—when you’re awash with clarity and there’s no questioning the direction of your life—come upon us again and again. Usually, I’ll admit, they come when we’re suffering, with our lives in turmoil and our skin a mess, forcing us to face our instincts and fears. It’s acting on this “deep knowing” that can take a lifetime, especially when fear is involved—which is almost always.

sunshine daydreams
Then I bargain, asking the universe to throw me a bone. Come on, I think, if the light turns green by the time I count to five, it’s a sign. But a sign of what? That the universe is listening, is here. It’s got my back. Then I drive past a stable, and I get it. There’s some strange fascination here. The universe is leading me to this. What though? I know nothing of horses, other than their stink and the whole “hung like a horse” thing. So when is it a true sign and when is it just flat out desperation?

I really don’t think fear or self-doubt are factors in my current blah.
     Am I hiding out?
Ducking the harder work in favor of dinner plans and interiors?
What am I avoiding?
Is it laziness?
Is it a vacation and break, a chance to reflect?
Or is it a sign that my life’s purpose can be so much more?

Major changes are like births and deaths. Goodbye to what you knew and what felt safe, and hello mess, tears, and tantrums. Let go and get ready to fall and fail as you give it your ass and then some.

But, here’s my problem: I used to know, deeply, what I wanted. To be a writer was my dream since fourth grade, and along the way, if there was ever a doubt, I’d sometimes be overwhelmed by this sense of *knowing* that it would happen, that I would absolutely be a writer. I can actually count the times this deep insight has come upon me, and I can remember each moment in remarkable detail. I felt it deep inside, so I know exactly how that “calling” should feel—like giddiness and an overwhelming feeling of yes! Except, I haven’t been feeling it anymore.

Maybe my “calling,” the purpose of my life, is changing on me. I need a new vision board project or something. I just don’t know. I’m in some kind of sorting phase. I’d like to borrow the kids’ sandbox tools and hold my daily life up to the sifter. It’s not that I want a neat compartmentalized life. I know a slopped up life full of just that—life!—suits me. I just want to know in my bones that I’m living the life I’m meant to. I want to go confidently in the direction of my dreams, only I’ve stopped knowing what those dreams are. I don’t know what to reach for. It’s really not some fear or unworthiness at play here. I just don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I swear, it’s not in there somewhere curled up with a blanket, afraid to speak up. It’s just… lost.

This lost feeling seems like a kissing cousin to restlessness but in a new way, because, for the first time in a long time I don’t know what I want. I’m waiting for “it” to come upon me, driving in silence, talking to myself aloud, wanting so much to know again.

My takeaway in all of this, at least for today, is that I need to work most on my imagination. As a memoirist, I enjoy observing, but I rarely have to rely on my imagination. It’s a part of my brain I want to develop. How can I envision the life I want if my imagination skills are stuck on the corner of suck and suck? I’m guessing (hoping) that if I’m still, quiet inside, for long enough, something will have to come in and take over. In the meanwhile, I want to focus on imagining and learning to let go and dream. Big. But I’ll still be planning fabulous menus, because if the best of all possible worlds were a reality, that’s what I’d somehow do for a living. Pair movies and food and wine, living in a world of themes and gentle touches. Now that’s dreamy.


  1. Oh, i relate to every word of this … I often say that my life is exactly as I planned and nothing like I expected. Somehow, when you come to the end of everything you knew you wanted – successfully – the yawning, cavernous emptiness is pretty scary. And for me at least, once there was no obvious next thing to aim for, I really fell apart. So I guess I’m saying I know something very similar to what you describe and I, like you, am trying to listen hard to the voice inside that tells me what I really want. Not simple.

  2. Stephanie,

    First of all, you look FANTASTIC! I totally understand what you are going through. Are you writing anything new? Working on a new project? Here’s what I think you should do…blog more frequently. (This might be me just selfishly wanting to read more of your posts). But seriously, the more someone writes about the intricacies of every day, the more they start to see the meanings behind things, the hidden messages that the universe is sending you (not to sound too much like “the secret”). When I started following you (soooo long ago that I feel as if we are old friends), you were reflective on everything. Everything.

    PS- Are you moving to Florida?


  3. I think this is a good feeling for someone like you to have–because you are usually over-scheduled, scheduled to within an inch of your life, as they say.

    The calling comes when you sit with it a while.

    Right now, though, you have a major move to organize and march through, and time to settle in your family (and yourself) is necessary. So why not give yourself the summer to settle into your new life and say you won’t think about it consciously again ’til Sept? Just let it marinate. Enjoy the summer!

  4. I think I’ve been going through a little mid-life crisis of my own lately, so I can relate. You look beautiful, BTW!

  5. Boy can I relate to this post. I consider myself the intuitive, feeling type. However, when it comes to my career, I’ve been in the dark my whole life. I have a good job, but I also have zero interest in what I do. So I work hard, garner respect, and feel like a total fraud. Whenever someone mentions moving up the ladder, all I can think about is chopping it down and using it for firewood.

    I want money and success, but I want to feel ‘giddy’ about what I do. I’ve never had that before. I’ve never been on a career path that felt right. You were blessed to ever have a time in your life where you just knew. It will likely return when it is time for you do something…but I’m no expert here :-)

    My problem seems to be allowing myself to be still long enough to actual receive divine guidance and letting go. I’m impatient by nature and I feel uncomfortable when I’m not doing something. My guess is the second I become comfortable doing nothing, I’ll know exactly what to do. This is how my life works. I smother my dreams to the point they cannot manifest, become angry and frustrated, throw my hands up in defeat…then it appears like magic.

  6. When I get like this about my writing, I try taking a class in a different kind of writing. For example, as an essayist/screenwriter— try taking haiku poetry 101, or crime fiction. I find it really helps jump-start my imagination and makes writing exciting again.

    1. Author

      This is exactly what I wrote to myself during my morning pages this morning. That I feel alive when I take classes, and I deserve that and should absolutely invest in myself by taking a class once I move to Florida. It has to be a classroom class, not some online course. It might also help to take a non-writing class… watercolors again, perhaps. But more likely writing. Sigh.

  7. This is actually incredibly encouraging and refreshing to read- i do believe that dreams don’t change, they just morph- you’re already a successful writer, so you’ll always BE a writer, it’s what you’ve done and are doing….to me it sounds like, this is a really exciting dream EXPANDING. I love that.

  8. I used to be such a fan. In a way still am. From the beginning of your blog, every step, every book. I loved, no adored, your unflinching honesty and ability to laugh at yourself. Somewhere in the branding of yourself, the gutsy, brash, brilliant, and above all interesting SK got lost. Your post started to border on insulting and polarizing. I know you say you write for you. But I think that wasn’t the true you. I have read every published word you’ve written and that didn’t play to your character. I understand that you were reaching out for more… Movies… Screenplays…TV Sitcoms…combined with the never ending battle of trying to adjust for Phil and the “fitting in” of it all in Austin.

    I digress… I know that you are a memoirist. But your gift and talent that has always stayed with me was the color and verve, the quality of the descriptive in your words. You painted an actual three dimensional picture in my mind. Breathing life into your narrative. SO all of my senses were engaged. I think if you let it work its way from you, you have a million stories to tell. From fiction to the retelling of lives. I sincerely hope you find your muse again. Moving is a like stuffing all of your emotions in a blender and hoping for a good outcome, a tasty blend.

    Its exciting, an adventure, new. BUT you doubt every single thought that crosses your mind. Every choice. I speak with authority on this one thing, as Hurricane Katrina changed every single facet of my life. Everything. Nothing has or will ever be the same. It has been good even at times amazing and also so devastating it felt like a profound visceral wound. Nothing worth doing is ever just easy. It is natural what you are feeling. It is a huge change. And you are charging forward, however anxious, to greet the new light.

    What a honest, thoughtful and authentic post.

  9. It seems life is all engage and then disengage, inspiration and boredom, push and pull. Knowing that everything is temporary is helpful. Btw-that IS a great picture, you look the part, even if things feel off. Best of luck in FL.

  10. I can certainly relate, and I usually find classes to be the answer. I’ve taken painting, cooking, writing, psychology, etc. And when I wanted to take a break from classes, I trained. I took tennis lessons, ran a half-marathon, ran a full-marathon, took a yoga seminar. Apparently I’m just someone who needs a goal, a distraction, or just to be constantly learning to feel involved/interested in my own life. Otherwise I’m restless and disappointed.

    And you look fabulous. Love the belt (scarf?). Maybe you should teach a class on how to make a statement with your scarf. You seem to do it effortlessly.

  11. I think maybe you’ve answered your own question. The dream is loving what you do. You wanted to write and you did. The next chapter of your life may be starting now. From all of your posts, there is one thing I see and hear clearly. You love to entertain, make beautiful meals, and make everyone happy. Why not do that? Party planner – caterer, special events. You take great pictures, you have a lot of talent with design, so why not do it for others?
    Just a suggestion.

  12. I really needed to see your post today. It’s just been one of those days. :( I received a pass on a screenplay I’d been working on and it surprised me at how painfully I took it. Felt like a punch in the gut. I know I will suck it up and keep trying, keep making things happen, but I’d put all my eggs in one basket for the past 7 months and am left feeling discouraged and unsure again. Just not sure I’ll ever really find my calling and be successful at it! I love reading your blog and am sad you won’t be a fellow Texan anymore. Good luck in Florida!

  13. Hi Stephanie;

    After reading your blog this morning it reminded me of myself. I have been at that stage where you have done what you set out to do and now what? You wanted to be a writer and you have. That doesn’t mean you stop writing, but maybe you need to look a little closer at the other things you love. You love to cook, you love to plan menus, you love to entertain. How about putting that all together and do it for others? Dream big, start small. Cater small parties. You take beautiful pictures, you certainly know the websites, you could go as far as you wanted or stay as small as you want.
    Just a thought.
    By the way; great picture.
    sincerely, jane

  14. I love it when you write like this…

    Coming from a woman who had set her sights on being a ‘rich, idle woman’ to being a woman who has raised the most astonishing human beings on her own (I hate the term ‘single mom’ so I won’t use it on myself)…I can relate.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be an orthodontist (of all things). Then, during braces, I learned there was blood involved – I knew it would never happen. Then – I would be a famous musician. But I didn’t really want to practice 12-15 hours a day, and I wasn’t that great. Then the goal was to be the best wife anyone ever knew…dinner parties, perfect events, china for every holiday. Sexy, trim, fun and entertaining. And I was. Then…the babies. So…the perfect mother. The perfect babies…perfect life..perfect home…perfect PTA, country club, blah, blah blah.

    Then the car wreck where it all stopped (literally). And I had a life-altering realization that every single bit of all of that was fine. Just fine. But that maybe that wasn’t me.

    I never, ever, ever imagined I would have the life I do now. I would never have thought that each one of the darlings would be driven, compelled to excel, and would hold me up as their example. Me? Little ol’ slacker crap-tastic barely graduated from high school me? My babies are being wooed by Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale. I have a job where I feel truly, critically, vitally involved…with a non-profit focused on saving young lives. I have a home that is comfy and sweet but not perfect or fancy. I have peace and plenty. Did I ever expect it? Hope for it? Want it?


    I wanted easy and pretty and sweet and perfect. Instead, I’ve gotten hard, impossible, challenging and – at least to date – perfect.

    Who knew? And I’m still young…life is still happening…the best is yet to come, and I expect it will be nothing like I expect.

    So – my thoughts for you. Live. Be kind. Help old people and children. Find goodness. Be still. Don’t hurt yourself. Surround yourself with peace. Breathe. Love yourself. Be nicer than you have to be. Stop to admire rainbows. Take baths. Light candles. Be calm. All is well…..all is well.

    1. Your posts are so soothing. Write a post divorce self help kinda book. I think you’d easily get one published. Nudge..universe.

      1. Yes, ‘three teens mom’ you’re soothing, sweet and have a gift for articulating emotions. Truthfully, I’m always scanning the comments on this blog hoping you’ve left one. The wisdom you share seems to resonate pitch perfect with all us type A (yet often listless) mid-30’s women. Perhaps when all three teens have left and gone to school you’ll have time to blog for us? Yeah, that’s kind of selfish, but just throwing it out there…

    2. I don’t read your blog all the time, but when I come back to it, there’s always a post that reflects exactly what is going on in my own life. It’s almost scary.
      When I was looking for a new creative pursuit, I looked to your photography for inspiration. I’ve become a better photographer because of it.

      You’re at your best when you write this way; you are both vulnerable and at the same time strong for revealing what is your innermost dilemma. Many of us feel the same way about not knowing what to do next once we’ve achieved a dream. And becomes more difficult to admit it, the older you get. We’re supposed to have it figured out by now, right? Like you, I’m starting from square one again, and I’m looking for that feeling I used to get when I found it; the excitement and energy and…happiness. I agree that when we are most quiet is when it usually becomes clear. What I’d like to know is….am I there yet? And how much more quiet do I have to be before things begin to reveal themselves? I think I’m too restless and want it too much right now to see it clearly.

      As an aside, I also read your blog for comments from 3 teens’ mom. Lovely writing from you both.

      I hope you find what you’re looking for, Stephanie.

  15. You can start dreaming big by leaving Phil, who is obsessed with devaluing you and everything you want.

  16. I always wanted a horse. Never got one as a child. I finally gave up on getting one, gave up on waiting for a man to marry and buy me one. At 26 I bought my own acreage and my own horses. I’ve been there for 7 years now on my own. And there is absolutely nothing I get more enjoyment from, more peaceful feelings from, than my horses. When I feel as you do now, I go out and sit in a lawn chair and just watch them. Stand next to them and brush them and feel their warm skin and all the tensions just melt away. I don’t have children, but have always thought that is the kind of comfort that must come from watching your child. It is an amazing feeling that is very hard to describe. I know others who have had horses and hated it, been nothing but stressed by them. And they are very expensive, they are not for everyone. But to me, they are worth every penny that I put into them. Worth every trip out into a blizzard to put feed in their bucket. I feared that after wanting one for so long, it would be a let down when I finally got one, but I could not have been more wrong about that. Don’t get a horse without a lot of serious thought about it, but don’t close your mind to it either. I’m sure glad I didn’t. Feel free to email me if you have any horse related questions!

  17. Firstly, you look great at that weight, possibly the perfect weight for you? Secondly, have you thought about hosting dinner parties in your home, a kind of ‘under the radar’ pop up restaurant? They’re big at the moment here in London and I believe also in New York, where a group of strangers (or acquaintances) pay to come and be wined and dined in your home. You could combine your love of dinner planning and the lovely little touches but keep it on a manageable scale, maybe hosting one every fortnight and moving into event planning after that if you found you loved it and had built a bit of a reputation? Just a thought…

  18. Sometimes stillness is the next thing. Be careful not to just fill the void while you stay open for whatever is headed your way or you could miss it.

    See ya in Florida.

  19. So this is a lot of reading between the lines, but given that you’ve recently mentioned getting your weight back to the 120’s again (I’d imagine you’re where you want to be now, on that score), and that you started this post with a picture of a slimmed-down you, I’m going to assume that for a while now (maybe since the twins were born?), your main goal for your personal life had to do with your weight? I know you’ve had a very full life in that time and that weight hasn’t been your sole focus. But as someone who has also struggled with weight since adolescence, I know how other personal goals take a back seat when you feel like you need to lose a bunch. So it seems like you’re going through classic mid-life crisis stuff (I don’t know why the only term for it is “mid-life” because I think most of us go through it at many points in life, and I think when babies are growing up and starting school is a common one) now that the major personal goal is accomplished.

    If you think your current stagnation does have to do with having accomplished the weight goal, and feeling like with that piece in place you pretty much “have it all,” then I’m wondering if your next question should be this: I’ve succeeded in making my body what I want it to be, now what can I DO with it that I didn’t feel able to do before? I’m currently working on losing too, and this is what I focus on during every day of calorie counting. Not just that I’ll magically be happy when I weigh a certain number (although it feels fabulous), but that I’ll be happy to be there because I’ll be able to DO some things that I’ve been missing out on. For example: I grew up dancing, and every time I see someone dancing I feel complete jealousy. When I’m heavy I wouldn’t even consider joining a dance class, too humiliating. Sure it would be all empowered and strong to do so no matter what I weigh, but I’m just not that brave. I also miss yoga classes (I know, I can do yoga at home, I just really enjoy the classes) and lap swimming, both of which I won’t do when I’m too heavy, for the same reason. So I know that when I reach my goal weight, there might be some tiny part of me that feels like I “have it all” (two darling daughters, a house that I love in my favorite neighborhood in my hometown, a husband who is perfect for me and who has a great job, etc.; PLUS looking the way I want to? Bliss.), but I’m not worried about that what-next feeling. I know what I’ll be doing. I’ll be signing up for an adult ballet class, going to the yoga class at my gym three times a week, and just in general doing all of the things that feel difficult when I’m heavy.

    So my suggestion is, instead of going back to the same watercolor and writing classes, maybe you should celebrate the life that you give yourself when you feel healthy by doing things that directly take advantage of that emotion. Take a dance class, set a goal to do a triathlon, join a tennis club, or whatever it is that you’ve ever thought skinny girls could do that you couldn’t. Maybe it would feel more fulfilling and you might not feel the need for some grand scheme for a little while.

    1. Author

      What a thoughtful comment. Thank you.

      This is true. My personal goals have always had weight at the top of the list, and now, I’m on cruise control. I don’t have to try all that hard, and I enjoy being active/ fitting into my smaller clothes. It’s also nice that I needed go out and spend free time shopping because I can now shop from my downstairs closet full of clothes that hadn’t fit (though some are outdated – especially the tops… they’re much shorter). It’s great to be in my mid-20s again, and for once it’s not because I’m miserable. But, yes, now weight isn’t front and center, so there’s the extra “neurosis real estate” in my brain. You know, if you’re dating, the energy goes into finding the one. Planning a wedding. Making a baby. Wiping a baby. Getting a baby to sleep on a schedule… then there’s room again for more of you. The you who isn’t in school studying. The you who you are without distraction (you get what I mean). Then, yes, we hurry up and fill that space with a new obsession or a new interest, I’d say.

      But when it comes to weight, I’ve never once, ever, thought, I can’t do THAT SPORT or ACTIVITY because I’m too heavy. I’d swim, take hot yoga, whatever interested me. So, unlike you, I’ve never associated being overweight with activities I couldn’t do. So, I do not all of a sudden feel like now that I’m at a healthy weight I can take zumba or barre. I stick to what I like, things that interest me, that I’m naturally drawn to, not things that are the hot new thing.

      I’ve always enjoyed pillates, water anything (except “water sports” -ahem), sometimes spinning, and I used to like working with a personal trainer. I have a type of bucket list, a list of things that really interest me that I haven’t gotten around to exploring, but I sometimes think that doing so is just a distraction. Like, taking guitar lessons or starting a knitting project, or taking a photography workshop, they feed the mind, but how am I supporting my family? That, right there, is something that weighs on me. I can go out and get a job, continue to write, explore. Or, I can not take a job but focus on my career as a writer, which would involve my stepping things up and taking writing seriously again. There’s a huge difference between writing and “cracking a case.” And creating TV shows and film outlines, to me, are not exercises in actual writing. They’re exercises in thinking, in creating plots, having one event lead to the next which leads to the next. And you can do this with a series of post-it notes. It’s not paragraphs or turns of phrase until you’re actually writing the thing.

      I guess what I’m saying is that I think I need to poop or get off the loo. If I want to write I need to stop talking about it and do it. For the past year, I’ve been talking, and, to be fair, I’ve been “cracking a case.” I think a writing workshop would be wonderful, but finding the right workshop in Boca Raton, FL is another story all together.

  20. Oh…where to begin? First,I love your blog. I wish you were staying in Austin, but I know all about moving with the husband. I have done it 8 times in 20 years so that I could help him move up the ladder and I could take care of our 2 girls. I am now 43 with one in college and 1 at the barn all day(horse-obsessed, btw)and I find myself with more time to think about what I want to be when I grow up. Honestly, it’s scaring the crap out of me.

    What I felt when I read your post, was – lucky girl. She knows what she wants. Even if you feel that you have lost it for a time, you will find it again. You might find something slightly different in its place, but you will find it-that feeling-because you have passion and you know yourself. While there was a time in your life that you call a “Greek Tragedy,” you also seem to instinctively understand Socrates’ rule: Know Thyself. It’s only tragic if you don’t.

    I, on the other hand, feel like I’m 13 instead of 43, and not in a good way. I have started a blog (and who hasn’t at this point?) with inspiring mom stuff/various rants/shopping/style/etc about Austin moms, but have found that saying (for years) that I want to write and actually writing are a million miles apart. So I’m doing the blog experiment to see where it goes. I have to say, writing takes way more courage than I anticipated. Even writing this to you…will she get it? Will she think its dumb? I am officially sick of being afraid so I am taking things on, one by one. But that fear is always there, like a shadow that never really leaves, and I often wonder if success will erase the fear, or only make it worse. I guess we have to learn to say screw it and do what we want anyway. Learn to use the fear, instead of letting it use us.

    I wish you all the best on your move. You really have inspired me and I hope you know how much you mean to your readers…take some time and do some things you don’t normally do. You’ll get sparked by something and who knows what you’ll come up with next:)

  21. Stephanie, when you have time, pleasepleaseplease do a post about weight watchers, what worked for you, your tips and tricks for success. I have signed up countless times and after a few days of forgetting to log in or forgetting what I just ate, etc just give up. How did you make it work for you and your lifestyle?

  22. I got married in March and have been struggling with a similar feeling ever since. After getting what I wanted for 35 years, I find myself wondering “Now What?” almost every day. I, too, am a writer by trade. But the day job drains me and it’s way too easy to find other little hobbies to fill my time – so I don’t write at home (aside from my blog).

    I hope you’ll post more about your figuring-out process with this. I hope you find what’s been lost and that you can pass on some advice to the rest of us!

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