Monthly Archives: December 2015

11Dec/15

The Meaning of Life

existingwithmeaning

 

This last weekend was a hard one.  Or rather, I seemed to find it hard.

Things could be ticking along all fine and dandy one minute, then the next I would become emotionally overwhelmed or red-hot angry.  On Saturday night I got so angry with my husband, for being mildly irritated by something I said, that I could only speak monosyllabically to him for the rest of the evening – which is so unlike me. I usually react immediately and get over it quickly.

At one point on Sunday I was suddenly hit with a such deep and intensive despair that I had to take myself off to bed for over an hour. It was as if my body commanded me to, in order to survive. I lay in the same curled up position for the whole time, slowly allowing myself to recharge and regain my equilibrium, trying to have faith in the whole damn emotional process.

It was not a nice place to be. But I’m learning that it’s an OK place to be. It’s a necessary part of life and mindfully attending to these moments or episodes and accepting them is the only way to learn about and heal ourselves.  Emotions like anger and despair are useful because they are usually telling us something important.  They act as a wake up call for us to examine our lives and attend to what needs to be attended to.

In my case, my anger was telling me I was upset that I hadn’t seen my husband all week due to his work, and all day due to him taking our youngest son to a rugby match in London.  My (ego’s) anger was triggered by him being irritated with me when he should be happy to be spending time with me after so long (!). But the real reason behind it was that I didn’t like not seeing him all week – again! Fucking again! And then you can’t even discuss minor parenting decisions without getting irritated with me! ‘Fuck this shit!’ said my ego, egged on by the clarity of alcohol.

The despair on Sunday was linked to this: it was a sense of hopelessness that nothing will change, and that I didn’t think I could bare the burden of being the only parent to our children during the week any longer. I can do it – and I do it well – but not in the way I could if I had a partner around to support me, and not without the cost of wearing myself out constantly. And not without the cost of not being true to myself, even burying myself.  I recognised the despair as the regular call from my heart saying: ‘We are not meant to live like this” And my anger was saying “We are not meant to FUCKING live like this!”

It is all to do with creating meaning. Of being fulfilled – which comes from living with purpose and meaning.  If I had a reason to live like this it would be OK.  For both of us to work hard in our separate ways in order to achieve our family dream, business dream, or sense of personal fulfilment would be OK.  We might not choose it, but we might, if the costs and rewards weighed up.   But for me, there is no clear meaning to our crazy, separate, stressful life.  This was confirmed to me in bright lights when I read the following passage on Sunday evening.

 

Meaning-making is a defining charactoristic of what it is to be human. As we need food in order to survive and grow, so too we humans seem to need a sense of meaning in order to thrive and to avert despair.  According to the psychiatrist Victor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, the search for meaning is the primary motivational force in human beings.  Existing without purpose or meaning, for humans, is like existing without air.  You can only go for so long before you choke. A life without meaning chokes the soul. Spiritual suffocation is the bedrock of the emotion we call despair – and a major reason for its pervasiveness in a spiritually and morally vacuous culture.

 

So it seems that I need to work on making my life more meaningful and fulfilling. I can do this with my husband and my children but I must also do it for myself. What is meaningful to me?  What will make me get up everyday and get to it with energy, enthusiasm, and excitement?  What ingredients does my life need to have in it daily, weekly, monthly, and in the future to make me feel fulfilled? What needs to be in my life to counter the hard work and seperateness of our life now? What changes do I need to make?  What boundaries do I need to put in place?  And  how can I cultivate my gratitude and appreciation of life rather than focusing on the negatives?

I do have meaning in my life already of course.  I have 3 amazing children who I have chosen to bring into this world and to look after personally.  I have an understanding, loving husband and a community of family and friends who I love. What is missing is my own personal purpose.  And a joint life plan with Chris – my amazing, dynamic, creative husband. I just need to make it happen.  Not everybody needs this. But I do.  I need clarity and meaning otherwise my ego starts getting angry at people I love, or I find myself folding into the fetal position to make it through the day.

 

 

Written: Started at home, finished in the cafe at Southwater County Park, Horsham.

03Dec/15

Her Dark Secret.

An Honest Truth

 

Five years ago I was a mess. I had three young children under 9 who were wonderfully cute, amazing and special, and like most children, were also programmed to push their parents over the edge.

I duly obliged.

It had been coming: a gradual descent into a pit of despair. My own personal pit was decorated with failure and unmet expectations. It was sprinkled with a depression caused by not being the kind of mum I had always imagined I would be. You know the one – the light-hearted, bubbly mum who plays games, always laughs, bakes cakes, is in control of the shopping, cooking, laundry, school letters, bills, gardening, all the while running a successful business or career and being the model of emotional intelligence, kindness, patience and courage. She also looks amazing and has the best sex on the planet with the husband she still fancies the pants off. You know her very well don’t you?   She’s in everyone’s expectations, all over the media and worst of all, in our own minds.

It seems that during the previous years, unbeknownst to me, the dark, silent tentacles of Perfectionist Mum had ensnared me completely and dragged me down deep. The more I struggled to be free of this constant sense of failure the further I seemed to fall. The more I strived, the ‘less perfect’ I became.  It all sounds dramatic now, but it felt humiliating and dangerous at the time, and I couldn’t get myself out of it.  I didn’t realise then, that the expectation of perfection I had had for so long was impossible to achieve. All I could focus on was how I had messed up again, and again, and again, and I couldn’t understand how it could happen to an intelligent woman like me who was trying so hard!

So one night 5 years ago during a fairly standard argument my oldest child shouted at me; ‘Mum – you just expect me to be perfect all the time!  I can’t be perfect! 

It was as if he had thrown a bucket of water over me.  I woke up.  In a second he had shown me the truth, bright, ugly, and finally, finally visible to my blind and deluded mind.  I immediately understood that my constant expectation of perfection was not only damaging me, but a million times worse – it was damaging my children.

It was the changing point in my life, and since then I have continuously learnt about the toxic condition of perfectionism, read many, many positive psychology, mindfulness and self-development books, watched hundreds of TEDTalks and attended courses and workshops. I have had coaching, CBT and therapy and I have experimented with different ideas, practices and habits and have found what works and what doesn’t work.

All this learning and exploration has made me so much more aware, mindful and grateful. It’s made a huge difference and I’m a much calmer, happier person. I’m also a better mum.  However, I have still been striving for a certain something.  Peace, or Success, or Happiness, whatever they are. There has still been a sense of something missing, or lacking in my life or me.

So I am still learning.

Finally though, I am able and willing to listen to the real inner voice inside me.  Not my scared and vulnerable ego which is driving all the relentless striving, but the strong, solid wisdom within me which knows that I am amazing and whole.

I still have my striving ego, desparate to protect and prove itself, but at least now I have another side to hear too.

My own voice.