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.