Help me navigate my crisis of meaning
posted by anonymous to human relations (39 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Ever since I turned 32, I have suffered a crisis of meaning. I feel like I’m treading water, breathing through my days, waiting for my life to begin. Only I don’t know what my new life looks like, and I cannot even catch glimpses of it. My bones ache to have children, and I set my life up to have children at this age, but they are not an option for me right now, as I’m single and single women in my country cannot adopt. I am not strong enough to foster, to be loving and losing children. And so I must make an alternate life while I wait for the life I think I know will satisfy me to begin.
Only nothing feels enough. It just doesn’t feel meaningful. I have gotten to the stage where I feel that if I can’t have children (a.k.a. find meaning, a purpose, a personally compelling reason to live, something bigger than myself to believe in and give myself over to in entirety) I would rather consider extinguishing my flame. But then I wonder at the selfishness of my desires! Who do I think I am that I can bring a child into this world to give my life meaning, a purpose, and so on? And who do I think I am that I think I have the right to set my own expiry date without a thought for the people who love me? When it comes down to it, who is anyone to purposefully bring another person to life, cast them into the world, bring them into being because they want “them”? I am at odds with the world, and myself and can’t find a reason to believe in my future.
During my twenties, I tried to outrun myself after a very verbally abusive relationship of four years during which I lived with my ex. Running was pleasurable in many ways. I moved to the other side of the world and lived in London for six years. I backpacked solo to many countries, and threw myself into each experience, seeking out the truth with my camera so that I would never feel alone. I also partied very hard, and drank until I blacked out every weekend when I wasn't travelling. I didn’t have a degree, something I felt terribly ashamed of, and so I also worked exceptionally hard on creating a career where I could write for a living (which I did.) Life was not always rosy, but I was constantly distracted. Then I thought it was time to return home, to start a family, to put down roots with my own family again.
I like being home, I like the comparative quality of life, and I like that even though my family live many hours away, we are living in the same country again. But during the two and a half years I have been home, l have travelled abroad twice in a rather desperate bid to distract myself from my growing crisis of meaning. Both times I seized the experience with a new kind of daring. I lived like there was no tomorrow because I didn’t care if I died. Not in a suicidal way, or even a numb way, but in a “whatever” way. During my teens I was suicidal, which prevented me from making friends in high school, but after years of psychotherapy and meds that is well behind me. This is different. It’s a lackadaisical disrespect for my life, as if I am willing to push myself as deeply as I can to feel as deeply as I can, and in many ways I am daring myself to die. For example when I am at home I carelessly cross roads, sometimes I just walk out in front of cars on less busy roads, and mentally challenge (warped, I know) them to stop in time.
In the past year I backpacked solo through third world countries and felt intensely alive, just as I always do when I travel, but I took very few precautions, so I was often “high” on fear. I also feel alive when I travel because it’s not real life, it’s not my real life, I have no responsibilities, and most of the time I’m so intent on surviving that I don’t have to think about my existence, I just “do.” I’m operating on pure instinct and puzzling over seeming trivialities such as how to post a letter. More travel appeals to me as an escape, and a means to define myself (people seem inordinately impressed by others who pay for a plane ticket, board a plane and wander around another country.) But it’s not what I truly want. It’s a fun diversion for me, but it’s not my meaning. If I were to move abroad again or travel again for a long period of time I would be putting off the inevitable self-reckoning, as I have done for a decade or more, and would soon come face-to-face with myself again.
Career wise I have scaled back to part-time hours in a bid to find meaning. I abhor the pointlessness and falseness of the corporate world, so tried working for a charity to find meaning, but I could not. Unfortunately, I felt more unnecessary than ever pushing paper in a rich world, completely disconnected to the people who needed help, while observing political infighting that prevented even the simplest things from being done in a timely manner. I also undertook training for a crisis phone line, but due to my crisis of meaning, it only exasperated it. So now two days a week I write my novel in order to one day be truly seen and known (I love writing stories but those are the reasons I wish to be read by others). Only it is a slow process, and a rather emotionally gruelling process, and it bothers me that I am not grateful that I can do this two weekdays every week. I spend many hours in tears, wondering when my real life will begin (ridiculous, I know.) It feels more like a breakthrough than a breakdown, but I am impatient to emerge from the ashes, and fearful that I won’t.
I live by myself, and have found it difficult making new friends since I have returned home. I had no friends before I went abroad, as I had only my ex-boyfriend. I have a few acquaintances, but find it hard to deepen the relationships. I am also naturally quiet and reserved which I personally don’t mind now, but others sometimes seem to. I used to drink myself into oblivion each weekend because it allowed me to come across as sociable and meant I could effectively wipe out two days of the week, but I gave up drinking a year ago as I was tired of embarrassing myself. I am now trying to be authentic at all times and finding it quite exhausting getting by without a crutch. I feel naked and long to have a partner or close friend by my side to walk into a room of people with! I avoid going to social events by myself if there are groups of people present, such as workmates, as I feel overwhelmed by the effort required to socialise with so many people for so long. I do however go to classes and art galleries and lunches and dinners and all such events where I am only required to talk to a few people at a time.
When it comes to love, I long for the comfortable love that comes after romantic love, and I would like nothing more than to meet a best friend whom I could love for the rest of my life. But the only way I have been able to fall for men in the past is if we have been friends first, for quite some time, and I don’t have any male friends! Internet dating I found soul destroying. I have closed myself off and I don’t know how to open up again.
How can I open up my heart? How can I stop feeling that my life is meaningless? How can I stop feeling the urge to run? How can I stop daring myself to die? I realise this forum isn't a substitute for therapy, but I'm interested in your responses.