Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dark Night of the Soul

A friend told me I was going through a dark night of the soul. That's her explanation for the way I've been feeling lately. Dissatisfied, alone, wishing I could pin down what's on my mind that's making me feel morose and disconnected and acutely aware of the fact that I don't matter. She told me it's one of the toughest things I'll ever go through. That's a scary thought.

Maybe I am experiencing a dark night of my soul, though, as I told her, I don't buy into the concept of a soul. But I think she sees something, knows something, that I don't know. She has connected more dots than I. She's someone who knows, deeply, about introverts, but who is someone I believe to be deeply extroverted. That's an unusual combination, though not a contradiction.

Perhaps my sister's death a few months ago contributed to whatever this is I'm experiencing. It's shocking to realize that a powerful piece of one's life can be irrevocably ripped from it with no explanation, no reason, and no recourse. One's "power" quickly comes into question and a realization sets in: one has no power of any consequence. The world is capable of instantly rendering powerless and irrelevant one's control over even the smallest aspect of one's life. "The world" is my only phrase for it. Circumstance or chance or coincidence are other words for this strange movement without motive in the universe.

There are days, still, when I think of something I want to tell her and it strikes me, almost instantly, that I can't.

I don't think that's entirely it, though. My friend says all of us, when we get to this age (which could be between 40 and 80, I suppose), experience it. She suggests I look around. I don't see it. But that's because I tend not to talk to people about anything other than the mundane. I don't know people with whom I'd want to share anything more personal. But I do long for those conversations. Conversations about the meaning of life, or the lack thereof, the motives we humans have for all we do or don't, the emotions that have such strong control that they overtake the physical body and direct it in ways the mind typically cannot. You know, teenage angst. Seriously! That's sort of what it feels like; teen angst. At 56, I'm too damn old for teen angst.

All my life I've felt compelled to hide my real emotions from most people because I'd be considered weak if I shared them. A precious few people have seen and heard my emotional meltdowns that can occur with no precipitating event. I learned early on, mostly from my school mates, I suspect, that raw emotions were not to be shared because they bespoke of weakness and ineptitude. People who are too emotional are looked on with disdain and pity. At this point in my life, I feel a growing compulsion to respond to such attitudes with ferocious accusations against a person's emotional capabilities and intellectual capacity. A person with even moderate intellectual capacity, I reason, should be able to understand and appreciate...and share...deep emotion that is triggered by shallow experience.

This is going nowhere, fast. I don't know where I want it to go, but here isn't it. The destination was missed and the route has been closed. Maybe this is just another symptom of a dark night of the soul.


bev said...

You know, a lot of what you're feeling sounds like grief. I've kind of become and expert at how it feels after almost two years of grieving. I read a lot of widowed people's blogs and just about everyone struggles continuously with feeling morose and disconnected. I'll add to that by saying that you feel like nothing you do really matters very much. You feel very alone, lonely, aimless, unable to focus on anything for very long. It wouldn't surprise me at all if you're still grieving over the death of your sister. That really wasn't very long ago -- two or three months ago, right? In the grieving game, that's nothing. For most of the widowed people's blogs that I read, two years is nothing. It takes at least three or four, sometimes more, before you even begin to feel the slightest bit normal and interested again. I don't think that's usually the same with other deaths, but it did take me about 4 years to get over my dad's death as we were such very close friends as well as father-daughter. I've come to the conclusion that I just love people too much, which is why I've pretty much made up my mind that loving people is a major liability for me as it always seems to end too tragically. Yeah, I know. This kind of talk tends to bum people out, but it's just reality. At 55 years old, anyone who is even a little bit of a realist will tell you that the odds aren't exactly wonderful. Like it or not, I've become something of an actuarian when I look around me at the people I know. Kind of scary and awful to think that way, but what can I do? I'm not in control of life and death. You're right.. it's the feeling of being powerless against death. Wonderful people get killed off for no reason, while jerks are still walking around scot-free. It sucks.
I think that worst part is that it's hard to shake off this way of thinking. There will always be a part of me that can never stop being sad. As I said, I read the same thing on so many widowed people's blogs that I know it's just part of the human condition once you start losing those who are close to you. Not sure what the "cure" is. I suspect there isn't one -- but that you just develop ways of dealing with how you feel. Anyhow, like I said, 2 or 3 months is nothing in the grieving game. That you're still having those feelings of wanting to tell your sister something - tells me that you're barely started. I still have those feelings about Don - want to show him something that I just finished working on, or something neat that I just saw in the garden -- then constantly have that little jolt of remembering that I will never be able to show him anything ever again. Believe me, it all sucks.
Oh, and there's nothing wrong with showing your emotions. It's just our North American society that's so screwed up that we look down on expressions of emotions as a sign of weakness. There are few other cultures that have this screwed up attitude. There's something to chew on for awhile.

Springer Kneeblood said...

I'm suspicious that I may just be mildly depressed and letting that get me down more than it should. For the moment, I'm back to "normal," if there is such a thing.

bev said...

Normal. Yes. Rather subjective, isn't it? Well, I hope it's just a mild transient type of depression. I used to be that way - often influenced by weather. Sunny = happy. Rainy and overcast = mildly depressed. What I frequently experience now makes all of that seem like "Depression Extra Light". (-:

Phil said...

You know, I've been reading you for a few years now, and I think this malaise extends beyond your sister's death, and really has to do with reconciling your work life with your personal passions. I'm not the person to suggest that you ditch your profession and go all hippie. It seems that you think (as I do) you still need a few years of cash flow to secure whatever you conceive of as retirement.

I think you need to seriously explore how you can be more comfortable in your professional skin. Maybe you need to fire a client or two that completely drives you nuts. But there's a reason you got into this game, probably a good reason, and you need to make some peace with it.

I feel a kinship with you. I'm seriously engaged in my work (but in my case, my clients have self-selected to those I mostly like). But I don't NEED, in the psychic sense, to keep doing it. If I felt safe, I could totally quit working in a nanosecond and not feel a moment's remorse.

The question is, where is that fulcrum moment?

Springer Kneeblood said...

Phil, I'm sure you've hit the nail squarely on the head. I think I have, too, but I've never quite allowed myself to say it, because...because...I don't know. Yes, there was a time I loved what I did and I felt like what I did mattered. Part of my quandry now is that I've saddled myself with clients that don't realize they need my advice, don't want it, or don't think my advice is worth taking. And part of my quandry is that I've grown more acutely aware of the fact that I've allowed myself to sacrifice my convictions and beliefs about justice and fairness and things that matter just to keep the clients. Rather than fire the clients and get clients that square with my personal and political and social philosophies, I've allowed myself to resent my clients for being utterly at odds with my beliefs; yet I've kept them.

That's only part of it, but it's a big part. And I think your comments may have started me thinking about what I need to do to clear out the rubbish, both in my head and in my office. I suspect it may take longer than I'd like, but I may be able to do it if I just kick my own butt and force myself to staff focused.

And I need, somehow, to leave work at work...not just the "doing" work, but the "thinking" work.

I really appreciate your comments...and yours, too, Bev. They give me something not only to think about, but to do something about.

I'm grateful to have friends I've never met who can so clearly articulate what I need to think about. Thank you.