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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

Title Cite
I'm struggling right now with things that I'm not even sure how to put into words. I'm not looking for answers from you because I know this is something that I have to come to terms with in my own life. However, writing it out helps a lot and the experience of sharing my deep fears and concerns about life with friends is cathartic.

How much to focus on the world and how much to focus on the end goal?

I believe that we are here in this life to discover our true nature and to become one with the universe. Yet I am in this body and my body and mind have desires. There is built-in biology and I don't know if I should be fighting it or giving it what it wants.

On the one hand I want to see beyond the limited view. Life is more than just having fun and watching movies. What am I really here to do? Can I be happy just living life the way normal people do, having a family and a career? How can I balance that "householders" life with the spiritual drive? All that stuff doesn't seem to matter when I think of my friend who died without being a mother, without experiencing most of the human lifespan. She had only 28 years here and that was fine. She came into the world and she left. People are dying all the time, dying young and in strange ways. Leaving when we thought they would sort themselves out eventually and then they don't.

When I leave, what will I want to have done? I want to have no regrets, to throw open all the doors and examine every dark, dusty corner of my being and to share it with others who could benefit from my excavation.

I'm trying to learn how to balance. There is a natural measure to all things. Can I keep grounded in my faith while also fulfilling the natural human drives? Sometimes I have an urge to be an ascetic, but I am so young and I want to do the whole life thing first. But haven't I already done that? How much does it matter to experience the pleasures of the world? I feel called to something deeper.

Sometimes I think I can see a life that works fine, a job, a husband, children, living within one sphere, quietly practicing my beliefs and trying to bring whatever joy I can to those I encounter around me. I am happy in that vision.

But there is another part of me. One that needs to do big things, to make big change, afraid of wasting my life on trivial things.

Sometimes I am a crusader and sometimes I'm just a girl. I want the normal life, but I also want art. Sometimes I feel myself falling into a black hole of introspection and I am overcome with the desire to create and to explain and to build a poem, a song, an epic explaining the experience of life. All my life "desire" has been a dirty word. Desires should not control us, we should be the masters of our desires (the wild horses of the senses).

I have come to realize this is part of the experience of being an artist (and probably part of the experience of being human). There are things caught in me that force their way out. My mom asked me once why I can't just live my life, why I have to record it? Why I have to share it? Write about it? "Would you rather live life or write about it?" I picked writing about it. It has a much farther influence than my one small life that is like so many millions of others.

A big fear is that I might get that life that I envision, with the balance, and something happens to throw me into another mode and I become dissatisfied with what I have.

Why do I always feel like I have to choose? People have called me complicated and intense. I have a few different personalities, contradictory drives. Most of my life I have tried to suppress that and be one thing or another, not everything. But it doesn't work, the other sides break through and throw my life out of balance. My therapist thinks I need to express all my sides and not judge them and not pick one over the others. But how will I have a partner in life if I can never be pinned down?

I know, it's pathetic, it always comes back to me having a boyfriend. What can I say? I'm a girl. I know everyone would tell me to choose a future partner based on common interests and how we want to raise children and not based on hotness. But I'm in a hormonal mess, a woman with a biological clock and a strong libido. I don't want to ignore that need. I'm not ready to.

Should I wait it out, stay strong and single until the hormones subside years from now and do spiritual work? Am I a danger to the men who might get close to me? Am I a danger to the men who fall for me? Do I unintentionally manipulate their feelings?

I just don't know whether to give in to biology and the desires of my body, which is a temple of God, or to redirect my energies (if that's even possible). There are sides of me that you have not seen or experienced here and I don't want to explain it, but I do feel a tearing of my life. Half of me pulling one way and half the other way.

I follow my instincts and do what seems right in the moment, but I'm consumed by the knowledge that my instincts change day by day and what feels right one day is not what I want the next, and then it goes back. How can I ride through that? How can I find an overriding peace?

A couple nights ago I wrote this poem (and how I long to not suck at poetry!)

Despair is planted in the belly.
It sits low and squat in the stomach,
dark and green and sharp.
Its roots wrap the organs,
its vines wrap the heart and squeeze.
It presses up against every cavity
so entwined it cannot be extracted.
Pointy leaves that all the air passes through.
Sickly blooms behind the eyes,
letting in no light.
Trapped by the growth within,
shrinking from the world.
Calling us in, deeper and deeper.

I know this is just part of the process. There is struggle, there are questions, there are dark nights of the soul. The questions are good. It is right that we question and struggle, I think that's the only way to interact with life and make it worthwhile.

But right now I am in darkness. God is there in the edge of my mind, as He always has been, yet He is quiet right now.

Why can't I just laugh? Why do I take life so damn seriously? Isn't 42 all I have to know? At least I'm not the only one consumed by these questions.

I think my poor dog is feeling my anguish. She's been acting very mopey the last couple of weeks.


  1. I hear you and I have similar struggles around balancing everyday life, with spiritual calling, and a desire to improve the world. If you ever want to talk, give me a call.

  2. I suffer from a similar depression but more frequent. Every few minutes, I feel that this life is wonderful and I would accomplish something great. The next minute I get depressed about how vapid life is. There have been occasions in my life when I have felt for a time as if a thick curtain had fallen on all its interest and romance, to shut me out from anything save dull endurance any more. Never has that curtain dropped so heavy and blank, as when my way in life lay stretched out straight before me. At least you are lucky in a way, in the sense that you live with your family and people who understand you. Me, living in a far off land where people are more materialistic and there is a lack of compassion with no one to share my questions and views on the denouement of life.

    Kabir says since we have learnt so many things in an incomplete manner, it is easy to get confused. Guess that is what's happening.
    पढा सुना सीखा सभी, मिटी ना संशय शूल
    कहे कबीर कासो कहु, ये सब दुःख का मूल ||
    Getting overwhelmed by this world.... It is a pain...
    कबीरा ये संसार है, जैसा सेमल फूल
    दिन दस के व्यवहार में झूंठे रंग ना भूल ||

    You said that you are in a quandary about choosing your path... Frost's poem comes to my mind

    "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that, the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference."

  3. That is exactly it, Raghavan, the bouncing between joy and despair like a pin ball.

    There are things that my family doesn't understand about me and it hurts deeply to know that they are never going to understand.

    My only answer is to write about it, to write whatever mood comes over me, as the act of writing pulls the feelings out of myself.