This seems to be existential crisis week. I’m wrestling with my identity.
The trigger was the Fairfax Festival this past weekend, our delightful annual bacchanalia. Live music, good beer, interesting food, big crowds, crafts booths, kids getting their faces painted…you get the idea. Lots of folks with long hair wearing tie-dyed shirts, shorts, sandals. Totally fun.
I spent hours wandering around the fair, enjoying the sensory overload, while feeling like a stranger in my own town. The issue is that I’m single, a bachelor, living alone. I am so conditioned to marriage and partnership that I don’t really know who I am in this new role. My sense of identity, self-worth, purpose and even the meaning of my life has been tied to my partner for decades.
Last week I spoke of the tension I’m sitting with, and this is what is unfolding. It is a subtle and hard thing for me to face. I feel adrift, without a solid sense of purpose, wondering what my life means. I’m kind of shocked to find out how deep this partnership wiring runs in me. When I make dinner alone, I have to push myself to put some care and creativity into it, to honor myself as the recipient as fully as if I had a guest. When the living room gets a little cluttered, I take extra effort to put things away, valuing a neat, tidy environment for myself alone. I used to do all these things in service to my partner, with only some thought of myself. Now I’m learning how to be in service to myself, and it’s an odd sensation. There is an internal relationship that I’m building, a brick at a time, slowly and painfully and thoughtfully.
This piece of art by Janelle Schneider reminds me of the feeling. It’s a beautiful Jungian image, like an image of the self, in relationship to an ocean of Self.
Feeling like this, it’s difficult for me to be spacious with the woman I’ve been dating. I have random urges to text, email, give her a call, make plans, find ways to get together more. I catch myself a lot, and just take a deep breath and let the urge go.
Coincidentally (is there really such a thing?), one of my friends posted a lengthy article on anxiety yesterday. What great timing. Peeling another layer, I realize I feel anxious. I’ve never directly experienced anxiety as an emotion before, although I’m sure it’s been a part of my life all along. She quoted a beautiful teaching by A.H. Almaas about unusual anxiety, and I found it on the web:
When the defenses start actually breaking down, a person will experience increased anxiety, followed by the repressed impulses and feelings. So under normal circumstances, the presence of unusual anxiety indicates that some defenses are dissolving and that some piece of the unconscious is pushing towards consciousness.
Well. That feels accurate. I’ve been here before, received the fruits of sitting in almost unbearable feeling, and here we go again. Dammit, I wish self-exploration were easier. As usual, meditation helps a lot, even though I feel depressed and listless at times. This exploration feels very important to me, vital to whoever I’m becoming. I’m good with it. Even as I squirm inside.