Sunday, December 29, 2013

What Happened to the First Half of my Life?

For the past few years, I've been going through a sort of "dark night of the soul".  This post is my attempt to verbalize my thoughts and feelings.  Feel free to skip it if you like, as it may turn out to be more emo than goth.  Never having met any emo people (that I know of), I really can't tell.

I moved to the East Bay from San Francisco when I was 25 years old and had just gotten married.  Things have changed a lot in The City (and in my life) in the last 26 years, more than I could have believed possible.

The apartment building I lived in from the time I was four years old until I was 22 is still standing, but I heard that the inside was entirely renovated several years ago, and I wouldn't recognize it today.  It's also now priced higher than I could afford on my current salary.  I think my mom was paying less than $400 a month for it when she moved out.

The last time I drove through the neighborhood where I grew up, most of the businesses I remember were gone.  A few of the "big" stores and restaurants were still there, but it was basically a strange place to me.  If I hadn't recognized the street names, I'd have thought I was lost!

I was filling out a job application several months ago on which I was asked to list the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the employers I've ever had.  It's been so many years since I worked for most of them that I had to look them up, and I was shocked beyond belief to discover that every one of them has either gone out of business or been taken over by another company in a merger and now bears that other company's name.  Every.  Single.  One.

Since then, I've been informed by professionals that prospective employers don't want to know what you were doing more than 10-15 years ago, so those jobs have been removed from my resume.  Now it appears that my current employer is the only one I've ever worked for, which is totally depressing.

Now, combine all that with the fact that I started working for my current employer right after I left my ex and  moved into my current apartment, and then I met my current husband. New home, new job, new man, new life, all at the same time.  I'm starting to feel as though the whole first half of my life has disappeared.  Other than in my memory, there is little, if any, evidence that it ever existed.  Does that mean I'm disappearing as well??

In early October, quite possibly on my father's death anniversary, my father-in-law had a heart attack.  He sees his doctor regularly, gets tested yearly for any problems with his cholesterol, and no one had ANY idea that one of his arteries was in the process of becoming completely blocked.  Fortunately it was "mild" attack, meaning there was no damage to his heart.  They put in a couple of stints, and he stayed in the hospital while they figured out the right combination of medications.  A couple of days later, they went back in and put in a pacemaker while he was still in good condition, "just in case".

This was a wake-up call, not only to him, but to me.  And I realized that all this is connected, even if it seems a bit convoluted.  Our culture, and indeed, most cultures today, run on chronos (linear) time, which has a beginning, a middle and and end, and is broken up into specific, measurable amounts.  We have calendars, birthdays, deadlines, and all sorts of devices to remind us constantly of "what time it is".  And our hearts (or pacemakers) are ticking steadily away, marking the passing of our lives.

On the other hand, Nature runs on kairos (cyclical) time, which has no noticeable beginning or end because everything is one eternal round.  Spring turns into Summer, which merges into Fall, which eventually leads to Winter, which gradually becomes Spring again.  Seeds are planted, they grow into plants that flower, go to seed, then die; when winter is past, the new seeds grow into plants that flower, then...  You get the idea.

Now here's where it gets interesting -- as in the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".  What happens when you combine linear time with cyclical time? For me, the problem is when something like work, that should be on linear time, feels like it's on cyclical time.  Then the work becomes just one eternal round that goes on forever and will never end. This is what I've been feeling for the past five years. Combine that with the disappearance of my early life, and what do I get?  Well, it feels like the death and decay of all I ever was before this moment in time, with this current moment going on forever, and I do not like it.  Not one little bit.

So, now what?  My hope is that, when I finally find a new job to grow into, I will be able to grow in other ways as well. But I know it's not just the job situation, it's ME in general that needs to grow into something new.  That's probably what's happening, and hopefully I'll enjoy the results, but the process is extremely painful, more so than I've ever experienced before. 

So... have you ever had a "dark night of the soul"?   What kind of person did you become in the process?  What differences do you see in yourself now?  Are you happy with the changes?


  1. I really hope that you will get another job soon. We need changes from time to time. Those things that has dissapeared still exist in your memory.
    I get reminded now and then that I should go and visit a cardiologist as everyone in my family has heart issues. We grow old too

    1. Thank you, that is very true! I am going to think positively that this year I WILL find a job that I will be happy with, at least for now. :-)

  2. Oh, I'm definitely an over-thinker and have been known to lie awake at night worrying, but I guess we all have our own individual demons. My family moved around a fair bit when I was a child (my husband and I still do), so I don't have that sense of history, and the subsequent loss thereof, that you feel. I've never really felt I belonged anywhere in particular. My only true ties have been to people, not neighbourhoods or homes. My husband, who had a much more settled childhood, is far more nostalgic than I am, and will drive past his old house, to see the changes, if he happens to be in that part of town. I tend to be always looking forward, rather that back. I fret more about time running out... that I won't get to do all the things I want to do in this life...

    I think the trouble is that a lot of us end up "going through the motions" of life without stopping to ask ourselves if we're actually living the life we want to live, and then if it occurs to us that we're not entirely happy, we focus on the time we've wasted rather than making positive changes. I hope you emerge from your "dark night of the soul" soon and into a wonderful new chapter of your life! xo

    1. I do the over-thinking bit as well, more than I should, I'm sure!

      Thanks, I think you are right about people "going through the motions" in life! What you said here reminds me of an old Hagar the Horrible cartoon. Hagar the Viking is sitting on a log looking gloomy, and he says, "I'm not as young as I used to be..." He thinks for a minute, then gets this big happy/evil grin on his face, and says, "But I'm sure not as old as I'm gonna be!!"

      Fortunately, the "dark nights of the soul" are designed to make us stronger, as long as we let them take us where we need to go. I'm looking forward to 2014 as the year I get there! :-)

  3. "I'm not as young as I used to be..." He thinks for a minute, then gets this big happy/evil grin on his face, and says, "But I'm sure not as old as I'm gonna be!!"

    Hahaha. I LOVE that!

    1. Hehehe... :-) Hagar the Horrible is AWESOME! If you've never read his cartoons, you really should.

  4. At this point my whole life seems to be a Dark Night of the Soul. I suppose the biggest change for me is how I slowly moved from being a sociable person to a solitary one. All too often perhaps, especially during these dark days of winter,I sit and think about where my life has gone and how much it has changed. It seems that as I've gotten older, I've lost the enthusiasm that I once had. Things that were fun just aren't anymore. It's easy just to take refuge in music and books, because there doesn't seem to be much else to look forward to these days. Like Little Gothic Horrors, I think too much.

    1. You know, you really sound an awful lot like me. My desire (no, it's a need) for solitude has grown over the years as well. Fortunately, my husband understands this and gives me the space I need, for which I am extremely grateful. I'm sociable in fits and starts, and as you say, so many things just don't seem fun anymore. I like getting together with friends, but when I get home I'm exhausted by all the energy and need some serious down time. Although I probably have never mentioned it, I have often envied you your solitary sounding lifestyle, with just the cat and the cemeteries.

      Perhaps the gods gave us books and music for just this reason???

    2. I just stumbled upon a pertinent statement that pretty much concerns this discussion:
      “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” – Aldous Huxley

      Am I ever missing the mark!

    3. He's got a REALLY good point there. One thing we both should consider, though, is how different things are today from when we were children, and also how things were for us growing up. I had a pretty great childhood overall, but most of the things I loved to do then are no longer available to me, either because the places themselves are gone or too far away, or because they now cost so much that I can't afford to do them. So now I must find the same or similar enthusiasm for other things to replace them, and that can be difficult. But I know we can both find things to be enthusiastic about, because we already have in previous discussions. Maybe we both just need to sit down and put them down on paper to remind us.