There are no exceptions, we all face periods of disquiet. When I was in my early twenties, I had no clue that anxiety would ultimately become something I generally had to face in life. I imagined real adulthood came with superior self-esteem and unshakable confidence. My conversations would be worldly and broad in scope.
Even though I was reasonably comfortable in my skin when I was in my twenties, I had my share of doubt about who I was, where I wanted to go, and the things I wanted for my life. Even if I thought I had it all figured out, at some point life would put me in my place.
The older we get, we tend to seek deeper meaning, even if we aren’t completely connected to it. Eventually, uncertainty will find us grappling with life’s bigger questions. My own life has demonstrated that in order for us to discover ourselves, we have to find our way through a maze of wilderness.
We will live through getting hurt by someone we believe would be our forever, to the friend that will inevitably betray us or the one that in time outgrows us. Life has a way of making us feel insecure, confused, and a suspicious nature kicks in. Consciously or unconsciously, we doubt whether we can find our way out of a labyrinth of darkness.
Particularly at the end of the third decade of my life, I sensed a great deal of ambiguity. I began to notice the lights and shadows; the capricious nature of living. This came from a number of angles. I hadn’t experienced my twenty-first birthday when I began to feel the first inkling of rough terrain, obstacles, and deep disappointment. I see this in hindsight. But so much wasn’t happening and everything else was.
I thought a lot about this when a friend asked me, “How does one reinvent themselves?” This friend is originally from Saint-Barthélemy, and we met while I was living in Connecticut. Because her first language is French I would attempt to speak French with her to enhance my fluency.
Just weeks before I moved from Connecticut to New York, she met someone. Her decisions were swift, and to some extent reckless. She was short of twenty-seven at the time. She’d only known the guy a few months. She moved to London because she was “very in love.” We kept up via e-mails that, after a while, grew infrequent. Recently, we started texting a few times a week. Her texts were often random in nature, and at odd hours. She sounded both depressed and hopeless.
Her marriage having fallen apart, she was back in the States with her daughter. Confused, she posed questions like, What do I need to do? Where do I start? I suggested that this was a good opportunity to reacquaint herself to American culture, but those words fell on deaf ears.
She had so many thoughts–most negative–bouncing around her head. “I’m drowning in chaos,” she’d said a few times. “I’m drowning . . .”
The word chaos struck me when I heard it. But later, as I reflected on my friend’s urgency to find a cure for her despair, it occurred to me that even in some of my insane and troubling times, I have managed to find some level of comfort in the midst of ongoing chaos. I also learned that the chaos is more in our minds and less in our lives. It’s a hard sell so I dare not expect anyone to buy that line when traumatic events are chasing us down.
Whatever our belief system, it’s a given that life will catch us off guard. What typically follows is the test. Many of our tests appear when we’ve met a dead-end or hit a brick wall. It’s important, when this occurs, to rethink life and the way we filter through stressful circumstances. Too self-involved, it’s unrealistic to assume we can assess what is really going on. So many of us react to it rather than to learn from what is happening. Perhaps where we’re trying to go requires a different way of seeing and believing.
It could be that we need to trust. Life challenges us to grow, to evolve. In order for that to happen we have to face stuff we don’t like. Inescapably, Life will place obstacles in our path so we have little choice but to focus elsewhere. I read many years ago that when God is trying to get your attention, he might start out using a feather. But if that proves inefficacious, ultimately He throws bricks.
It’s not a simple thing to ascertain–when Life demands that we go deeper. However, a spiritually mindful practice, or engaging in a purposeful path, can lead us there. I, myself have developed an instinct to get through this process. I can perceive certain roadblocks and hits and misses. I now have the tools to lead me out of manic distraction. For any life-engaging or ambitious person, the hardest thing to do is do nothing.
Yet, if we let go and allow the Universe to work its magic, the chaos–the noise–will gently recede.