Missing the grey

Fernie, BC

I have been feeling off lately, though it has taken me a while to register this because on a small scale it just looked like a bad mood – unsettled, quick to anger, sad. I kept blaming it on sleep deprivation, then PMS, then on having a cold. But I have run out of excuses while the cloud remains. After a while, it’s not a bad mood anymore – it’s a bad state of mind.

I have always disliked clutter, but lately controlling it has become an obsession. Suddenly all the quirks and annoyances of our small space feel unbearable even though we’ve already lived with them relatively contentedly for two years. The pile of crap that unfailingly grows in the downstairs entryway no matter how many times we tackle it now feels more meaningful than just some temporary clutter waiting to find a home; it feels like a judgement on the management of our lives. For the past few weeks I have been in a rampage of clearing out old things and re-arranging the remaining things into order but it never seems enough. It never gives me the satisfaction I’m hoping to find.

John and I work as a couple because he is the relaxed to my temperamental, the laid-back to my anxiety. So I try to be patient when he procrastinates on the housework and when it feels like I will always have to be the one to take the initiative to see things done. But lately it too feels so much bigger, like I am supposed to be the sole architect of our lives. This is not a role John ever assigned me, nor is it the reality, but it is a heady responsibility to carry even in my imagination. So when the laundry gets left in the washer once again, I rant and I rage in retaliation.

I have always tended to be a bit sensitive when it comes to perceived slights by others (of course always keeping it to myself like a good stoic Finn should), but lately I feel like I’m not able to handle these feelings rationally like I usually would. If someone cancels plans or doesn’t reply to an email, instead of just letting it roll off my back I feel the need to put up an emotional fence. Show them I don’t care, it’s fine, I’m too busy to answer you too. But my attempts at emotional distance are just leaving me feeling sad and dejected.

I have had a couple of bouts of mild depression in my life. Fortunately they have been relatively short, self-limiting and not debilitating, but enough for me to catch a glimpse of that world. That’s not where I am now, at least I don’t think so. I’m not sure where I am, but in this world it’s not that everything is grey and bleak – it’s that everything is so black and white. Right or wrong. Good or bad. I’m missing the shades of grey where most of real life resides.

Any armchair psychiatrist might be quick to point to the fact that I am turning 30 in ten days, but I really do think I am all right with this milestone. I suspect this has less to do with changes and more to do with how stagnant my life feels at the moment. I’m not striving for any new goal, nor do I really have the ambition to, but the guilt of feeling like I should still follows me. I feel like I am wasting my time because I’m not striving for a promotion at work, because I don’t have a hobby I’m passionate about, because I have no idea what the next step in my career is, because I like to stay home and cozy up on the couch after dinner instead of keeping busy, because my idea of a perfect weekend night is sharing a meal and a bottle of wine with my husband instead of going out to experience something new together.

All things I could work on fixing if only I could distinguish between what I actually want and what I think I should want, between laziness and contentedness.

I’ve written before about how stagnation tends to mess with my head. Well consider my head messed with.


Posted on October 24, 2011, in Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. first of all that is a gorgeous photo.

    I’m sorry you are feeling this way! I was kind of feeling like that recently, too quick to anger, overly sensitive. I figured out that it really was just PMS this time for me, but sometimes it stays longer than that. I get really antsy when I feel like I don’t know what I’m going to do next too. Sounds like it might just take a little ruminating on your part to figure out that balance of laziness/contentedness.. I was going to say maybe you could take a class or something on the side, but it sounds like you really like being home, and I think if you really are content you don’t need to force yourself to do more things just because it seems like you should.

    I’m rambling! sorry! Hope you find your way out of the stagnant feeling soon.

    • Yeah when I’ve tried to take a class or something like that in the past, it just feels a bit forced, though maybe everyone feels that way until they find something they really enjoy. I think I just need to make small tweaks here and there, and try a little harder to connect with people.

  2. I can’t remember if I’ve asked you before – do you read The Happiness Project? If not, go check out that blog. I turn to it often when I’m feeling what you describe here (and I feel that way a lot, if that helps any).

    Particularly her personal commandment to “Be Gretchen,” and her secret of adulthood, “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you LIKE to do.”

    • I have been reading it – I think actually as a result of reading the Quiet blog, which you introduced me to. So thanks! I think my de-cluttering attempts might be somewhat motivated by her actually, in a good way, but it’s obviously not a cure-all. I think I do really have to internalize the rest of her messages a little better.

      And yes, it does help to hear that others feel this way at times too.

  3. Ah, truly sometimes I think you could be writing about my life! I can relate to the discontent – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, it’s the stagnant feeling. And for me I think it has alot to do with the type of world we live in now, where everything happens in an instant on the internet, and people are always going, moving, buying, consuming…it’s hard not to feel like something is wrong in your own life when you aren’t doing that too (like you say, feeling like it’s what we should be doing!). I think the uncluttering (something I’m doing at the moment too, loving Minimalism blogs) helps, it’s like a metaphor for freeing my head from all the crap – hopefully by paring it all back, what I’m looking for will appear, rather than being clouded by all the clutter in my thoughts and house!

    • Yes, exactly about the decluttering! It does feel like a way to clear your head as much as your physical space. But I struggle between wanting to throw out All the Things and being practical/not wasteful, which sometimes takes away from the cathartic feeling of it for me. Still, it’s mostly fantastic.

      • yeah I know what you mean, it’s hard to get rid of perfectly usable stuff. And then you get frustrated because of the clutter it creates…sigh!

  4. I’ve been stalking your blog for a little while but I just wanted to say hello, and that I understand every bit of the feeling you are describing. Thanks for writing it.

    • Thanks so much for commenting – when you’re feeling something you can’t quite understand, sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone.

  5. Oh Nina, maybe you are in transition? I read somewhere that the in betweens are painful, you know, kind of like children in pain while they are growing or when their teeth are coming out. I hope you will feel better soon, figure it out. Take some time for yourself, make a list of dreams, no matter how crazy they sound, and also, realize that happiness is a choice. You know, sometimes there are bad days and I just have to force myself to see the happiness around, to count the blessings . I know this is not exactly it, but just dont lose faith. Keep looking.
    I am also crazy anxious and I have found that baking calms me down. The slow preparing, and waiting, and enjoying the process.That and reading.

  6. Hmmm, Amanda’s comment is super interesting to me. I have found that the times of transition often feel extremely stagnant. Like stuff is going on underneath, and I have no idea until later…. But I get what you are saying. I also find myself feeling very content without a lot of “striving” going on. Which is very different from my generally pace in life in the past (always busy!), so I am not sure what to make of the shift in pace of life. Maybe for me, part of it is the first couple years of marriage and part is moving countries and getting settled?

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