Crisis of Confidence

Typical Cancer-- hermiting myself away

I have been suffering through my Annual Existential Crisis for the past week or so.

At times, I feel completely consumed by feelings of confusion, panic, and helplessness. Who am I? Why am I here [i.e. on earth in general, not at the awesome lakeside cabin in particular, which I love]? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Why don’t I have more direction and drive? On those brooding, sulking, heavy days, I read through other people’s blogs and make the mistake of clicking “notify me of follow-up comments” when I respond to their posts. Then I feel washed in despair, bitterness, and that most ugly of emotions– jealousy– when my inbox is flooded with comments for other people’s posts, other people’s writing, other people’s experiences.  Other people have everything figured out, I whine to my bruised, tender spirit as I pillage through the contents of my inbox indiscriminately. Savagely. DELETE, DELETE, I DON’T CARE, DELETE!!!! Everyone else has tapped into life’s most abundant of arteries and are basking in the warmth of that rich, warm flow. [Insert sad and/or pitiful emoticon here.]

The next day (or sometimes even within an hour), I sneer at myself for being so shallow. Silly girl, I seethe to my paper-thin heart– the soul that feels like it has been burnt to ash and might blow clear away from me in the most gentle of breezes– Life does not boil down to stats, subscribers, or blogging at all. Get over yourself and focus on what truly matters.

Which is?, I wonder. What truly matters? What matters most to me?

Unfortunately, because I am mired in my Annual Existential Crisis, this brings me right back to questions of Who am I? and Why am I here? Back come those brooding, sulking, heavy days– days when even the most meaningless of circumstances render me utterly crestfallen. It’s a vicious, unfriendly, and exhausting cycle, but it seems to happen, well, annually now.

I believe it boils down to our crazy summers and the highly unstructured winters that follow. From April until October every year, I have a clear sense of what needs to get done and I am confident, positive, that I can do all of those things well. I am organized. I am great with people. I am approachable, genuine, and passionate about the art business that I share with my dearest partner. I am buoyed by the receptiveness of other people to our work and feel elated with the knowledge that what I do matters. People are taken care of– thrilled with their purchases. I am nurturing them, if only indirectly. Life is busy, hectic, sleepless, and often stressful, but I love what I do. Everything is great!

Then the winter months come along, those same months that I crave and yearn for from approximately April to October every year. Heh. In the summer, I say “I can’t wait to unwind!” or “We’re looking forward to some down time!” but when I finally get there, I crack into a hundred thousand little pieces and watch helplessly from beyond myself, a scattered pile of dust. In those months, the quiet months, I struggle to rebuild myself from the summer’s leftover shards of us, we, and ours. Who am I?, I demand to know. What is my purpose in life? Sometimes I even catch myself wondering what my junior high guidance counselors would think of my career path now– as though I even cared what they suggested to me when I was twelve. (For the record: I did not. I’d make a good truck driver, you say? SCREW YOU!!) Everything is external.

During the winter months– those slippery, ambiguous, crumbly months– I find myself turning outside of myself more often than usual. I search diligently for any confirmation, however slight, that who I am and what I do still matters. Am I a writer? Do people even like my writing? Like an oft-beaten puppy who needs love but is afraid to go looking for it, I crave Marty’s approval and the validation of other people. I know in my head that this is not right. I have no problems spouting off self-help proverbs to remind myself that real acceptance comes from within. But. As sweet as these little cliched nuggets are– Trust in the Universe! Believe in yourself!— they do not foster or sustain that prized, blessed calm in the heart, much like a diet of candy cannot promote impeccable digestive health. There must be something else.

Sorry, Yogi Tea bag. I love your pithy wisdom but I need something more.

For now, I’m just letting myself be. I’m having long, soulful conversations with Marty and lying protected in his embrace, breathing in his reassuring scent of acceptance, love, and safety. I’m chanting and meditating on a daily basis. In an effort to take and accept myself on my own terms and on those terms alone, I’ve hidden my modest blog stats into a dark corner and feel content to leave those stupid things there– totally untouched and unmonitored for however long it takes to not care about them anymore. Then I’m laughing at myself for having the audacity to put such a high value on the virtual equivalent of a popularity contest in the first place. Honestly. Who should even care about hits, comments, subscribers, pingbacks, etc.? The aliens would find that mighty ludicrous, I’m sure. (When I first started blogging– way back in 2006!– I only wanted to be able to keep in touch with my friends from Calgary online. It didn’t matter to me if any of them actually commented or even read my posts. Also, I didn’t even understand the whole concept of “subscribing” until this past March. Yes, March 2011. Oh, youth!)


These beautiful runes were handmade and given to us as a wedding present

My runes and tarot cards from the Winter Solstice reading basically suggested that I try living life for the process of it instead of the outcome. Of course, my surprisingly linear, forward-facing mind reels at the thought of not having a solid Five Year Plan in place, but seeing as my Plan lately has consisted only of ?????s and ums, it’s probably for the best. 😉 Sure. I can try doing things just because and not worry about how everything will turn out. At least I’ll try. That sounds good.

The one advantage of having an Existential Crisis every year is that I know it will pass. It always does. I will stumble around in the darkness of my psyche for a week or two– confused, timid, insecure, and shy as can be– but I will emerge again, confident and kicking ass (or humble and zen-like– or all of those things!) when the time is right. I know in my heart that I’m where I am “supposed” to be in life right now, but it seems I just need to go through the process of re-affirming that belief for myself… again and again and again. I can do it.

Thanks for listening and for being here. xoxo

32 responses

  1. I’m sorry you’re having a rough week, Dana. I’ve been there. I know how it feels.

    Do you think there’s any chance you could have a touch of seasonal affective disorder? You may be suffering from something as simple as a lack of light, in which case a light box would make a huge difference.

    Hang in there, my friend.


    • It could be a bit of SAD, but I think that the Winter Solstice time usually involves me retreating into my soul, getting lost for a little bit, and then coming back out a little stronger. Thanks for the kind words, Kathy. Seeing your name in my inbox always makes me smile. ((hugs))

  2. Dana, I won’t even try to give you one of those rah-rah-rah…hang in there…things will get better…speechs….. Because I know what your going through. We all have different terms for these crisis when they pop up and I guess we all work through them in different ways. It seems you are doing what you need to do in order to see yourself through this, but just remember, all of us completely understand and we are here for you. I’m hoping things brighten up quickly for you and that you and Marty have a very happy and fulfilling 2012. Smile, take care of yourself, and if you do happen to figure out this mystery of Life stuff…..please let me know…. I still have no clue on what I am doing…. I am stumbling through life like an idiot with a pot covering his head….. I would try meditation, but sitting cross-legged on the floor is a no-go for me, and I don’t want to look like a total goof……. Take Care Dana 🙂

    • Mark, this is a really touching comment and means so much to me– THANK YOU. I am working on solving that Mystery of Life riddle and will definitely keep you posted if I figure out the answer. In the meantime, the only thing I know for sure is that nothing is permanent– even situations that seem lifelong will change if we only see them differently. 🙂

    • Your recent post was a really helpful reminder to me that there’s *so* much more in this life that really matters. It feels so silly to bemoan things that really have no significance in the big picture. Existential crisis– really?? But I’m alive and healthy, in a loving relationship, living on an idyllic lakeside while getting to take approximately 5 months off of work. Yeah. “I’m so hard done by”…. Sheesh!

      I guess I also need to learn not to give myself such a hard time. This too shall pass.

  3. Gosh, Dana. Sorry to hear that you are in one of ‘those’ states–painful. For the record, I am almost two decades older than you, and still go through it–and like you, it typically coincides with entry into an unstructured time, following a time of intense focus. Just know that your experience and knowledge of what it feels to be confident, strong, purposeful, etc. is informed by familiarity with the opposite–the two states define one another. Without familiarity with where you are now, the positive, enthusiastic sensibility of you summers would be rendered ‘neutral’. Not that it makes ‘these’ times any easier. I suppose the beauty of ‘these’ times (typically only appreciated in hindsight) is that they offer the opportunity to get to know oneself in new ways, each time, which always contributes to growth, and expands ones capacity to more fully appreciate the times that follow. Ebb and flow, ebb and flow–if there wasn’t ebb and flow we’d be numb. Right now, you know you’re not that, at least 😉 Take care ~

    • So true, K– thank you very much for this perspective. Not sure how much clout you ascribe to horoscopes or zodiac-type things, but I’m a Cancer and tend to oscillate between one extreme and another. (Plus, I’m also born on the cusp of Gemini, so my emotions and my intellect are constantly vying for supremacy! Makes for excellent times.) My life is now mirroring the stereotypical cycle of the prototype “Cancer”. I’ll just have to ride that coaster and have as much fun on it as possible. 😉

      I don’t usually doubt myself during those intense summer months, but I’m beginning to see that I should be thankful for these loose, unstructured winter months, too. After all, I can only strengthen my resolve and my belief in myself if I can emerge anew from these periods of confusion. I really appreciate your comment– thank you.

      • Astro? I’m all over it. I believe it’s far more powerful than many people realize. Although this link is not specific to your chart as a whole, it’s a pretty comprehensive look at what’s in store for Cancer for January. Some of the themes in your post are central:

        Also, be kind to yourself, and give yourself a break! Remember, you just cleaned someone else’s grotty kitchen. It takes time to get over that 😉

        • I totally love horoscopes, and my infini-heart for all things zodiac has just been pumped up even more by that link– thank you!! I’ll have to read the article again (and again!) as I go through my daily meditations. It raises some really profound issues and also validates a lot of those messy feelings I’ve been dealing with lately. Perfect!

  4. Oh Dana, oh Dana! Having been there 6,001 times in this lifetime–even for moments today–I think I can relate. I love your honesty here. I love that you expressed what most of us/some of us/ a few of us feel from time to time. And your writing is so superb it boils over with taste and vigor and beauty. (How’s that for a metaphor which needs editing?) I want to have tea with you–or a glass of wine–and bemoan our fragile human state. Bemoan our potential. I’ll bemoan the fact that I’m 54 years old and haven’t figured it out yet. I’m going to figure it out THIS YEAR, for sure, though. **laughing** How long must we continue to give parts of ourselves away to outward approval, to measurements like blog hits and stats and comments? When we reach the point of asking “Who am I really?” then I am convinced we’re actually getting somewhere on an existential plane. Love you, love your writing, think you’re awesome! (And some day you are gonna believe that with your whole heart and soul.)

    • Oh, Kathy! Can I nominate this to the Comment Hall of Fame? Your words have made me feel a whole lot better today. It’s helpful to know that I’m not the only person to ever waiver in my self-confidence and self-assuredness. Let’s share a virtual cup of tea (too early for wine) and move forward together. ((hugs))

  5. I love your writing, something your stats won’t show (especially since I don’t always comment when I read because I’m not always sure I have anything to add to the general conversation). I love how you look at yourself with such honesty, and with a wonderful sense of humor. In short, your blog is one of my favorite places to visit and I often save it for when I have time to really read and pay attention.

    There’s something about the Winter Solstice… isn’t there? … that brings up this kind of thinking. Some years are better than others for me. This happens to be a better one (in spite of the attack of the shingles), as I feel on the verge of something. But give me a few days or a week or the incredibly long month of February, and I’ll be back to wondering what on earth I’m doing here. Who am I? What is my purpose in life?

    I never did figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I figure that will make a good epitaph for my tombstone (except I won’t have a tombstone so I don’t know where it will go).

    • Robin,

      Thank you so much for this comment and for your kind words! I know that all of the blog indicators are no real measure of anything… I often read posts without commenting on them, even if they touch me deeply. Funny how our egos (and even our ids) latch onto something so insignificant (like # of comments) and plead for MORE, MORE, and EVEN MORE! I’ve talked to successful bloggers who wish for the opposite– a return to a time when there weren’t so many things to respond to… a more intimate conversation thread between a smaller group of friends. It’s time to stay in the moment and be thankful for what I have! 🙂

      I haven’t been as mopey today as I was for the past week or so. Getting this post out of my heart was a profound way of “letting go” to the emotions that were gripping me. Once I got the words out, they no longer seemed to clang around inside my soul in a sickeningly repetitive loop. Thank goodness!

      Thanks again for everything– it means so much.

  6. Dana, I’m glad writing about this helped to get some of it out of your head. And I agree with Robin … the wintertime is a time for snuggling in and doing some of that introspective thinking. I think it’s a natural part of winter that too many of us are too busy to notice … not necessarily a good thing. 😉

    I am another who loves the tone of your writing and yours is one of my favorite blogs to visit. I’ll be doing a post soon (tried to get to it today and didn’t make it) on cutting back on time in certain areas, but not my favorite blogs! But don’t beat yourself up over needing validation in some form. We all need validation sometimes. Honey, I’m almost 50 and still feel like a naive 20 something at work at times. Validation helps to get it in my head that I am of some worth to someone, even if that someone is just me.

    You’re doing great dear, just keep on keepin on! *hugs*

    • Thanks so much, dragonfae! It’s easy to get caught up in a “go-go-go” mentality I find, so when my spirit folds inward and doesn’t feel like going ANYWHERE, it can feel pretty frustrating. That said, it’s important to me to at least TRY to keep my body in sync with nature’s rhythms, so if that means working through an Annual Existential Crisis in the winter months and begging other people to throw me a bone of approval and encouragement, so be it.

      I appreciate your compliments and support more than I can say. Your words are exactly what I need right now– thanks! 🙂

  7. It may actually be a poor reflection of my overall state to tell you just how comforting this post was. I have had unhealthy thoughts about being a less worthy you (a little less creepy, literal, and confessional than it sounds) in the past. Knowing you have these moments too really helps. Also I had no idea that others experience the angst during a comedown phase. In my stupidity, I actually thought that only I get this way with increased time for reflection and self-doubt. I too think it’s productive, that it’s a necessary product of introspection. I’m working on a new approach spending less time “not thinking about it” or trying harder to be happy and more time accepting and hoping I can ride it out.

    Blogs are tricky. Their affirming moments (not just numbers, etc, but valued comments like those you’ve received here) are so powerful and valuable that it’s hard not to take a mood hit when there’s no affirmation at all.

    • Awesome comment, Rose. I’ve been giggling over your non-creepy/literal/confessional admission… I feel like less worthy versions of people, including you, on a regular basis, so I’m glad this post helped you. 🙂

      I wonder if there’s any writer/blogger out there who *really* and *truly* doesn’t care about comments. If so, I’d like to meet them and ask them about the Meaning of Life. These magical beings might also know where the Fountain of Youth and The Holy Grail are hidden. Let’s find them!

  8. I think Existential Crisis is Canadian for what we Southerners call “The Yuck Funk”. I’ve been there ( normally tempted to punch the screen when I see a blogger with one million bajillion followers) and you are so right. The only good in it is that it is temporary, a phase, the cheesy “dark before dawn” saying my mom throws about. Hang in there, get mad or sad, and pretty soon you’ll be back to glad 🙂

    • You’re too sweet, Tori! We just hosted some long-lost friends last night, so I feel like I’ve turned that mad/sad corner and am back to glad again. 🙂

    • Thanks, Emily– I feel like (or maybe just hope that?) my mini-crisis is over. Now I just need to find enough time to put a new post up before people get too concerned. 😉

  9. “Life does not boil down to stats, subscribers, or blogging at all.”

    You lost me right there! I thought that blogging was the purpose of life. Gonna have to delete this post. 🙂

    Good stuff, Dana. Got you on “Follow” now.

    • Thanks for the follow, mj! I’m scrambling to find some time to put a new post up and get this crisis off the front page. Hopefully all evidence of my meltdown and frustration with stupid stats will be wiped clean by Monday. 🙂 I appreciate your comment– thanks.

  10. I don’t know how you bloggers do it, being able to constantly check up on your “popularity” seems really tough to deal with… But of course I appreciate what you do very much!
    I can seriously relate to this one… oh and those Yogi tea bags? I kind of started hating them! The generic and vague pearls of wisdom are sometimes far from being inspiring when I’m not in the mood…

    • I don’t normally care about my stats, but it’s like anything else that’s popularity-driven: if I happen to check them when I’m otherwise feeling fragile, they can be pretty soul crushing. 🙂 Thankfully, most days I carry on without paying them much (or any) thought.

      I hear you on the tea bags, too. Yogi Tea was so awesome for the first little while, but when you keep getting the same bits of “wisdom” over and over again, the novelty wears off FAST. Still love the tea, but the fortune cookie bits? Not so much anymore.

  11. I think anyone would almost go into “shock” after having such crazy schedules for so long, then going into a period of time off. I like the idea of living life for the process, there is no fast rule that states we all have to have five year plans. I don’t! I’ll be the first to admit that! Don’t beat yourself up, we are all trying to find our ways in life!

    • Thanks, Jabba. I think the last time I actually had a Five Year plan was when I was in the first year of my MA program. (It was simple then, because it was basically “Stay in school forever and ever.”) Once I decided that I didn’t actually want to pursue a Ph.D., I fell off the goal-setting wagon pretty hard. My worldview was totally shattered and I don’t think I’ve actually managed to piece it back together enough to create a new Five Year Plan. Meh. Who needs goals, anyway? 😉

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