Existential Angst

For years, I have been trying to narrow down what it is that makes me feel so miserable.
A psychiatrist who listened to me describe it
told me that it was called an existential crisis
and that there was no treatment for that.
Having lived with it for over 30 years
I wouldn’t call it a crisis anymore.
I would perhaps call it ” Chronic Existential Anxiety”

If I had to sum it up in as few words as I can , it would sound something like this.

I need a symbiotic relationship with my mentors

I really don’t intend to dismiss any of my family and friends when I say this.
I feel grateful to have them in my life.
But this is different
It is on the same level as religion.

Religious people, no matter how blessed they feel
about having family and friends that they love and who love them back,
do need to feel a sense of purpose , a sense of connection of a different sort.
They might find it in church or when they pray privately.
They might find it through some other kind of spiritual activity
but they need it.
Not everybody does of course —
(My husband certainly doesn’t)
but for those who do, it’s impossible to ignore.

Since I am not a religious or a spiritual person
(nor do I plan or want to be)
I have to find this somewhere else.

But in my case, there needs to be symbiology
rather than an hierarchical type of relationship .
I would like to be both leader and follower.
I want some sort of relationship with my mentors
that also validate my own assets and importance

Unknowingly at the time,
this is likely what prompted me to pursue a higher education.
It’s often misread as a form of intellectual snobbishness
but it’s not so.
I enjoy being inspired as much as I enjoy inspiring.
I enjoy learning as much as I enjoy teaching.
But I cannot find those kinds of relationships in my present environment
because the people who surround me do not have that type of curiosity, let alone expetise.
And that causes me to feel disconnected and alone
no matter how many people surround me.
Because it’s a different kind of disconnected and alone.

Of course I enjoy sharing intimate time with my family
and I feel so lucky when I have the privilege
of spending some time with a friend.
I value those moments very much.
But I have this gaping hole
that can not be filled , it seems, by anything else.

Going back to that short phrase

I need a symbiotic relationship with my mentors

Again, It’s strikes me (and perhaps you as odd) as odd
given that most people seek symbiotic relationships within their families and among their friends
but I cannot more find a way to fulfill this particular need among family and friends
than a person can replace a religious icon leader/adviser with a family member or friend.

My awe inspiring leaders come in many forms but for the most part
I have never met them and will never meet them
because I simply don’t live in those intellectual / artistic circles.

Reading Dr. Richard Dawkin’s auto bibliography yesterday
I was floored by the long list of people he rubs elbows with
not only scientists, but philosophers , writers and other intellectuals and artists.

I remember also descriptions of Christopher Hitchen’s dinners
which included some of the most fascinating people on this planet

I would be blissful just to work with them
let alone dine with them

I need these people in my life
not just in the form of print in my book
or pixels on my screen.
I need a true connection with them.

I know. I know.
It’s ludicrous.
Who am I to think that any of these people
could ever have any interest in me or use for me.
I am an ant and they are geants.
But my plan was to become one of them
in order to earn my place among them.

Few people get to live the life they planned on.
Most people don’t even come close.
We are all told that we need a Plan B and perhaps a C
I am on D and E
and even those are not panning out.
Meanwhile, I have a hole in my “soul” the size of Pluto
and nothing seems to fill it up.

Moreover
As I age, and become less appetizing physically
I feel like I couldn’t even interest them on THAT level.
We all seek people that we have physical chemistry with
as well as psychological or intellectual.
And as I age, I feel like even my most rudimentary assets
in my quest to interest people in me are taken away from me.
Not that I would want those relationship I seek to be based on physical attraction
but I sometimes hope that a physical attraction could bring people closer
so that I an then interest them in other aspects of me.

I remember in my younger years
when I read voraciously
that every minute I spent reading
any new concept I absorbed
was an investment in my professional future.
And that made it so exciting.

Later on
when I had the kids and it no longer seemed likely
that I would have a career
I would read to entertain myself.
I knew that I would probably never make use of what I was learning professionally
but I hoped it would at least make me an interesting conversationalist.
(assuming that people interested in those sorts of conversations would present themselves).
I would never me an expert at any of the topics a studies
but I could ask interesting questions and hold my on on some level.

Now when I read , it’s about escape.
A good book will let me forget my real life for 15 to 25 hours.
But when I put the book down,
It’s like an emotional hangover.
I ache to live in that book , among these authors.
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris,
Micheal Shermer, Peter Singer, Bryan Fry
and so many others
who are my mentors, my leaders, — so close , so close
and yet so far.

Parenting

The very same conditions that can be credited for proper intellectual and emotional growth can also be credited for mischief and truancy.

A child that has no time to get into trouble also doesn’t have much time for self reflection. So it is always a risk we are taking when we create conditions in which children have a lot of time to themselves. Some use it well but many don’t. The temptations are enormous because young children are by nature greedy and self-centered. They haven’t develop a deep consciousness of others or empathy yet, and therefore do not worry about the consequence of their actions on others.

A child who never has a moment to himself because he is put to intensive work or study at a young age may be less likely to get into trouble but he is also less likely to form a healthy sense of self and a profound understanding of his world and its mechanics. He is also less likely to develop empathy which is necessary for deep connections with others.

The key is achieving the right balance and perhaps adapting that balance to the individual child. Some children appear to need more “framing’ and direction. Others are fiercely independent at a young age and need more space to grow.

Even as infants, children already have a personality or at the very least , a temperament. You dangle a new object in front of a baby who is just a few months old or present him with a new face. Some will smile and reach for it. Some will get agitated and even start to cry.

I have a pretty good understanding of human development….on an intellectual level, but applying this knowledge to my own children is a whole other ball game.

Neophyte / Sycophant

I learned 2 new words a few months ago.
There is this e-friend site which caters to scientists
I tried to get on it until I realized it was strictly a dating website
but before I moved on, something caught my attention
It was a letter written to the moderator to complain
that the website was attracting undesirables
namely neophytes and sycophants
I had to look both words up
and realized that this letter might have been written
to get rid of people like me.

I am definitely a neophyte because I am a science undergrad and not a scientist. An amatueur and not a professional
( I am an amateur at just about everything I care about actually)
But I felt that a bachelor’s degree in social science might be acceptable for the purposes of this group..
Some people actually go on to scientific careers after completing a bachelor’s degree after all.
Granted, at my age, this is unlikely to happen
but just the same ….

The “Sycophant” bit hurt more.
Is that what I am?
Am I trying to raise my sense of importance
by seeking the company of people who are more educated than I am? Am I a scientist groupie?
Perhaps I am.
I know people who are not educated at all and I am very fond of them
I even admire several of them
But there is something about people who have invested several years in study
that really excites me.
Is that wrong?
For one, they tend to write better, longer letters.
They are better at expression opinions or debating a subject.
They are well read and often well traveled.

The last thing I want is to discuss is knitting, couponing or how to remove stains.
So I seek out people who have other things to talk about
and although interesting people come in many forms
education level is often a short cut to finding such people.
Is that wrong?

If you once trained to be an athlete
but didn’t make it
would it not be natural to seek out people who work in athletics

If you were a music student but did not make it as musician
wouldn’t it be natural to enjoy the company of musicians.

It’s like travelling to a foreign country and bumping into someone who is from your own.
It’s exciting.
How can that be wrong?

Just because I am a mother doesn’t mean all I want to talk about is babies and parenting.
There is more to me than this.

I can’t get those words out of my head for some reason
The worse insults are the ones that ring true I guess

Reality

Like most schizophrenics, John Nash (who inspired the film “A Beautiful Mind) felt that the reality imposed on him was in fact the lie. The treatment which was suppose to reconcile him with reality felt like “brainwashing”, a denial of self
something he must fight and escape at all costs.

It is interesting to note that the high incidence of suicide among schizophrenics
is associated with treatment rather then the illness itself.
Realizing that you are not what you believe yourself to be
(especially if you believed yourself to be very special and superior)
can be heartbreaking, yet it is imperative to the healing processing.

I find it fascinating that in some cases, illness causes joy and high self esteem
while the cure brings grief and destroys self esteem.

It is no wonder that so many people are engaged in the search for alternate realities…

Nobody actually cares all that much about truth. We seek truth that feels good and sooth our existential anxiety, or truth that makes us feel RIGHT. Science is suppose to get at the truth by eliminating all human bias. But does it actually do this? People who do not have a background in science can not verify for themselves. They must ironically take a leap of faith in trusting the science. We assume that if it appears in a reputable peer reviewed journal, it has to be true. But even scientists will admit it isn’t always so. Moreover, yesterday’s superstitions may be today’s science. But could today’s science may be tomorrow’s nonsense?

What we recognize as truth is often a human construct.
We all think of the earth as being divided into countries and cities. But the the first thing astronauts notice from space is that those divisions don’t actually exist.

Colors look different to different species. We categorize them according to our human reality but those categories would make no sense to a bee or even a dog.

Quantum Physicist proved that particles of light can exist in multiple places at the same time.

Even time is relative according to Einstein, right?

What we term “mental illness” is simply a way of seeing the world that contradicts the way most of us see the world. If they don’t play by our rules, they belong in prisons or mental institutions. At any rate, they must be “cured” which involves substituting their reality for ours.

I am not advocating this way of looking at science or mental illness. I am just trying to look at it from another perspective

How to Live

I simply don’t know how to live.
I don’t understand living.
To me it seems ludicrous
to do things repeatedly every day
only to preserve the status quo.
Swimming simply to avoid drowning
without ever getting anywhere
like a goldfish in a bowl

I understand that on some level
I owe it to others to keep on swimming
I owe them my participation in their lives
but at the same time those others
make me feel like I bring them nothing
Again. How could it be?
How can my presence bring nothing
and yet be missed?
It makes me want to leave
if only to be missed.
Even if I won’t be around to see them missing me.

Why do people go on living
after they have outlived their usefulness
not only to others but to oneself?
It all seems very pointless to me.

Perhaps my little job
can bring a few tangible goods
to those around me.
But only far into the future
since I am so heavily in debt.
And it’s not clear to me
when if or when I will personally gain from my work.

Perhaps my absence would bring grief
to those who have grown accustomed
to having me around.
But if I am not useful
they would benefit breaking the habit
of my presence
Like a pair of old slippers with holes in them
one correlates with rest
but which can easily be replaced.

If at least I was useful to myself
It would go some way into justifying my existence
I deserve “me” as much as they do
but I have been nothing but trouble for myself
from the moment I ventured out into the world
No one could mismanage my life worse than I did and do

One can change right?
Everyone expects me to change.
But I refuse to change
Not because I am so happy in my own miserable company
but because I am simply too tired to even try anymore.
There are only two options left really
Changing my environment
or the unthinkable.

Border Line

I saw a documentary on the subject of happiness
All experts seemed to agree on one fact.
Relationships
more than anything
are the most pivotal factor in happiness

Even if you have succeeded
at everything you had set out to accomplish
if your relationships suck
or if they are inexistent
it is very unlikely that you will be happy

For people diagnosed with BPD
the quality and stability of one’s relationships
is almost the sole determinant.
People with BPD are in essence the sum total
of their significant relationships
Their self image in inseparable from their projected image.

As a human being and even more so as a bpd sufferer
I am profoundly affected by my relationships.
So it is no surprise that at times like these
when I am made aware that I have few if any
healthy or nurturing relationships
I feel very little attachment to my mortal existence

I have been made aware recently
that whatever I did that was positive in this life
is insignificant and pales miserably
in contrast with my mistakes
which are not only unforgivable but unredeemable
Moreover , I have been made aware
that unless I change and conform
to what is expected of me
I don’t have much value to my children
There seems to be no chance at all
that I will ever be deemed acceptable
as I am.

Knowing this
and knowing by the same token
that I find it impossible to change,
what options do I have?

Do I retreat within myself
while occupying as little physical space as possible
in the house that we all share.
Do I continue living here as a ghost
inoffensive as long as I stay vaporous?

Relationships

I often discuss relationships
because they are key to how I am feeling
but before one can function in a relationship,
one needs to have a sense of self.
Just like one can never truly enjoy success alone,
a person who is well surrounded , supported and loved
is doomed to be unhappy
without a strong sense of identity and purpose.

I never had a clear projection of myself as a child
I knew that I wanted to be special but I could never decide how
I narrowed it down to the arts and the sciences.
I was going to be a great entertainer or a great scientist.
But it was all over before it even began.
At age 27, I dropped out of school to do the family thing
(work on those relationships)
and though I returned decades later,
I still could not take it the full distance.

My midlife crisis began when I realized
that I was either going to be a housewife for the rest of my life
or do some menial job that even my girls are overqualified for.
Except that I didn’t feel in the middle of my life
I felt like I was at the end of it
And today I feel like I am actually living post my expiry date.
I died the day I realized I was and would always be ordinary.
From then on, I made cameo appearances in the lives of others
while mine remained vacant.
But even that distant star has now dimmed.

You know you’re at the end when your only friend is a dog
who would probably gobble you up if you were small enough and tasted good.

I of the Storm

If only we could know the terror of being in the eye of the storm
before chasing it

If only we could experience the nausea
before diving into the feast

If only we could feel the the pain of rejection
before speaking one’s mind

If only we could feel the stab of betrayal
before running into the embrace

If only we could smell the stench of death
before being seduced by its anesthetic effect

How different life would be
if only I could

Two Types of Bucket List

I think there are 2 kinds of bucket lists
Those aimed at taking in as much as you can from the world before you go
and those that are about contributing as much as possible to the world before you go
And I am more into the latter.
Not for legacy’s sake
I don’t care about my image or recognition after my death
I only care in as so much as it affects the loved ones I leave behind
But I wanted to have a living legacy
A life in which I can see the results of my contributions in my lifetime.

So how do I take a goal like “working with snakes”
and turn it into the other kind of experience
“playing with snakes”?
“reading about snakes”?
“visiting snakes”?
“Befriending a snake expert”?
These are not second best
They are other types of items altogether
(from my perception anyway)

It’s the same with all of my other ambitions
take “Working in the field of cancer research”
How can you find a substitute for that?
“Raise money for cancer research”?
Boring

How about “making a film”
Do you substitute that with “watching films”
“Having a friend who made a film?”
Lame

How about writing a book?
I suppose you can always write the book as a hobby
and never publish it
But it just doesn’t cut it for me
It would not be in the intended spirit

Most of my bucket list items are like that.

Perhaps the living legacy bucket list is just as selfish
It means I am not content about simply experiencing
I only experience joy If I can impact people with my experiences
and preferably receive their positive feedback
It makes my bucket list items dependant on some form of approval.
The reason why my items are professional goals
is because I tend to have contempt for the amateur
I have this caricature of him /her as a bumbling idiot
a phony and a wannabe
who thinks he knows it all but clearly doesn’t
And my greatest fear what that I would be lumped with them.
When you do something professionally
you come across as more believable, more competent
It is what differentiates the stamp collector from the stamp historian
the ecologist from the tree hugger
the astronomer from the astrologer or the sci fi nerd
I have a great need for credibility
And my bucket list reflects that
I am perhaps wrong to feel the way I do
Incompetent people can hide behind degrees and even professional affiliations
and their are brilliant and very knowledgable people
who never had the opportunity to have an advanced education
Jacques Fresco comes to mind
He is an idol of mine , 100 years old and self made everything
One of the wisest persons on this planet.