“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” ~Henry David Thoreau
How many years do we live with a sense of quiet desperation, faking the connection we have with ourselves? Why do we deny ourselves authentic living and exchange our time for mindless living?
Over the years, life silently and slowly eroded my identity away. By the time my son was twelve years old, I’d completely lost touch with reality. I was always busy trying to be everyone’s hero and creating this perfect little world around me. While juggling the responsibilities of being a wife and mother, I’d lost my individuality.
Life had brought me to unchartered territory, a place I had never been before. I could no longer silence the cries of my quiet desperation, the yearning to break free from what everyone wanted me to be.
The weight of being a perfect mother—having laundry done and feeding my family home cooked meals daily—seemed more than impossible. The goal of being an amazing wife was like climbing Mount Everest; I had no energy left when it came to my husband. Because I’d excelled in my career, they thought I could handle more, so they’d doubled my workload.
I was suffering. The despair was a disease I learned to live with every day, but this day was different. The pain of my confusion and mental starvation was agonizing.
I found myself on my knees having a mental breakdown.
I can still feel the tenderness of my hands after I spent almost two hours pounding my kitchen floor, screaming at the top of my lungs, “I can’t do this anymore!” I was shaking uncontrollably from the anger I could no longer suppress. It was a long and painful journey down to the bottom of my soul.
My tears seemed never-ending. I could barely breathe as my emotions began smothering the little air I could take in. I felt like I was drowning, being suffocated at my own will..
My mind wandered to thoughts of suicide. My brain fantasized about not having to make decisions, meet deadlines, or deal with the uncertainty of life. I pondered if I could really take my life as an answer to my silent depression.
I could not calm myself down. I could barely even open my eyes enough to see my hands beginning to swell from the pain of hitting the floor. I felt my husband physically lift my body off the floor, but my soul remained lying there.
The decades of living in quiet desperation had surfaced.
I was a shell of a woman whose soul had left her years ago. I had abandoned all my internal needs—time alone, boundaries at work, and space to reconnect with my writing.
My exhaustion had left me paralyzed. My eyes were dark and my heart was empty of any spirit or ambition. The beautiful glow I once possessed seemed non-existent. The only things visible were fatigue and hopelessness.
My husband cradled me in his arms, gently stroking my hair while telling me, “It’s going to be okay.” I didn’t believe him. Instead, I worried about the time I was wasting crying when I could have been checking things off my to-do list.
In that moment, as I wept like a child in my husband’s arms, I realized the root of my suffering.
There was no major catastrophe in our home or tragic event. I was simply tired of holding it all together and figuring it all out, every day. I was living life in constant “ready” mode, like a soldier in war.
I had to be ready for tomorrow, prepare for next week, and be on guard for next month. As a responsible mother and wife, I was always trying to get ahead of the schedule by meal prepping, doing laundry for the following week, paying bills early, and preparing for any hiccup that might come up.
I was serious all the time. I remember my boss describing me as intense, which bothered me at the time, but now I understand. I saw every action as proof of my success or failure; each gauged whether I was excelling or being lazy.
I never took the time to feel the present moment because I was so worried about the next one. I never truly connected to what was going on within me because the future always mattered more than the present.
I spent decades “preparing.” To-do-lists, goals, and deadlines spun a web around me until I was fully cocooned, unable to breathe.
On this particular day, the air had run out and I was gasping for a few more breaths. I had two choices: ask for help or die trying. Either way, something had to give.
I could no longer live this way, in a hamster wheel of predictability and repetition. I was a robot on autopilot doing the mundane tasks that filled up time slots on a weekly planner. There was no connection within me, just a hodgepodge of work, errands, a few holidays, and parenting.
After this breakdown, I spent life in a fog, unable to answer my own questions. I was sick inside and had been silently bleeding for years. I needed to heal. I made the decision to take the time I needed for my own recovery. The first step in returning to my soul was to put myself first.
As I plunged into the depth of my inner self, many things became clear. The carefully spun web of my former life began to shed, and I began exploring new ways of living.
These five things saved me, healed me, and put me back on a path to authentic and balanced living.
Stop everything. The running, rushing, hustling, and moving. Just stop it all. Time will not stand still until you make a choice to break the routine.
I never took the time to be in the moment because I was always rushing to the next destination and looking to check off the next box on my to-do list. I was running in an eternal mental marathon with no real winner. I was trading the beauty of life for mundane tasks without ever stopping to smell the roses.
I had to stop the mindless living at all cost. This was the first step in reclaiming my power. It was the first call to action that I demanded of myself. If I did not practice controlling what I did with my time, I would never be able to rescue my soul.
My soul constantly yearns to be in harmony with my mind and heart. These three facets of my identity are vital, crucial to my well-being. When they are uncoordinated, exhaustion easily seeps in along with negative thinking and fear. I become an easy target, not anchored or stable.
My weapon against uncertainty is my passion for writing. When I don’t cultivate that which makes my soul sing, I die a little each day.
We all have something we do that causes us to lose all sense of time. You cannot ignore this innate ability or talent. It’s simply part of you. Take the time to find it, reconnect with it, and cultivate a relationship with it. It’s your eternal escape. It’s your ace in your back pocket, the answer to most of your confusion. You will find many of your answers when you connect and unite your soul, mind, and heart together.
Rest your soul.
Let’s face it, there will be very demanding days where you are juggling many things. The flow of life can get complicated at times, but in order to regain your center, you must take time for your soul to rest and recharge, without any guilt. You wouldn’t run your car twenty-four hours a day thinking it can do more done by staying powered on. Everything and everyone needs downtime.
I used to wrestle with the idea of downtime and often confused it with laziness. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Resting is the most efficient way to keep your spirit aligned. Don’t try to be a hero and neglect your own needs as a human being. Oddly enough, the better care you take care of yourself, the better you are to others.
Seek connection, not perfection.
My need for perfection was insatiable. I used to label it as my Type A personality, my overachiever tendency, or the fact that I simply wanted the best of everything.
This way of thinking often led me to isolation, anxiety, and a heighted sense of depression. However, in my vulnerable state of lying on my kitchen floor having a breakdown, I didn’t have the strength to hold the wall up anymore. The wall that separated me from having true friendships and connections had to come down. It just wasn’t worth the effort of trying to make everything look perfect when it really wasn’t.
I didn’t need perfection to gain happiness; I needed the connection and the closeness that only real relationships bring. So I exchanged the pursuit of perfectness for the ability to be vulnerable with others. It was finally okay for me to say, “I am a hot mess, and I don’t have a clue how to put myself back together.”
Allow inspiration to emerge.
Denying the fact that I was living under a cloak of desperation led me to a higher realization about life. Sometimes in the lowest points of our lives, when all seems to be falling apart, life is falling into place.
When the walls are caving in, the air is getting scarce, and you can feel the weight of suffocation, something happens. Your pain transforms, your agony evolves into something bigger, and you realize that a new you is about to emerge.
My desperation was the pathway for me to rediscover my inspiration. The dark valley I found myself in led me to higher grounds. I don’t push away the struggles or hide from hard times. Instead, I remain patient, allowing the pain to bring forth a new chapter in my life. Sometimes you need to take a few steps back in order to take giant leaps forward.
Today, I live from a connected heart space, one that is fully aware and conscious of the energy I hold within me.
Today, I seek to stay centered. It is here I feel most alive and the happiest.
Today, I can thank the years of desperation I lived, for I am now on the path to living the best version of myself.
About Jamie Hannigan
Jamie Hannigan, at forty-one years old, decided to pursue her true passion for writing by sharing her insights on life with others. Through her blog posts at www.jamiehannigan.wordpress.com, she strives to connect with her readers on a personal level, offering a deeper look into some of life’s complex situations. She makes every effort to build lasting connections with everyone she meets and believes that every soul is destined for greatness.