The world is out of focus for me tonight. It’s fuzzy. Unclear. Like looking through a camera lens that’s covered with raindrops.
The problem isn’t the world. The problem is in my head. Or in my heart. It’s hard to say. I just know I’m the problem. The world is still just as dysfunctional as ever, but it’s no different than it always is. The change is in me.
I didn’t enjoy dinner tonight. I didn’t enjoy the company I had. There was nothing wrong with the food. There was nothing wrong with the woman with whom I ate. But nothing felt right. Everything felt wrong.
I don’t know what I want.
There’s an empty feeling gnawing at me. I want something, but what? My life has always been centered around the answers to these questions. What do I want? What do I need? What am I trying to accomplish? Whose love am I trying to win? And now?
I don’t know what I want.
After I left dinner and dropped off my dinner companion, the vague feeling of emptiness caused me to stop at a grocery store. I’d feel better if I could get something to make me happy.
The store had every snack choice under the sun. Ice cream. Lemon pies. Chocolate pies. Potato chips. Doughnuts. Cakes. Popcorn. Pastries.
I wandered down aisles and looked at dozens of things which have tasted good to me. Things which have satisfied me — to one extent or another — in the past. But it all might as well have been made of sand or straw.
Nothing sounded good. Helpful employees asked if they could help me find anything, but I couldn’t tell them anything I was looking for.
I don’t know what I want.
Standing in the middle of the frozen desserts aisle, I suddenly realized that what I wanted more than anything else was to want something. To need something. To know what I wanted.
To desperately want something I can’t have is awful, but I can have hope when I feel that way. If I want a particular woman’s love, I can hold out hope that she will love me and choose me.
If I want to earn some material prize, I can imagine what it’s like to have it. I can think about how to go about chasing it.
If I want some particular achievement, I can dream about what it will feel like. I can plan and scheme about how to make it happen.
But tonight, there’s nothing in particular which I can say would make me happy or joyful or fulfilled. My world has been trending in that direction for a long while. Maybe weeks, maybe months, maybe even years. And I don’t quite know how to deal with it. I don’t know how to live with the emptiness of not having something specific that I need.
My long-term mood lately is summed up in a lyric from a very old Steve Taylor song: “Life’s too short for small talk, so don’t be talking trivia now. Excess baggage fills this plane. There’s more than we should ever allow.”
I’m distracted by the feeling that everything I’m doing in my life now is trivia and that everything in my life feels like “excess baggage.” I’ve never felt as urgent about finding purpose and meaning and love and all the things that seem important to me — because I have none of those.
I’m incredibly impatient with everything that our culture sees as important or worthwhile in life. This has been true for a long time, but it feels more urgent than ever. It just seems as though I’m seeing the sand run through the hourglass of my life too quickly — and I’m desperate for the meaning that’s still missing.
I am more convinced than ever that love and connection and meaning and beauty are at the center of what is missing in my life, but I have no idea how to find the missing pieces — much less what I should be doing with myself to find the meaningful pieces that are missing.
I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I need.
When I was young, I wanted success and money and fame and power. I wanted much that our society teaches us is important. I can’t pretend that it wouldn’t be nice to have some of those things — just for material comfort’s sake — but I’m painfully aware that having an unlimited amount of money and success wouldn’t change what I’m feeling right now.
I grew up learning how to play the same game that all of American culture is playing, but I’ve rejected that game — even though I haven’t figured out what game I’m trying to play instead. I can name aspects that are connected to the “game” I want to play — those things such as love, connection, meaning, beauty, creation — but I don’t understand what it all adds up to.
For the first time in my life, I’d rather live like a monk doing something that feeds my soul — whatever that might be — than to become wealthy doing things which don’t matter to me, as I’m doing today. It feels to me as though it’s a matter of life and death.
I feel as though finding meaning is my way to live but continuing to do things the “normal” way of my culture is death. And with each passing year, I feel as though I’m running out of time. This terrifies me.
I feel as though I can still do pretty much anything I need to do. I haven’t lost any of the abilities I’ve ever had. But without some goals — without specific things to want and need — my abilities and drives are useless.
I want something to want. Something to need.
I want someone to love. Someone to sacrifice for. Someone who shares my vision of what we’re trying to achieve in the world.
I want a purpose again. I want something that matters enough to get me up in the morning. I don’t care about the outward indicators of success or wealth. I just want something that’s so meaningful I’m excited to pursue it every day.
I used to know who I wanted. I used to know what I thought I was trying to accomplish. I used to know which things were worth sacrificing for.
But I don’t know what I want anymore — what I need anymore — and that makes my world tonight feel bleak and unfocused and meaningless. And that’s slowly killing me inside, even thought I look perfectly fine to an outside observer.