The meaning of life.
According to Dicionary.com, existentialism is “a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.”
I realized today that the past few weeks have been like a bubbling cauldron for me. Slowly, bit by bit, the pressure has been building towards what can accurately be termed an “existential crisis.”
This type of situation is not entirely new to me. I have had many moments in my life where I dealt with crisis or trauma and had to re-assess many of the deeper questions. Things like, “Who am I? Why do I do what I do? What is my purpose in life? What is truly important to me? What truly brings me joy?”
I think everyone has moments of existential questioning and even existential angst. This time, however, it somehow feels different to me. I can’t explain in detail because I don’t really know what I mean by that. What I will say is that this round of questioning feels far more primal – deeper and more profound – than any I have ever had. Even some of the most traumatic experiences of my life – divorce, death of parents, bankruptcy, the election of the current president – all of these were powerful moments of trauma and questioning but did not feel quite as fundamental as what I am feeling now.
Today, as I was wandering aimlessly through my house wondering just how to spend another Groundhog Day in quarantine, I binge watched the Marie Kondo stuff on Netflix. I then decided to start her process, so I took every article of clothing in my house and piled it into a giant mountain. I sorted every item, piece by piece, and created several bags for Goodwill and folded other things neatly and substantially decluttered that area of my life.
I then found a documentary on Netflix about minimalism. Boom! That one hit me hard. I realized that in the past week, I have bought so much unnecessary stuff online – a kind of self-medication through retail therapy. I suddenly stopped and thought to myself, “Why? What purpose to add more stuff to my home when I am constantly trying to declutter already?”
Part of my existential crisis now is about “stuff” and how I can get rid of what I truly don’t need. Another huge layer came out spontaneously in my session with my therapist earlier this week. I quite suddenly had an epiphany when I looked around and realized that nearly everything in my home – and I mean that literally, not as some kind of hyperbole – nearly everything belonged to either my grandmother, my great aunt, my mother, or my father. A few other items were purchased during my ill-fated marriage. I would estimate that nearly 90% of what I see every single day is somehow tied to the past – to my ancestors or my own ancient history.
As an example, as I sit here now in my living room I can list the following:
- The chair I am in was in my parents’ living room.
- The couch to my right was in my granmother’s lake room.
- The rug was also in my grandmother’s lake room.
- The candlesticks and sconces (four of them) belonged to my mother.
- The table to my right was in my grandmother’s house.
- The mirror just in front of me was my mother’s.
- The framed print to my left hung in my grandmother’s beach house.
- The china cabinet was left to me by my great aunt Minnie and was in my parent’s house for years.
- That china cabinet is filled with china, crystal, and silver that was all inherited.
- The crystal bowl to my right was left to me by my grandmother.
- The crystal bowl in front of me was my mother’s.
- There are decorative plates on the wall – inherited from great aunt Minnie by my mother and then left to me.
- On the back of my front door is a cross-stitch piece I made for my mother in 1986.
- All of the lamps in the room along with three small tables were in my business office in NH and then came to my home in NH after my business failure and divorce.
- There is a lovely oriental bowl to my left that I gave to my grandmother for Christmas in 1988 and which came to me when she died.
- The only thing in this entire room that is “new” is a table I got in a silent auction in Chicago a couple of years ago. Even the houseplants came with me from NH in 2008 and still thrive in the same pots they were in there.
I am surrounded by a constant energy of memory and of the past. I am not saying that’s a bad thing, but the sheer power and quantity of all this memory is staggering. Somehow, I have to unpack all of these strands I have thrown out here in the post.
The family objects, the stuff from my marriage, the desire for minimalism, the need to get rid of things that have bad energy for me. All of these are thrown into a big new cauldron, seasoned with existential angst, and are now set to a low simmer – leading me towards another boil at some point soon.
I am not sure what’s going on with me, but this quarantine has morphed now into something quite different for me. It’s no longer about coping day to day. It’s now more about using the time alone to truly dig deeper and figure out what I need to be doing with my life.
The status quo no longer works. Time for a new paradigm.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.