These last few weeks (or has it been months, or years?) have been like a pressure cooker of stress for Heath and I. I feel like the substance of my soul has been broken down and reshaped by the process, like sugar being liquified and reshaped into candy, except the result is bitter instead of sweet. I’m just now assessing the changes this period of trials has wrought in me -- making note of how the forces have pushed and pulled to change the shape of my soul.
I am certainly at a point of disillusionment with existence in general. It’s hard to see how anything about our lives is meaningful, how any aspect of being alive boils down to anything more than difficulty. A quote we recently found hilarious in a movie sort of sums it up -- a soon-to-be parent is asking a seasoned father about the experience of parenthood. The seasoned dad sums it up pretty well: “It's awful, awful, awful, awful -- and then something incredible happens. [pause] Then awful, awful, awful, awful, awful -- and then something incredible happens again." Parenting is certainly hard, but parents usually think it is more than worth the difficulty because of the incredible moments. That’s probably true. But I’m not seeing it right now. I guess the incredible moments have become few and far between, perhaps simply because the kids are older. So it’s too easy to only see the difficulty involved.
I’ve concluded that being an adult in general is mostly a pain-filled venture. We claw our way through life, trying to hold down a good job, to make enough money to provide for ourselves and our dependents, and to not go crazy or make ourselves completely miserable in the process.
To be fair, my days are better now than before. I am distracted by work, and I get a chance to interact with adults, to do something productive, something I can potentially feel like I am good at doing. That is far better than the way I had been feeling every day while staying at home with the kids. But the evenings and weekends are still an absolute mess. How do other people stand it? What joy or hope is there? We are exhausted and needy ourselves, and so are our kids, and there are things to be done to get ready for the next day or week. We try our best to give each other room to rest and to work together to get things ready for the next day or week. But in the process we often get irritated or frustrated or start to feel resentful of the other person.
Heath and I talked today of ways to try to make life less miserable. I insisted that I must have alone time. I may not be constantly surrounded by our kids, I may have time away from the family at work, but I still need free time away from the family. I am willing to reciprocate for Heath, though it doesn’t seem nearly as important to him. We also must start having dates regularly, preferably every week. (Which we have no idea how to accomplish, since keeping the house clean enough for a weekly babysitter is impossible.) If we were able to go out and have fun together regularly, maybe it would seem that life had some meaning. If life does have the potential to be meaningful, I believe that potential is strongest in our relationships with each other. Perhaps the pain and difficulty would feel less crushing if we had enjoyable time together, too. I believe Heath and I have great potential to make each other happy and to give meaning to each other’s lives, given the right circumstances. But as it is, we work and work just to keep our family going, but not to procure any benefit for ourselves beyond survival. Frankly, I don’t have much motivation to work for my own survival to secure this sort of life, but enough human decency remains in the core of my reshaped (or is it deformed?) soul that I care very much about working for my children’s well-being. I know our family environment isn’t ideal for them right now, but I’ll do what I can to make it as good as possible for them.
In the midst of all this, my faith has utterly wilted. The idea of God or his work in the world seem like distant, fuzzy concepts. They don’t fit in with the reality I am living right now. I have never been in this place before. I have never doubted the existence of God; it has always seemed too apparent to ignore. I have struggled with my faith on other levels, but never before has it felt completely irrelevant.
I looked back to see when this change in my perspective began, and after some introspection realized there has been a slow build up of disappointments that finally crystallized in the last month or so. I was aware of the pain of each small disappointment as it happened, but when the weight of it finally built to a tipping point, I couldn’t see at that moment that it was causing my sudden total disillusionment. After the fact, it was even harder to notice further weights falling on that side of the scale and reinforcing the break.
Over the last month or so, the final remnants of my faith and relationship with God, which I had been trying to stir back to life until that point, I have allowed to gradually grow cold. I’m not saying my perspective won’t change; that my faith won’t come back into focus. But the life that I am living, that I have lived over the last few years, even, no longer jives with the faith that I had. Something has to change.