I woke up last Sunday adorned with the previous night’s glow sticks and feeling like someone had dropped a load of bricks on my chest. Such is the weight and effect of running into one’s own unhappiness.
The last two months have been endlessly stressful: holidays, moving to Chicago, moving out of our apartment, moving into my Unnamed Hippie House (which I’ve decided is its name, by the way), my uncle’s death, drunk people drama, sickness, job hunting, job interviews, the beginning of the semester, winding down a job, and living apart. It’s all fucking hard! Hard, hard, hard.
I’m a person who thrives in chaos, so times like these usually see me rising to the occasion. Five years ago, we launched Moodle at the beginning of the semester while I was also a full time doctoral student and a new gyne instructor – so I was essentially working two very demanding full-time jobs while taking on an emotionally and physically challenging part-time job while also maintaining a relationship and starting to focus on losing weight after four months away from the gym (and my bike) with a broken arm. Literally the day before Shane moved to DC, I had unexpected minor surgery after receiving scary lab results from an abnormal Pap and also got an estimate of $2400 to make the necessary repairs to my car so that I could move to join him – while also gearing up for the beginning of the semester and actively job-hunting. I’m not alone in my experience of shit stacking up in impossible ways, or of being able to put my head down and knock through it all to come out on the other side smarter and stronger.
But in and around the stress and stressors of the last two months, I’ve had a lot of time to think. The time and space and distance have allowed issues to rise to the surface that I’ve been ignoring or just haven’t been brave enough to face. And one of those is my unhappiness, a thread of pain through so many aspects of my life.
It’s no secret that I’ve been profoundly unhappy in my career in the last few years. In job interviews, I’ve spun it as “a series of right turns” – from instructional technology support at Illinois to reference librarianship at GW to web development at UM. From a position of authority and trust to the bottom rung of a soul-deadening bureaucracy to manual labor, working in a call center, finding ways of stretching 5-8 hours of work to fill 40, and then ending up in a position where I’m challenged and respected, but which is still tangential to any of the goals I can loosely define for myself.
I’ve been tremendously lonely in my relationships. I’ve focused my energies on my marriage to the detriment of my relationships with others – perhaps appropriately so, but still a stark thing to realize. I’ve been trying to change this in the last few months, but I know I have a long way to go.
I’ve tried to direct this loneliness and frustration into positive channels: running, the garden, cooking, blogging, teaching, and connecting with friends online. What I haven’t realized until recently is the extent to which my loneliness and frustration has been self-reinforcing. I’m lonely, so I go running alone. I like running alone, so I opt to continue with this solitary activity, even though it could be a great opportunity to meet other people and build relationships around running. Shane is often busy with hobbies or friends, and I respond by soaking up the much-desired solo time, which then leads me to support (rather than complain about) more time dedicated to hobbies, which then leads to more time alone.
Which leads me to this place: waking up on a Sunday morning feeling crippled by sadness. Grinding away on the track to meet a training goal but also to focus my mind on something other than the intractability of my feelings. Struggling to remember happiness, or to picture what happiness might look like. Knowing that the easy answer is more meds, or changing the meds, but being unwilling to accept that as an answer YET AGAIN.
I want to be happy.
I don’t know how to be happy.
I don’t know what has to change in my life for me to be happy.
I’m afraid of my own unhappiness.