We aren’t who we want to be. We are what society demands. We are what our parents choose. We don’t want to disappoint anyone; we have a great need to be loved. So we smother the best in us. Gradually, the light of our dreams turns into the monster of our nightmares. They become things not done, possibilities not lived.Paulo Coelho
Just under the surface of our conscious minds, while embroiled in the busyness of our modern lives, most of us harbor a vague discomfort premised on a terrifying possibility – that one day we will be standing at death’s door, where we might realize that we’ve squandered our one chance at really living.
We might feel as though we have sacrificed our time and energy in pursuit of distractions, rather than the pursuit of our true passions. That we have mis-lived in a sense, by failing to live fully. That we have allowed fear to inform our decisions, rather than joy, love, or passion. That we have chosen the safe road, doing what was expected of us (what we expected of ourselves), rather than what we truly wanted, thereby wasting this magnificent opportunity.
This discomfort often culminates in what we call, colloquially, a mid-life crisis, although it arises at other times as well, often following a death, a loss, or betrayal of some kind. It bubbles up in the form of a question: “Is this it? Is this all there is to life?”
This question nags at us frequently, especially during bouts of insomnia, or after the high of attaining some milestone has subsided. There is a growing sense of discontent, a dissatisfaction with all that seemed worth pursuing before.
But the fear of change and its collateral consequences, and the uncertainty of where to seek that change or what to begin looking for, keep us locked in place most of the time.
If, however, the grief or pain of loss is acute enough, such that the fears become relatively insignificant by comparison, then the real search begins for the more. It becomes a pressing spiritual call, as we keenly sense that the status quo is no longer tenable. That’s when we develop the courage and humility to ask the really hard, scary, existential questions, to begin looking inward with honest eyes, and seeking the transcendentally meaningful answers.