A Quiet Life of Desperation
Overcoming trajectories and finding joy
BY : Troy Murphy | April 2013
Rainbows and bunny rabbits—some live a different existence. I’m okay with that. That isn't the world I live in. I have a good life, wonderful wife, comfortable house and a running car. I seldom go hungry and when I do it’s because of poor-planning, and bothersome distractions—not insufficient resources. But no matter how much exercise, yoga and positive endeavors the wrecking ball of reality forcefully swings and knocks me on my butt. Skinned knees and bloodied elbows I crawl, then walk and then stand tall again—until the next burst of reality strikes.
Life doesn’t suck; it just is. Neither designed for flourishing or floundering; the universe is survival friendly. Species naturally tend for their young until their young are sufficiently strong to survive outside the nest or nursery. Survival requires complete reliance on caregivers. A young child cannot face the complexities of this world; it’s too dangerous. Humans heavily dependent on brains and not brawn require extensive childhood nurturing, waiting for learning to catch-up with the physical development. We need smarts to survive and wisdom to flourish, implementing strategies to work through the peculiarities of our society and human challenges.
During childhood, guided and protected by caregivers, we learn survival skills and the fortunate are introduced to flourishing. Before being pushed into the uncertain (and sometimes uncaring) world, we are trained. Childhood survival boot-camps are not equal. Caregivers bring varying resources to parenting. Some parents conscientiously prepare their children others haphazardly drag their child into their own chaotic life. Our success as adults is correlated with our up-bringing; we’re not sentenced to the life of our parents but socialized to not stray too far. Amazingly, the human will can change the trajectory. Our formidable task is to take what we have been given and succeed. Wise choices ease future difficulties; developing skills sharpens our responses. Careless choices magnify difficulties. Those least prepared tend to make the poorest choices, creating even more difficulties to overcome, with limited skills and narrow approaches, they must face a more difficult life.
Adults usually meet life’s demands. We’re survivors. I’ve worked in the downtown area of a large city for nearly two decades. I’ve become familiar with many of the faces and stories wandering, sleeping and living within the small confines of the City Park and giant buildings. Survivors. Many of the homeless population have lived on the streets for decades. They survive. They find food and shelter and survive but not flourish. The stresses stretch mental resources, borrowing energy for growth to focus on basic survival. Many of these survivors suffered through childhoods parched from neglect. Instead of healthy habits, they found debilitating addictions to sooth the pain, creating a puzzle nearly impossible to solve.
Unlike the small child, adults possess a greater foundation of experience, enlightening the attentive to hidden dangers. We prepare for unseen threats, accidents, and sicknesses—even death. Part of us longs for childhood security where loving caregivers governed our lives, taking upon themselves the anxiety of survival. But the childhood security came with vulnerability. Complete protection requires complete dependence.
We experience fear with uncertainties. We must function even when the outcome is uncertain. The courageous accept this uncertainty, trusting in their strength and leaning on outside support from others. After all, uncertainty is a given of adulthood. Others scramble, gathering crumbs of praise, to create security from outside sources—a security never fully realized. Condemned to live with uncertainty, we must learn to manage the fear and move forward in confidence. If we agonize about unknowns, anxiety decreases opportunities for growth, forcing attention to survival. Fear stagnates growth. Avoidance of novel experiences, usually because past experiences were distasteful, impacts the future. Avoidance offers security but with a future cost. Unhappy relationships continue, unfulfilling jobs remain, and dissatisfaction spreads. We talk about the pain but fail to act to remedy the pain. Our talking fulfills our need to address the issue without actually addressing it.
We don’t choose to be dissatisfied. We just are. We live in fear of the unknowns while enduring dissatisfaction of the known; secretly living in quiet desperation. Opportunities require venturing into our fears—abandoning security. We don’t consciously choose to stagnate; but fears blindly push us into the mire; they are reactionary habits. Habits created for protection. We mortgage futures by protecting the present and then feel despair.
We can’t change patterns unless we recognize them. Examining our lives reveals hidden habits, quietly serving the present, protecting against the anxiety of growth. Mindfulness unveils avoidance.
We fail in many ways. Failures can be addressed. They provide insights and wisdom. Failing to try offers very little. The call is to wake up! Expose the patterns of avoidance that create the quiet desperation of an unfulfilled life.