Written by Beau DeCourcy
Have you ever met such extreme emotion spurred on by nothing more than a memory that it weakened you to the point you felt you could barely breathe? Did the intense emotion frighten you? Did you open up to feel this moment completely, or did you attempt to escape it? And if you did try to escape the feeling, why?
You have to be open to feel true emotion; to recognize willingly the totality of your short and fragile existence. You must also be strong to understand there is a deficit in your life when you desensitize your emotions defending your identity. Many of us try our best not to experience these feelings completely when they occur, and there seems to be a popular attempt to avoid these powerful emotions because they may get in the way of our plans for success.
Making cents out of life
It’s nearly impossible today to have a profitable career and be able to spend the majority of your time with friends and family. Because of the prevailing definition of success, we become hopelessly distracted, and increasingly emotionally numb in attaining it.
As a consequence of the Neolithic context we have created, there’s a growing disconnection from our understanding of mortality and thus what is important in our lives. Increasingly, we are taking for granted that we will live well into our 80’s, and there will always be tomorrow to reconcile our deprived relationships. For many of us, unfortunately, that day of reconciliation may never come.
Why is it, for most of us, it now takes a tragic awakening spurred by a bout with cancer or death to temporarily re-establish deep, familial connections?
The dreadful news grips our thoughts and begins to erode our veil of immortality, exposing the future for the mirage that it is. Suddenly, distance from home is no longer an accomplishment; rather it becomes an obstacle of emotional agony. Forcing us to question: maybe we were never meant to be so distant? Maybe our prolific communication technology is not as fulfilling as we believed it to be?
Loneliness: the new American debt crisis
More and more of us today, feel, probably correctly, happiness is difficult to obtain without the need for financial stability, so we work like hell to avoid even the faintest experience of poverty and scarcity. Somewhere along the line, paradoxically, we have turned our need for financial “stability” into the reason we cannot become happy. But we know no adult ever fondly looks back at their childhood and says: “I remember that year when my dad hit six figures!” More likely they’ll remember when he spent his last ninety dollars that week on an old, beat-up, Styrofoam sailboat, and finished the evening learning to sail with you on a small, remote pond.
Will we ever learn when enough is enough? When financial comfort has been established so that we can leave our competitive charades behind us and allocate the majority of our short and remaining existence to experience the love of our family and friends? Can we eventually ascertain that more expensive things are meaningless, especially if they are not able to be shared with those we care about? Or, has “enough” just simply lost its meaning amongst the noise of the rat race?
Numbing ourselves down
Are we trading in and suppressing our true feelings to make it easier to be “successful” in life? To venture into the world and away from those we love? And do we falsely believe Skype, phone calls and texts can maintain wholesome connections?
We cast ourselves out into the vast expanse of the earth searching to legitimize our existence with accomplishments, and in doing so we replace our family members with acquaintances, bowling leagues and book clubs, as if to share in our hidden loneliness and inadequate connection to our Neolithic tribe. But even when we do make it home on occasion, why doesn’t it feel wholesome? Maybe trying to compress a year’s worth of feelings into a week holiday with our family once a year is overwhelming!? And we wonder why our meticulously, portioned experience with loved ones is confusingly frustrating and painful.
Choosing love over luxury
Learn to care less, much less, about mainstream notions of success. That’s my advice.
For most of us, achieving an “admirable” level of monetary value and social capital requires us to become, at least partially numb to our primal familial needs. If we allow ourselves to become numb, we may attend a university thousands of miles away for status alone. We may take a job that pays 10k more per year despite it being three thousand miles away from the nearest loved one.
Life is simply better when time is more abundant than money. Don’t believe me? Ask your mother if she would rather have you buy her a car with big-city money, or simply be near enough to make a trip home every Sunday evening to visit with her.
The next time you find yourself attempting to suppress a physically weakening, powerful emotion, feel it completely instead, and understand it may be trying to tell you something; that you’re living out of context with your primal needs. You will have the choice to brush it off and regain your numbness, or you can give in to it and let it guide you to change. There is always that choice. It’s not an easy choice to make today, but be warned, it may cause you to act in opposition to your bank account.