This Mortal Coil

This past week, Mr. X and I have both been suffering from what can only be described as Crises of the Existential Variety. 

His moment of existential angst struck while he was climbing on the Stairmaster at the gym we recently joined.  In that moment, all he could ask was, why? Why am I climbing the stairs to nowhere (any relation to the Bridge to Nowhere)? What is the point?  He came home rather despondent about the greater questions that this Sisyphean challenge posed: what is the purpose of doing the same things over and over again, with no sense of progress or ending? 

My moment of angst hit when I was pondering what to have for dinner a few nights ago.  Nothing made my stomach grumble in anticipation – there was no item, either in the house or out of it, that would make me go, “I want to have that!”  This may seem trivial to you, but to a gal who gets to splurge her points on dinner, it is a very important meal. 

I’ve also been trying to minimize my booze intake – I usually have a lovely glass of wine with dinner pretty much each night, but now I’m trying to get it down to 2-3 times a week, which frankly is making me cranky. It’s not the alcohol I miss, as much as it is the sense of relaxation I get takinng that first sip of a nice glass of Rioja.  So, dinner time has gone from one of my favorites to yet another part of the day when I have to be good. Blah.

I think it is safe to say that we are, the both us, utterly in a rut.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  That seems like all we do these days is repeat, repeat, repeat.  Take the dog for a walk, feed the animals, go to work, come home, take the dog for a walk, feed the animals, go to bed.  And, no matter what activities I try to think of that would make me want to break out of the rut, none of them really give me that push that I need.

On paper, I have a lot of things I want to do:

  • projects to sew for Christmas presents;
  • I’m still saying that I will cross-stitch and sew stockings for the animals for Christmas (not that they would care a lick), but the pattern I have is so cute and I can personalize them!
  • I need to make the calendar of kitty pictures for my parents because if I don’t, they will disown me and we’re counting on the inheritance to fund our grand style of living (kidding people, kidding)
  • I have until the end of the month to order our Christmas cards and get a ridiculous discount from Shutterfly
  • so many books and magazines to read, including the four new titles I picked up for a song (ok $4.50) at the library book sale this past weekend including Bleak House, The Awakening, Portrait of a Lady, and The Thorn Birds (a girl needs her mind-candy, after all)
  • work on the book

But, it all seems so trivial to me.  Does any of it matter in the greater scheme of things?  What is the purpose? I tried answering this question for Mr. X when he was trying to find a purpose for climbing stairs to nowhere.  The easy answer is that it is exercise and that is good, but when you look at the end of the day and say, I climbed 50 stairs – does that mean anything? Anymore than saying I bought five pairs of shoes or I made six pies?  It is the quantification of accomplishments that I think we’re getting hung up on rather than the purpose of those accomplishments.

I want to again feel the joy of doing things for the sake of doing them not because I think I should be doing them.  So, the next time I ponder those Sisyphean stairs, I won’t think about it in terms of the accomplishment of climbing a specific number of stairs, but rather the pleasure I get in knowing I accomplished a goal that I set out to do. Isn’t that what we really try to do everyday?

images: top right – rscottjones; bottom left – Steve Took It

9 thoughts on “This Mortal Coil

  1. I know what you mean Mrs. X. I slip in and out of existential angst, most often during the winter months when I spend more time inside and I’ve got time to think about whether my life path has meaning or not. And I love food, so it’s when there’s no dish that could entice me to eat it that I know I’ve slipped back in. Getting out of the city for the weekend sometimes works for me. Not that it gives my life meaning, but it gets me out of my rut…

  2. Maybe you both need a vacation, or a marriage weekend, or a yoga retreat! Something where you can get away from it all and ponder the meaning of life and come back renewed and ready to savor the taste of every bite, enjoy each sunset, the change of seasons, etc.

  3. I recently read a pretty good book by two Jungian analysts called Romancing the Shadow. I mention this because they had a whole chapter on work based around the myth of Sisyphus and his eternal rock rolling. I think the true joy in life is found when you actually enjoy the process (sort of like preparing for that first sip of wine: opening the bottle, smelling the cork, etc) and don’t have to worry about the fruits of your labor.

    Our society is so linear, so focused on product and result that we miss the best part, really. We keep thinking about the crusts and miss the sandwich fillings. Who knows what the bigger picture will be in the end? What’s important is what you can do right now to connect with your joy, even if that’s bodice rippers and grape soda. Meaning can be small…

    Okay, I better stop before my sleep deprived brain embarrasses me further.

  4. Yep, you need something to look forward to. I know the feeling. I sincerely wish to be excited about something new. I agree, I think you need a little break – a weekend away before the hustle and bustle of Christmas time. Maybe a couples massage. Do something surprising for hubby and maybe he’ll do the same for you.

  5. I can’t remember who it was who wrote that, ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’

    I think that shinejil is right – sometimes we’re so busy focussing on the bigger picture, on moving towards some imagined end goal, that we miss out on the small pleasures in life – a glass of really good wine, a joke shared with our life partner.

    ….or maybe I’m just sounding a bit pollyanna-ish here! I think it is hard not to get dragged down by the mundanities of day-to-day life – the dinners that must be cooked, the dogs that must be walked, the stairs that must be climbed. Perhaps burying yourself in your new books will transport you into another world entirely.

  6. I love this post because I’ve been feeling this a lot lately. I am just grinding my wheels in one place and not feeling like I am accomplishing anything. I feel like I am filling my life with distractions so I won’t be sad about all my losses but then it all just seems like it is getting no where. So I think getting into a mind set of being happy about meeting any small every day goal is a good thing. I also think I spend a lot of time thinking about what want to accomplish instead of just diving in. I hope these feelings of being in a daily rut pass soon for you and your hubby.

  7. Ms. Heathen: It was the late great John Lennon. : ) I have the refrigerator magnet. ; )

    Mrs. X, I too feel in a rut, or at the very least, heading into one. I’ve been relatively busy with bathroom renovations & my mother’s visit recently, & the fall colours & good weather this past week have given me some joy. But I know that we are descending into that grey oblivion known as November, with nothing to look forward to except year-end madness at work. Granted, there is Christmas, but we are so busy at work, it kind of sucks the joy right out of the season. I think the others are right, we both need to invent a few reasons to get out of bed in the morning besides work that will carry us through the next while! I did book a day off at the spa for Nov. 10th! ; )

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