Life is perfect. I feel stuck

Maybe I shouldn't complain, but things are too good right now

Published June 26, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I've reached this year a wonderful point in my life, where I really have very little to complain about. I have a job I love (stressful and demanding, sure, but also very satisfying) and no money problems; I'm healthy, as is everyone I love, and on top of that I'm engaged to an intelligent, considerate, loving and talented man whom I love deeply. I have plenty going on, with good professional challenges coming up, me and my fiancé's new place to remodel, and a wedding to organize.

But lately I've been more and more uncomfortable in my own skin, and only this week I figured out why (it was such an aha! moment that I actually said "duh!" to myself after coming to this conclusion). All this stability is driving me a little crazy. I need strong emotions. I need an occasional thrill. Seriously, the only overwhelming feeling I get these days is the occasional anger when someone cuts me off in traffic. My life right now is the equivalent of a healthy, balanced and tasty diet, which, well, feels a bit bland sometimes. And it's already started to affect me: I'm almost constantly moody, unfocused, messier than usual, and my libido is suffering. I snap at people, something I always took pride in not doing. Sometimes I'm just plain sad.

A part of me reacts to this saying, "Well, big deal. This is called being an adult: You do what's right, you don't go around doing stuff just because you're bored." And I think this part is completely right. At the same time, I'm starting to fear that this may eventually get out of control if I don't listen to it.

Because you see, I don't consider this need to be in any way an excuse to just do something stupid and exciting. As I said, I really DO like my life, and I don't want to destroy all the great things I have to scratch an itch. The obvious conclusion would be to find something exciting, yet healthy and productive.

I have absolutely no idea what that could be.

Honestly. I don't think just the sensation of an adrenaline rush will do. I miss emotion. Real, authentically strong emotions: passion, hate, obsession. I don't think I even need a large dose, but I know I need the real thing. Bungee jumping is not the answer. Then again, neither are drugs, affairs or picking fights -- things that would certainly give me the real deal, but would also destroy a lot of things that I worked hard for and don't want to lose. Despite all I've said, I'm not at all fond of drama, risk or danger. I love security and stability. Just not this much.

Damn, this all sounds so selfish and silly. But the feeling is just too real. It feels like an emergency. It feels like a fire that must be put out before it burns down the whole house.

How can I meet this need? Any ideas on how to deal with this would help.


Dear Stifled,

Here are some ideas.

  • Just for today, don't be reasonable and don't apologize.
  • Buy an electric guitar and a loud amplifier. Rent time in a rehearsal studio in a run-down part of town. Turn it way up and make noise. Listen to the noise it makes and watch the goose pimples on your arm.
  • Put some pots and pans into the back seat of an old car, preferably a Ford Falcon or Chevy Malibu, drive out into the desert, stop on a deserted road, get out, stand by the side of the road and beat on the pots and pans while screaming. Keep beating on the pots and pans and screaming until something changes.
  • Walk down Rodeo Drive swinging a baseball bat.
  • Go into an expensive jewelry store and slap the counter so that other patrons turn to look.
  • Have dinner in a fine restaurant and near the end of the dinner shout "Fuck!"
  • Slap the valet in the face when he hands you your keys. Then go pee in the bushes.
  • Buy a saxophone from a pawn shop and start learning to play it during your breaks at work.
  • Wear tight purple pants.
  • Tell your fiancé you're bored and restless and suggest it might be his fault.
  • Tell him you're going to be lots of trouble as a wife and ask him if he's got any ideas how to calm you down.
  • You could jump out of an airplane but that might be boring. Steal a car instead.
  • Go to the circus and sneak backstage and talk to the snake woman.
  • Get your fortune told.
  • Think up a kinky sex fantasy. Write to Dan Savage to ask if it's OK. He'll tell you it is and then you'll feel you'll have to do it just out of politeness.

Consider the contents of your unconscious to be sacred and important. Try taking the images in your mind literally. That may lead you somewhere. For instance, the bungee jumping image. If that image actually appears to you, then take some time with it. If it is just a metaphor, then move on. If you apprehend the images of your unconscious in their literal and raw form, they may empower you or take you somewhere unexpected.

Let your mind suggest images to you that feel satisfying and complete, that satisfy a hunger.

For instance, I close my eyes and see a man standing on the bank of the Panama Canal at sunset. Why? I do not know. Perhaps because it connects two great bodies of water and I like the idea of connection, of breaking through a narrow barrier to see the majesty of the other coast. I like the idea of water flowing. I like water. It's as simple as that. It is fulfilling to think about. It means I need to be near some water or I, like you, will start to explode and act out.

The point is that the things in our minds must be treated as real, not as childish junk. It is not just junk that must be cleared away so we can get to work on something important. It is the language spoken by the soul. The soul is important.

It is important to find your own images, the ones that are living with you.

You may already have begun the deadening process of adulthood. But it is not too late to stop it. What parts of yourself have you been deadening? Let them come alive.

Random acts can mean things. A bird's flight may seem random but it expresses that bird's life. Anything may seem random if we do not know its context.

Sometimes what a random act means is: I am alive!

A boy may be walking along a street hitting every fencepost with a stick and you may ask him why and he may say he doesn't know but he is doing it because he is alive.

Once we recall the simple joy of being alive, it does not matter so much if an act is random. It is an act of life.

The suggestions I made may be only metaphorical and meant to startle and amuse. Need we make disclaimers? Slapping people is bad. We know that.

Explaining won't fix anything.

You might want to do some of these things on a stage so you are acting them out and not exposing yourself to arrest.

But then that might not give you what you need.

Buy some noisy instruments. Nobody can arrest you for that.

These concrete images are mine. They may not be yours. You may have others. They are what I think about when I think about feeling stuck.

What to do with these images?

You could say, Oh, that image of the sunset at the beach, that must be some kind of escapist image. But then you are working to distort what they are. You are calling it "escapist" when it is just the beach at sunset. Take it literally. Let it dwell with you. Something will come of it.

By Cary Tennis

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