“Is That All There Is?”

1FEgcOolSorry to be such a downer/drama queen tonight, but this weekend I had one of those epiphanies that make you kind of question everything about your life and the direction in which you’re headed.

I’m 100 percent guilty of forgetting to/failing to live in the moment, and I’m always looking ten steps ahead.

This forward-focused outlook has served me well academically in my youth and even professionally … but personally, it’s basically been a thorn in my side.

It makes me an impatient person, it means I often interrupt conversations (even though it’s not deliberate) and means I often don’t stop to smell the roses, let alone see them.

And that makes me sad, because I’m a very detail-oriented person who recalls every little thing … if I take the time to notice it, that is.

Sometimes I can be in the moment.

Friday night, for example, I totally had a blast at a happy hour goodbye party for our friend, and then easily practiced intuitive eating at dinner at a Mexican restaurant with another group of our friends. I just focused on the company (my hubby and our friends) and enjoyed the night to its fullest. I felt alive in every sense of the word; I wish the feeling could last forever.

But then Saturday night, after a fun day at the park with my husband’s work department, I found myself sitting home alone (he was studying, no friends/family were home to chat with or hang out with).

It was about 9 p.m. and I’d just finished reading a great novel about an enduring friendship (Firefly Lane, in case you’re interested–thanks D.!). I closed the book, and then thought … “OK, now what?”

The sensation was startling.

It made me recall a scene from (yes, here his name comes up yet again ;-)) an indie Ryan Reynolds film called The Nines. In it, the seducing neighbor sings to him that old existential song, “Is That All There Is?” in reference to her life as a stay-at-home mom in an unhappy, loveless marriage with a big-shot Hollywood director or something. She’s “stuck” in her life.

While my life is nothing like the neighbor’s life, I don’t know if it’s my 30th birthday approaching or wanting to start a family soon or what, but suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt bored with my life, like I had no purpose.

Without a high high or a low low, I’m just … here.

I realize this sounds ridiculous and ungrateful; I have a totally fulfilling life like 95% of the time, and of course I have a purpose … we all do, and certainly not everyone obsessed over their purpose, but allow me to explain; this is how I felt in that moment.

I’m not a student (like my husband). I’m not a mom yet (like my best friend). I have a great job, but I’m not wed to work (like my former boss).

I’m a wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend … all very important, treasured relationships. And yes, I’ve become an advocate, which wasn’t something I’d ever planned on, but is very fulfilling.

But somehow all of this doesn’t seem to feel “enough” lately, and I think that feeling of “boredom” leads me to think about food obsessively … or eat when I’m not hungry. (Boredom used to drive me to exercise or shop but I’m getting better at not abusing those two things — my body and wallet are grateful). 

Truthfully, I think that’s why my brain is so focused on food and exercise all the time … it’s something for me to focus on. I need that “something.”

I know it sounds nutty to feel so bored given all the good in my life … and believe me, I’m fully aware of all of it. I’m just observing how I’ve been feeling lately.

Even in trying to eat intuitively, I’m still somewhat eating emotionally or mindlessly at times. I know with IE, it’s not an instant change; it will take time and practice to nail it down. But it’s still frustrating to me that food is still my crutch, after all this time, for better or for worse.

And so when I have free time, I don’t know how to just “be” — I never have. Instead, with free time, I feel dissatisfied if I am not doing something productive.

On a weekend like this past one, when my husband was studying or doing yard work (sawing trees–not stuff I could really help with) and none of my friends were home, my Lia Sophia jewerly stuff was organized, my scrapbooking was mostly done for the summer, my book had been read, I’d already worked out and the house had been cleaned … I felt bored … and I resented myself for feeling that way.

As I noted earlier, typically, I’d have turned to extra exercise: pop in a DVD, go for a bike ride … but I am trying not to treat exercise that way anymore.

And so I ate.  Not a ton (I’m still journaling), but I finally realized why I was doing it: I felt bored. Purposeless.

Finally, I decided to just go to a movie by myself to zone out for a bit (I saw The Ugly Truth which was surprisingly cute and good).

When I got home, my husband had just taken a study break and was about to wash our cars. Turns out while I was gone, he’d also rescued a weak little robin whose mother had just died and who was on the brink of death itself.

I’m an animal lover and have a soft spot for birds. I didn’t want to see the poor baby robin die, so after he introduced me to the little guy and I said hi and touched his broken wing, hoping he’d be ok, I went back inside and decided to write about how I was feeling about everything going on in my head. Writing usually helps, oftentimes even before vocalizing my feelings aloud.

Then, as if someone was listening, in the midst of blogging about this very topic, one of my dearest friends called and she helped me put things in perspective. (Thanks, E., if you’re reading this!)

She explained that while she understood what I was feeling and that these feelings of general “blah” are quite normal, that she thinks I am my own worst critic and that I’m being too hard on myself, per usual. That if I could just be ok with just “being,” then maybe things wouldn’t feel so monumental. That if I wasn’t so hard on myself about eating XYZ just because it wasn’t on my “plan,” maybe I’d feel better about everything.

Basically, the same things she and I have talked about for years … that I just can’t seem to grasp. I’m lucky she still listens to my broken record.

The other thing I realized is something pretty obvious that I need to be reminded of often: In always living for the “next thing,” I’m missing the present. Which makes it that much harder to enjoy the present because I’m too busy berating myself for it in the first place!

It made me sad to realize that for all the strides I’ve taken, it’s still my head that needs the most work.

I mean, life isn’t always supposed to be action-packed or drama-packed, but with me … it’s that whole “if it’s not X, it’s Y.” But why does it have to be either? After all this time … why can’t I just “be?”!

I know from therapy that as an anxious, Type-A person I’m not hard-wired that way, but I really really really want to be less high-strung and more easy-going. I know it’ll make me a better, calmer, nicer person.

So tonight I did something I’d never done before: suggested we make pizza. It worked out well because we had leftover dough from making pita earlier in my KitchenAid mixer. The pizza was delicious (my husband didn’t even mind that it was soy mozzarella — it’s all we had on hand) and we ate it outside on the porch with salad.

Dining al fresco and eating pizza totally took me back to our big Italy trip in 2005, where we pretty much ate pizza and gelato just about once every day (and got engaged). A memory like that soothed me, helped me be present in the moment.

I think what it comes down to is that some of us just have to work harder at things that come naturally to others.

I’m fighting my hard-wiring with every fiber of my being when I just “go with the flow” but it can work. Likewise, if I fill my days with more meaning, then my focus on food, weight, body image, exercise should naturally decrease — inversely proportionately. Right? (Nodding, yes).

Maybe my feeling of discontent/boredom with my life in this moment is totally natural. Maybe it really is “all that there is” and maybe it’s up to me to just be ok with it, accept it for what it is: a moment in time where things are neutral in my life — nothing spectacularly good, nothing terribly wrong. Why does my twisted head correlate a harmonic, peaceful, drama-free lapse with being problematic?

Because we all know, there are going to be high highs and low lows in our lives, and maybe this lull is nothing more than the median of those to-be-expected spikes.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting a different result, right?I guess it’s time to embrace what I have, hang up the drama queen tiara (ok, in real life it’s my wedding tiara which I love to still wear! :)) and live a little.

 Really, I’ve nothing to lose … especially considering how much I think I miss in my present state.

How about you? Do you struggle with being present in your own life? How do you get out of a rut? Do you think peaks and valleys are the exception to the rule and that most of life is more of a plain?


28 thoughts on ““Is That All There Is?”

  1. this is so insightful lissa. it made me think about the word contentment in a positive AND negative way. i want contentment in many areas of my life, but some things i don’t want to be content with, or “stagnant” maybe is a better word.

    practicing yoga helps me in the immediate sense. it clears my mind of clutter and usually helps me focus on what’s right for that moment. studying yoga and mindfulness has helped me in a broader sense as well.

    i would like life to be a plain. preferably a high plain. 😉

    1. That’s a good point, Clare — stagnancy is bad, contentment isn’t. I don’t feel stagnant … I just feel “here.”

      I’ve tried yoga, and I just can’t get into it.I know it kills all my yogi friends when I say that but I just don’t love it.

      1. hey lissa, if yoga isn’t for you…it isn’t for you! 🙂 just curious, do you have trouble falling asleep? i have a horrible time with it, because my mind is so busy. unless i totally exhaust myself, i have a hard time shutting my mind off. i just wondered if you deal with this, being that you are always wanting to be active, “doing something,” etc. i wish i could be more mindless or “empty” or bored sometimes and just be OK with it.

      2. Thanks, Clare 🙂 No, I actually conk out immediately … my problem is STAYING asleep. Sunday I woke at 6 a.m. and pinched myself for sleeping through the night!! Went back to bed, but still. I think my mind zaps off but then wakes up between 1-3 most mornings. Sometimes I just pee and go back to bed. Sometimes I wake and eat.

  2. Do you have a relationship with God and/or your religion? I wonder if that could be what you feel is “missing” in your life.

  3. I agree with the above commenters about yoga and a higher power. It all comes down to spirituality. Praying and meditating are very calming for anxious people.

    On another note, if you’re bored, how about you shake things up? Pursue a higher degree? Go rock climbing, bungee jumping, strip clubbing (haha), or just plan a weekend getaway by yourself, with your hubby, or with some girlfriends. As the Spice Girls would say, “Spice Up Your Life!” Wow, did I just quote the Spice Girls!?

    Do something enjoyable!

    1. Hi Lorrie, as I noted to Clare, I just don’t like yoga … I believe it can be calming for anxious people but it does’t soothe me.

      I def. could use a va-k. We’ve been trying to plan something — we haven’t gone anywhere big since Mexico in March. As for testing other waters, I already have a masters’ degree so I’m not looking to go back to school. My jewelry business will pick up soon, but I think I could look for more here in my community. I could look into volunteering maybe … we’ll see.

  4. I have been feeling very similar. If I am no longer obsessing over my body and food and overexercising what do I do with all that time? I`m bored! Lately I`ve been trying to do the things I procrastinate: like studying French rather than be upset that I have to and waste time feeling sorry for myself. I have also learned that I have to count time spent on creating pleasure as useful. Like going to the movies, that`s pleasureable. It`s not wasted time. Or sitting listening to some soothing music: pleasure. Baking a cake: pleasure. Whatever you like to do but I know for me, I have to change my mindset as to what I consider productive. I`ve been working on it and have gotten better at it. In a way, when you start really eating intuitively, you have to sort of mourn the loss of something that has been with you for so long. Your mind really clears up when you are no longer obsessing over it all. It`s a nicer way to live when your mind is not cluttered but it takes some getting used to.

    1. Susie, that is a REALLY good point; I don’t know what to do with myself! For years I obsessed about my husband and I being apart (when we were dating and engaged, living in two diff. countries). Now we’re together, so this is my obsession … ugh.

      I think part of it is no one was around this weekend and my family is on the east coast and I’ve been missing them a lot lately … maybe that’s part of it.

  5. My life has changed since my co-worker gave me a puppy. I love this dog so much and find I don’t eat as much out of boredom since I have had her. She and I have fun together. I love all the activities that come with a puppy/dog. My friends all tell me how happy I am compared to before she came into my life. I am not suggesting you get one just sharing what helped me.

    1. I’ve wanted a puppy for a long time, Alis, so it’s funny you mention that. 🙂 I’m concerned about taking care of one, though – and since we want to start a family … it’s one of those “ok do we really want to make the commitment to a pet now?” as most of its care would end up falling on me (with my hubby in biz school, he’s not around much). We’ll see…we keep talking about it and toying with the idea but then we love our freedom, too … and know that will change when we have a fam, so it’s like, do we wait til then or no?

  6. How about you? Do you struggle with being present in your own life? How do you get out of a rut? Do you think peaks and valleys are the exception to the rule and that most of life is more of a plain?

    Boredom is my worst enemy right now, and it is summer and I’m regretting not getting a job or taking summer classes. When bored, I feel verysad and down, and it can lead to binges. Sadly, to get out that rut I fast. I want to find other ways to make myself happier than fasting, but I don’t know any.

    I don’t know. I think that although lots of life can be boring-middle-of-the-graph-blahness, what you were talking about – the living in the moment – can help. Really feeling and seeing and hearing and thinking can make you feel lots of things.

    But, also, I’m 19. I’m still going through all that hormonal stuff that magnifies every single feeling, good or bad. Maybe because your moods are leveled out, it’s different, and you probably are a lot more bored than I am – and I am very bored!

    I hope you feel better, it sucks to be too bored – then nothing sounds fun and you just get more bored.

    1. Oh that scares me what you’re saying, Mad Bird, that you fast to avoid boredom … that would make me positively batty. I have to fast one day a year (Yom Kippur) and it is HARD and def. not something I’d recommend for good.

      I think my moods are all out of whack — I went off the Pill three months ago so my body is adjusting to “normalcy” after like 9 yrs on it!

      Thanks …

  7. I can relate. My therapist always brings up the point “what would you be thinking about if not so obsessed about food/weight”? We often use it as a distraction from thinking/dealing wiht other things. Maybe things that we don’t want to deal with or think about for whatever reason. Things that make us uncomfortable deep down. Perhaps this is behind your feelings of unrest. When not obsessed with food/weigth you are free to think about other things and maybe they are things you are not ready or comfortable to deal with? So you feel antsy and unproductive as a ways of “creating” something to be upset about? Just thinking out loud here.

    1. Hi Lara. I know, but that’s the thing, I honestly don’t know what I’d be thinking about. It’s been part of me for more than five years now, this obsession … 😦 I’m sure I could be brokering peace in the Middle East with the amount of effort I spend thinking about this stuff or even now, pondering why I’m thinking about it.

      I will have to do some soul-searching because honestly nothing comes to mind. I think my head is just a mess.

      1. yup me too. I don’t think I am conciously avoiding any issue or thoughts. I have been through therapy before so have dealt with much of those “past” issues that can trouble us. She tells me maybe I need a new hobby or something or “project” but then I stress about what to do LOL Nothing is calling to me. Food/exercise is a hobby of mine and while they are healthy persuits it gets tangled up in the body/weight obsession.

    2. Lara, that’s so excactly it … “Food/exercise is a hobby of mine and while they are healthy pursuits it gets tangled up in the body/weight obsession.” Such a tricky, fine line…

  8. Someone asked me recently: what makes you happy? (I had declared I was bored and my life was unfulfilling .. thanks to years of having `something to do`. And I had no response to this question. What makes me happy? I have no idea. I used to say exercise. It is still true. I enjoy riding my bike or whatever, but if I`m going to make it in recovery, that can`t be the only thing.

  9. I am exactly like Susie – when I was trying to lose weight and very unhappy with my body, it was my obsession. After I lost the weight (and was finally able to run again), I was stuck – what did I worry about now? I felt so silly for thinking this way – shouldn’t I just be grateful and get on with it? I think I am the type of person who HAS to be worried about something. That’s not always a bad thing, but like you, I wish I could sit back and enjoy the moment.

    You mentioned that you recently went off the pill – do you think that could be some of it? I’ve only been on the pill once (awhile ago) and know it can greatly affect our emotions!

    I definitely think peaks and valleys are expected. I used to let little “funks” really get to me, but now I know I’m out of them as quickly as I fall into them.

    1. Holly, I am that way too, there’s always gotta be “Something” to dwell on, focus on, My dad always told me (even as a little girl) that I tended to make mountains out of mole hills. I never understood it then, but that is soooo me!!

      I don’t know, going off the Pill does crazy things to our bodies (regulating them back to “normal”) so who knows…it could play a role, for sure.

  10. I know what you mean about the timing. A puppy is a lot of work. It might sound weird but I like giving some of my freedoms up for my puppy. I don’t have kids yet so I don’t know if it is better to get a dog before or after having a baby. I don’t mind the responsibility of her though. I just love having her around. I have always been an animal lover. I waited until I felt the time was right for me. I have wanted a dog of my own for so long. I raised the family dog when he was a puppy so I learned training techniques. My expectations were realistic. I also didn’t get a brand spanking new puppy. A co-worker was moving and needed a home for her 3 month old puppy. I found working with a little bit older puppy was much easier. I am a big planner. I will plan when I have kids. I planned out getting my 2 cats. I planned out getting a dog. I am already training the dog to be gentle for when I have kids someday. I am such a nerd about it. Whenever I am down I just play with her and she has me laughing. Instead of thinking about what I will be making for dinner I think about going home to her. When I grocery shop I stick to the list because she is in the car waiting. When I was potty training her I was taking her outside about every half hour just so she wouldn’t have accidents. The following Monday I went to put on my work pants and they were really loose. I checked my weight and I had lost 4lbs in a week. I know that is fast but it wasn’t from not eating. It was from all the trips up and down the stairs every half hour I had been doing along with not cooking elaborate meals. I also appreciate that I can still go out if I want to because I don’t have to find a babysitter for her. She came along at the perfect time for me. I think you will know the perfect time to get a dog too.

  11. I think it is an incredibly common feeling at this stage in our lives – – looking for meaning.

    The thing is, you and I have both have already achieved much of what many people want – married to wonderful guys, good career (although not a “calling” which would provide further purpose), relatively monetarily secure, good friends…

    And once we have all of these wonderful things, rather than enjoying them, we need future goals to make our lives seem worthwhile – we want to have a purpose.

    I am guessing that soon, our purpose will be to raise healthy and happy children, and that this feeling of “is this all there is” will pass for another decade or two.

    I guess what it comes down to is that we should enjoy this quiet pre-children time, but also appreciate that now is when we have the time and liberty to consider how to make our lives as fulfilling as possible.

    When I am 92 – and I imagine myself in a bed surrounded by my children and grandchildren – what do I want to be looking back on? That I tried my best to be a good mom? That I had a successful carreer? Or do I want to look further – that I was able to help others in need or contribute to society?

    1. Hey Yas!! I think you are soooo on to something. We have achieved so much so young, and I think you’re totally right that that’s the next “purpose.” I just wish I could enjoy this in-between time. I used to feel this way in between visits with L…that “ok, now what?!” waiting til the next time we could be together. Now we’re married, so that’s great, but I am once again feeling that in between mentality again. tHanks for the inspiration as always. 🙂

  12. I can completely relate to this. I have a wonderful life, but sometimes I feel like all my country-hopping is my literally chasing happiness instead of just focusing on the now. Those quiet moments, like the one you described at home, I have those often these days. It’s easy to fill those moments with food but I am working on alternative outlets and it sounds like you are, too. The first step is recognizing it. 🙂

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