Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Angst: Embracing Our Discontent

What is The Angst?
The Angst is the name I have given to a feeling that we all experience from time to time.  That sensation that all is somehow not right in our tiny little part of the world.  If you have ever heard that voice in the back of your head, whispering, "There must be more to life than this," then you have felt The Angst.  It's a powerful emotion.  It has been the driving force behind such movements as Civil Rights, Women's Lib, and Gay Marriage.  It's a primary cause of the dreaded Mid-Life Crisis.  It can cause us to change careers, get divorced, move to a new town, or make any number of changes in the way we live our lives.
Though anyone can experience The Angst, there is a very specific brand of it that seems to be a universal experience of women.  In us, The Angst often manifests itself in the great battle between our domestic side and our creative side, and we spend our lives struggling to strike a balance.  Many women fall into this balance naturally, using domestic chores to achieve creative fulfillment.  Some do it by keeping their houses clean.  Others pride themselves on cooking all meals from scratch.  There are those crafty types who make all their own curtains and quilts and--occasionally--clothes.  They pour the entirety of themselves into the raising of their children, and have no regrets about what other life they may have had.
Many women, though, are not content with that life.  I'm not saying they hate it.  In fact, they may love it.  It's just not enough to make them feel completely satisfied with themselves.  They want more.  Disney movies sum it up pretty well.  Snow White dreamed that one day her prince would come.  Ariel wanted to be part of another world.  Belle longed for more than a provincial life.  And of course Elsa finally just let it go.  We identify with these movies because we have often felt what these women feel.
Is The Angst Bad?
We, whether experiencing women's Angst or some other form of it, often think of it as something to be ignored, even stifled.  This is not necessarily a bad way to look at it.  After all, the secret to happiness is not always having what we want.  Sometimes the secret to happiness is wanting what we have.  Contentment is a rare thing in our society, and those few who have found it have indeed found something precious.  It is something we all should pursue, keeping in mind that if we are unhappy in our lives, it might be our attitude, and not our lifestyle, that needs the adjustment.
So Why Should We Embrace The Angst?
There's a time to be content, and there's a time to change our lives.  Where would our world be today if Rosa Parks had decided to just be content with her lot in life?  And she is just one example of the good that can come of embracing The Angst.  I know, sparking the Civil Rights Movement is a slightly more noble thing than...oh...I don't know...signing up for an art class because you need a creative outlet.  But maybe that creative outlet can be the thing that makes you happy enough with yourself that you can be what you need to be for others.  Maybe leaving that job that you hate for one that you love gives you the energy to take your kids to the beach on Saturday.  Or maybe the creative outlet itself puts you in a position to have an impact on the world.  Or maybe it just makes you happy, and that's good enough.  After all, you'll have just raised the percentage of happy people in the world.
Care is needed, of course.  We don't want to become self-absorbed.  We don't want to spend all of our time pursuing our own interests at the expense of the other people in our lives.  We need to remember that we are still husbands or wives, sons or daughters, moms or dads, sisters or brothers.  Those relationships matter, and sometimes we have to sacrifice for the sake of them.  But if you have ever watched Tangled and cried as you wondered along with Rapunzel when your life would begin, maybe that's a sign that you have not quite found the right balance.  Maybe it's time to embrace The Angst.

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