I am having one of those rare days when, out of the blue and for no obvious reason, everything seems pointless. Empty. Void of meaning or purpose.

I saw an old man earlier, barely able to walk slowly up the street with the assistance of his walking stick, and I suddenly felt as though I was going to blink my eyes and be that old, with most of my life behind me – and what will I remember then about today? What will it matter, these small emotions that feel so overwhelming, in the overall picture of my life, let alone anything greater than that? And whilst I thought of a life already lived, I simultaneously faced the reality that I might just as well be dead tomorrow, cold and gone, and soon forgotten.

What does any of it matter?

I want to end this post there – with a simple statement of how I feel. Yet somehow I can never allow myself that simplicity; I always have to add the context that I know this illogical knot of rage and fear in my gut will have faded before I am home with my loving and wonderful family tonight, and try to explore this emotion a little more.

I clearly remember one of the first times I felt like this after my mother’s death. It was two months after she died, and I was playing in a Canoe Polo tournament in Wales. It was a grey, cold Saturday afternoon, and I was paddling back from the docks where we had just finished a game. I stopped to look at a small flower growing on the sheer stone walls of the docks, where it seemed impossible any life could be sustained. It seemed like it should signify the imperative of life for life’s sake; the overcoming of odds, the defying of adversity, and beauty in the most unexpected places. It is exactly the sort of thing that would usually bring a smile to my face. But as I looked at it I just felt a sullen emptiness, and a rage at the pointlessness of life. I tried to express it to a team mate, but he merely stated the perfectly reasonable viewpoint that life doesn’t need to have meaning, but is enough in and of itself – which I agree with, and is indeed a perspective that I have been quite content with for most of my life, but made me rage even more at my inability to express my emotion in that moment. I could not explain the difference between my general feeling of being satisfied without my life having any greater meaning – it being enough to live and love and appreciate the beauty of the world – and this furious, fleeting sense of futility. Is it perhaps impossible to explain to someone who has never experienced it?


8 thoughts on “Futility

  1. Laurel – Your feeling is an expression of my own sometimes. What and why – and if we are gone we are are gone and we know nothing and feel nothing. It is not easy to get a handle on that. i am just so glad that Tessa knows not. Just Monday, on a beautiful morning, I was feeling these same feelings of yours, not about myself (for a change) but about the planet. How very extremely extraordinarily beautiful and complex it is, and how we are collectively doing so much to damage that beauty – and all for why ?? I know not, but I want to be here and you with me. dirk.

  2. This spoke to me – maybe it will to you too…

    I will not die an unlived life.
    I will not live in fear
    of falling or catching fire.
    I choose to inhabit my days,
    to allow my living to open me,
    to make me less afraid,
    more accessible;
    to loosen my heart
    until it becomes a wing,
    a torch, a promise.
    I choose to risk my significance,
    to live so that which came to me as a seed
    goes to the next as blossom,
    and that which came to me as blossom,
    goes on as fruit.

    – Dawna Markova, I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

  3. My darling, I find the way I view the flower so much depends on how I feel in myself that day. So many days I’ll walk right by without even seeing it. Some days I admire the beauty of it. Some days it seems to mean so much – luckily usually an affirmation of life and beauty, as my times of depression have been few and far between. It doesn’t change that overall futility, merely my interpretation of it. Sometimes one can revel in purposelessness, rather than fear it. Have an amazement that such random chance in the universe can result is such complexity and beauty.

    But you know all that. So just to let you know I’m here and I hear you.
    Love Elin

  4. Sometimes, Laurel, I think it is the difference between those who examine and wonder and those who don’t … there was a time when I longed to be as surface as some, those that seem to go through life easier, but not anymore. Just as your reflection here shows – meaninglessness begs meaning, and meaning begs to be left unknown.

    ‘I could not explain the difference between my general feeling of being satisfied without my life having any greater meaning – it being enough to live and love and appreciate the beauty of the world – and this furious, fleeting sense of futility. Is it perhaps impossible to explain to someone who has never experienced it?’

    I have and am so grateful for your beautiful reflection on this ambivalence. Diane XO ♥♥♥

  5. I have some sense of the feeling you describe. As if all the lights had gone out. Before I even begin to convince you otherwise your mood would have started to lighten anyway. You are an infrequent visitor to my Blog, but when you pop over it always cheers me up because you are a person of dignity and depth, and to be read by such people means something to me.

    At the same time reading your Blog always gives me sustenence, because even if the sun is not shining for you, your character and thoughts enrich my life. Possibly life is without meaning in a sentient way. What gives it meaning is the cherishing and sharing we do of each other. I cherish your Blog, and therefore you, so your life has plenty of meaning and purpose in my thoughts.

  6. Laurel, I have just visited and read this. I can only reiterate what most peole have intimated above.

    I have certainly had these feelings many times especially during deep bouts of depression. Strangely, though, these feelings have been few and far between sinc my diagnosis of MS, when I would have expected the opposite. For some reason, and I do not even begin to understand it, there seems in us all an inherent desire to cling to life.

    I carry on a daily struggle trying to make sense of it. All I know is that as long as I am here I need to make the best of my existence for whatever reason, futile or not, because, like it or not, and mostly I do, I am part of this strange and sometimes wonderful world.

    Love and hugs


  7. I’m sorry I never replied to all these wonderful and moving comments. I have just re-read and reflected on them all, and feel overwhelmed with gratitude to have such wonderful people in my life, in different ways and at different times. Thank you, thank you, thank you ALL for hearing me, and sharing your hearts in return x

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