When things got so overwhelming for me in junior high during the time I was being bullied, I would grab the washroom key and leave the classroom. Most of the time, I just would choose a stall and inhale the quiet, and read the messages that were scribbled on the cubicle walls. I would describe it as a time of desperation. Just being able to get out of the four walls of the classroom was freedom in a world that constantly had me on guard. I just wanted it to stop, the constant picking on, the constant ribbing, the constant negative voices that had taken residence in my head.
A few weeks ago, there was a parish mission, and the retreat speaker spoke of a quote that Henry David Thoreau so eloquently expressed during his time spent on Walden Pond:
‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’
The retreat leader likens it to the kind of world that we live in now. There was this awareness inside of me when I heard him speak about quiet desperation. I identified with the word, desperation to describe a time of my life when it seemed out of control. It feels like you literally holding onto this rope that you are convinced is the only way to keep going. A quick sand way of living. I believed that there was nothing I could do, but as time continues to show me that I was wrong in my assessment. I did have a choice, but I wasn’t aware of my choice at the time. And the Lord has shown me that I wasn’t alone as I had initially believed.
I had never heard this quote until last week, and it was really impressed upon me of and how hidden this quiet desperation is among us because no one talks about it. No one talks about loneliness, shame, fear or anger because these are the emotions that lead us to live lives of quiet desperation. We are desperate to get things in order in our lives. We want to be what others expect of us so there is no peace in our hearts, but instead, it is filled with deadlines from work, relationship woes and dreams put on hold.
What Can Be Done?
Yes, there are tons of quotes that encourage you to follow your dreams. Have courage, be brave and walk a path that no else has. All very noble things. But life keeps disturbing your plan. Obligations like family, work, friends, and of course procrastination. Anxiety creeps into all of these situations. I could tell you that things will get better, but desperation comes from a deep-seated fear that nothing will change. The good news is that change is always happening. Desperation largely comes from our belief systems and the world around us, which also dictates our beliefs systems. But there are also things which we have no control over, systems which enslave people despite what they believe in, and some of these very beliefs are what causes others to rage against them.
I don’t know when I stopped living in desperation and when I stopped holding on for dear life, leaving marks on people who weren’t supposed to be my life preservers. The more I went to Jesus, the more he just came in and started putting things right. It’s a blur but a big part of it was prayer and trying to live as I desired to be in Him. I allowed for the change that I needed in order to be filled with His spirit. Our culture demands more of us every day, week, month and year. It’s exhausting and part of what kills our spirit, but the more I learned what the Lord expected of me, the more my desire became to not follow the lies of desperation.