Quiet Desperation

“When I first saw American Beauty, I was married. And the second time I saw it… I wasn’t.”

Every now and again, there’s a piece of art that speaks directly to those who live in quiet desperation. A feeling that something’s not quite right, or possibly quite wrong, with the way they live their life or the way they’ve been navigating their career.

You may not be able to quite put your finger on what it is that’s bugging you, or perhaps you know exactly, but you couldn’t even begin to dare think about what it would take to wrestle yourself out of the chokehold that your situation has become over the years. We can’t just blow up our lives now, can we?!

And along comes that person, that story, that book, that show, that movie, or, yes, possibly even that Instagram post – tapping right into the fantasy of breaking out of this quiet desperation and start making a fucking change!

That’s what American Beauty, did for many people, and hence the quote above, which is what Kevin Spacey heard quite a lot from people following his role as Lester.

To some, this kind of art helps them muster the courage to consider what it would take to live differently. And they may step out of what’s been broken for some time. Others consider their options and decide to try and mend what’s broken, within existing structures, and many people save their marriages or find meaning in their current job.

Whatever the outcome, to speak out loud what has been experienced in quiet desperation is a courageous act. It may feel like speaking it into existence, making it real, just by acknowledging it to someone. Not taking action at that point may feel even more defeating and depressing than continuing to ignore and suppress it. And so, many continue to suffer quietly. The devil you know may just be more comfortable, after all, despite the suffering. Because, indeed, sorting your shit out is a lot of work!

And yet, continuing life in quiet desperation (unless this is a conscious choice after considering your alternatives) is a recipe for having regrets in the future. And those are likely to breed resentment and deep unhappiness, which is going to affect everyone around us.

The term ‘existential crisis’ can be thrown around quite lightly. American Beauty is a wonderful illustration of what it might look like and feel like.

I wish all people would have someone to talk to on a regular basis, someone safe to express such deeply personal thoughts and feelings. Chances are that if we acknowledge them, we can take action before we reach the point of crisis. But the reality is that most people wait too long, and at that point, it may require some drastic measures to reconnect to a life of meaning and authenticity.

It’s never too late if you ask me!

It’ll take courage to make a change. It’ll take courage not to.

That’s just the nature of our human condition.

With Love