Post image for Are You Living In Quiet Desperation?

Are You Living In Quiet Desperation?

by jenny sansouci on May 10, 2013

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”-Henry David Thoreau

The other day in yoga class, one of my teachers brought up the concept of “quiet desperation.” I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

He described quiet desperation as something that happens when you “lose your edge” – meaning, you lose any uncertainty about your life, you have the next 10-20 years mapped out and you know exactly what it’s gonna look like. You’ve played it “safe”, you do things the way you have been expected to do things, and you’ve found “stability.” Sometimes, when that happens, some people drop into the state of quiet desperation. Meaning everything is “fine” on the outside, you have everything you thought would bring happiness, but you have a longing inside to feel more alive, to dance along the edge of uncertainty, to follow your heart, to take a risk, to live more passionately, to leave room for the unknown.

Someone else described quiet desperation as “what happens when you’re doing what’s expected of you, without ever exploring what it is you truly want out of life. You know there’s something wrong, but you’re too polite to complain and too busy to think about it much.”

The whole concept feels a little suffocating, right?

I’m not saying that everyone who chooses to take a stable, mapped-out, society-approved way of life feels this quiet desperation. I’m also not saying that wanting stability in your life is a bad thing at all. BUT – I am willing to bet that you know if you feel quiet desperation…you probably knew as soon as you saw the title of this blog post.

This topic really resonated with me because I have always been kind of obsessed with being “edgy.” The thought of living in quiet desperation or feeling mediocre about my life has always repelled me. I used to think keeping my “edge” meant doing drugs, smoking cigarettes, drinking anybody under the table and saying things like “f*ck society” all the time. Kind of a destructive way to keep my edge. In fact, being edgy in that way was actually extinguishing the intuitive voice inside urging me to play bigger. Now, I know that being “edgy” can mean something so much cooler. It can mean taking radically good care of myself, not settling for status quo, and pushing my own boundaries of what’s truly possible in life. Being edgy can mean taking risks in the name of feeling fully alive, and dipping my toes into the unknown.

I think the feeling of quiet desperation comes from knowing there’s a passion and purpose for your life, hearing a voice urging you to step into something…but not listening to that voice.

I actually think realizing you’re living in quiet desperation is a good thing. It means there’s something beautiful inside of you just waiting to be shared…something incredible waiting to be born.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

I don’t know, I feel like there is so much more to say on this topic, but all I can say is that if you feel like you’re living in some semblance of quiet desperation, you can take that as a sign that it’s time to give yourself a really important gift…the gift of allowing yourself to be who you truly want to be.  You don’t have to revamp your entire life, leave your job/relationship/home/town in order to do it (although, some may want to). All you have to do is listen, for a moment, to the desire inside of you and take a small step towards living the life you really want to live.

Maybe it’s time to listen to that inner voice that’s asking you to step into something great. Maybe it means taking a class in something you’re interested in. Getting started on that creative project you’ve always dreamed of. Taking a risk. Taking a trip. Changing something you know you need to change. Having a conversation with someone. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Doing something crazy in the name of love. I don’t know, it’s different for everyone. For me, one of the big steps I took towards living a more passionate life was enrolling at nutrition school.

If you have a feeling you’re meant to do something creative (and really, we all are)…I highly, highly suggest picking up The Artist’s Way. For real, big time, it’s a game-changer. After taking a 3-day workshop with the author, Julia Cameron, I started this blog…

When it comes to living passionately and keeping your edge, it looks different for everyone. There’s nothing I can say to tell you exactly what it looks like for you. Chances are, you already have at least a small spark of an idea…

“We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine…it’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”  – Marianne Williamson

I have just scratched the surface here, and this post feels a little ADD, so I would love for you guys to weigh in on this topic. It’s important and complicated and has a lot of layers. What do you think?

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MDarling May 10, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Awesome post. Thanks for the little kick in the butt.

jenny sansouci May 10, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Thanks! 🙂 xo

Jennifer May 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I can most definitely relate to this! I’m also an IIN grad and have this innate passion to share the message of good health with the world (as pretty much all IIN grads do) :), but I’m living in this place where I’m comfortable with my teaching job because I love the kids, even though I don’t love all the admin work they throw on us. I almost feel bad leaving to pursue my dream because I want to watch these kids grow up and see how they do, but I know that I’m meant to share my message in a much larger way and step out of my comfort zone. I definitely don’t have it all planned out and do much better living on the edge, but I can’t keep staying in the shadows for much longer! I also sometimes start thinking that there’s so much health information out there and therefore nobody needs me, but I have to change my thinking around and realize that I have a story to share, so that others can take charge of their health and live better lives. And my response probably sounds kind of confusing, but I hope it made some sort of sense 🙂

jenny sansouci May 10, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Thanks for sharing..yes, the world most definitely needs your unique gifts…keep up the great work and it’ll all unfold as it should 🙂

jeanne May 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Thanks for inspiring us to take life – or one thing- to the edge. You live an exhilirating existence because you dare to go for your ideal every time!!! You always help to push open a new door of possibility in my world. So grateful for your radical and courageous friendship!! XO

jenny sansouci May 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

Jeanne…your courage inspires me every day to dream bigger…so thank YOU…I love you!

samantha May 11, 2013 at 12:03 am

Really awesome and inspiring. You are a shining example of what it is to be bad@$$ fearless and I am inspired to be more like you everyday!! You got what I want!! You are a rocker star super edgy chick. Love you!! Soul sister!

jenny sansouci May 11, 2013 at 10:23 am

Sam, you are the rock star! I am so proud to be part of your life. Xx

Lauren Musick May 13, 2013 at 11:06 am

I loved this post, Jenny! Thanks for inspiring me today.

Jon-Paul May 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm

The Howard Thurmann quote is great – an excellent reminder to me not to succumb to what is expected of me!

Marylou May 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm

This is a great article with some really thought-provoking material in it…and I tend to think that seeing everything we do as a creative act can be really helpful in moving away from a state of desperation.

Katie Berigtold May 20, 2013 at 10:22 am

Yes! I love this so much <3. I too have also felt repelled by the medicore and the average. What a gorgeous reminder to follow passion and creativity in order to live an extraordinary life.

Khadia May 31, 2013 at 10:35 pm

This is a really great post, Jenny! I love it when you follow your intuition + write from your heart. This one got me! Thanks for reminding me to listen to that little voice.

Sarah June 3, 2013 at 1:58 am

I can totally relate… Loved reading this ! ❤

Shannon August 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

I love it, I LOVE IT! I swear, as I dig through your site I am finding more and more posts that are helpful, insightful, and genuine. I really appreciate all your efforts. I can really identify with this post and the feeling of quite desperation. A month ago I decided to follow my heart and my passions and started a blog/website about vegan eating/lifestyle and fitness!

Thanks again! 🙂

Michele C December 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm

It is tough to live a quiet life. Longing for more. Your words are inspiration to step outside my comfort zone. As I seek to take the first step, I will take your courage with me.

Donovan December 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm

HI Jenny, I don’t think this post was ADD…I thought it was sincere, beautiful and even a little powerful. I’ve let go of most my blog subscriptions…but for some reason I’ve kept yours. (I think it was the Healthy Highs write up, wasn’t that you?) Thank you for the work you do. I can tell you put a lot of work into this. I even love how you highlight the key parts. And the info-graphic above in various colors…well I got goosebumps. That’s a good thing! Gratitude ~

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