How To Live a Fragmented Life

fragment

*Warning: this is a processing post. I’m disclosing with this preface that I may not come to any spectacular conclusions about anything, but I’m pretty sure I’m not in this boat alone.

This last week I was finally able to put my finger on something that has been driving me crazy for quite a while. I’ve been living with an underlying current of unease or stress, and could not figure out with actual language and thoughts what was feeling so off. But this week, as I was constantly changing gears and rushing off to the next thing, it finally hit me: my life is a mish-mash of disconnection that I have to figure out every week how to fit together into some semblance of a “whole” life.

Let me try to explain. As I’ve mentioned many times, I was married for just shy of 12 years. During that time I had three kids. I worked as a lab scientist part of the time during those early years of being a mother, but gradually transitioned into being a full-time stay at home mom, a role I functioned in for the better part of nine years.

When you’re married and a stay at home mom of children, everything in life just naturally becomes about family.  And everything feels pretty integrated. Other than the occasional girls’ night out or solo run to Barnes and Noble to try and regain some weeknight sanity through solitude and books, most everything I did revolved around my husband and my kids.  Even if they weren’t directly involved in what I was doing, there was still the coordinating of care for them, making sure that we touched based numerous times each day, and we came back together in the same house each night for bed….except for when business trips interfered and I was solo mom-ming it.

Even if life wasn’t necessarily “happy”, there was flow.  There was a pattern to things that I could generally count on. Where I went, the kids went.  Where the kids went, I went. All the different spheres of my existence somehow included my husband and my kids, and I felt like I understood my role as a person in those years because it was rather continuous and fairly predictable.

Those roles and that continuity have changed so very dramatically over the last several years.  It probably started five or so years ago as I began to gradually unhinge myself from my marriage, and my ex and I became roommates who shared kids, more than functioning partners in a relationship. But my responsibilities, and my kids, and my friends, and the things I did every day were constants that made me feel grounded in some sense.

It occurred to me the other day that my life is nothing short of fragmented. This epiphany helped to suddenly shine some light on this background stress frequency that permeates my life.  There is little continuity in my life these days, and that is something I keep striving for. This flying by the seat of my pants from one thing to another, day after day, feels so hard, and I’m constantly wondering which ball I’m going to drop, or which particular role I’m going to be shitty at on any given day.

Yesterday someone told me they think I’m very settled.  I inwardly rolled my eyes.  Stuck maybe, but not settled.  They later said I’m a very steady person.  That made me inwardly laugh really hard because I usually feel about as steady as a fainting goat at any given moment. My life is chaos all the time. And I’m realizing, especially through my “aha” moment, how much of it I do to myself.  The big question is: why?

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I have determined that I have at least five realms of existence in my life, and much of these realms don’t overlap. It’s a really bad Venn diagram of a life where the circles don’t touch, which makes going from one thing to the other a matter of alot of hard stops and abrupt changes of direction.  Here are some of the realms I’m alluding to:

  1. I have my kids only so many days each week, and every other weekend.  When they are with me, my focus is parenting, trying to hit off items on their to do lists, reconnect with them when I haven’t seen them for a while, and actually cook at least two decent meals a day. But, because of the weird dynamics I have with their father, it’s like when they’re not with me, I suddenly lose them and there are these big “kid-holes’ in my life…very abrupt snatching away of that realm of parenting. Thank God now they have phones and we can stay kind of connected through texting.  I hate this, though.  I feel like a mom half of my life, and the other half…I don’t know what I am.
  2. I’m in online graduate school doing a program that is relatively new to the discipline of nursing, so nobody else I personally know in life is pursuing or has pursued this degree.  I interact with my professors and classmates via email, text, and Zoom; they are a chunk of life I interact with a few times a week over the web. Nothing about this portion of my life interacts much with any other portion, so again, it feels very disconnected and abrupt when I enter and exit this realm.
  3. I go to work about 3 times a week at the hospital as a nurse. I love my job, where I work, and all the people I work with.  But this is another separate chunk of life.  Nothing about my job or the people that I know there spill over into my personal life…other than that my work friends post some freaking amazing FB content that gives me alot of joy.
  4. Most of my friends are spread out all over Indianapolis and surrounding areas. So I go to one town to see one friend, then another town to see another friend.  Up to 86th street to see that person, and down to Bloomington to see that person.  Straight into Broad Ripple to see that one person, and off to Chicago to see that one other person.  If I’m really lucky I’ll occasionally be able to get two of my friends in the same place at one time, and that’s just because I’ve been very rigorous about trying to introduce all of my friends to each other because 1) I know they’ll hit it off, and 2) I need a little more connection between the people in my life, and 3) I think I know half of the divorced women in Indiana and I recognize that we all need each other.
  5. I’m not really hitting up church on Sundays much these days, but for the last several years I had another chunk of life through a congregation I attended and was a part of. I valued it greatly, but it was just another disconnected aspect of my life; it was another hard stop and direction change to go to church and then head back to a different Venn circle in my life. It’s strange to pursue Mennonite values so hard when only a small piece of my life pays attention to those values in any real way.
  6. And then finally, at least I think, my actual extended family is a chunk in my life. But they are spread across Texas and Missouri and I probably feel most disconnected from them and un-integrated with the rest of my life. It’s hard to stay integrated with and know/be known by people you see twice a year.

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So, this is what I realized:  my life has become, not a continuous daily journey with the same people doing much the same things, but a constant jumping from one thing to another.  Something that has hurt me in this, I’m realizing, is that I don’t have very good processes in place to help me transition from one Venn circle to the other, and so I’m constantly feeling disoriented, and very…unsettled.

I don’t think this problem is unique to me.  I have several divorced female friends whose lives have been upended and are trying to piece together a meaningful and joyful existence as I am, while earning a living, parenting, and pursuing the things we are passionate about.  I also think some of these friends are also rocking it so much better than I am.

I pontificate all the time that I’m so glad I’m not tied down in a marriage like I was before, but this is one thing that I’m recognizing:  I do miss some of the certainty, security, and stability that comes with having a family dynamic that is predictable and steady. It’s hard having completely different routines every single day because of the nature of my life and roles; it’s really hard going to sleep one night with a kiddo snuggled up next to me knowing that my other two are dreaming on the other side of the house, and then the next night, I”m sleeping cold and alone in an empty house…hoping maybe at least the cat will come and snuggle with me.

It’s hard trying to talk to people about things in my life when all of those people aren’t involved in other areas of my life and have little clue what I’m talking about and so struggle to relate. The last three years have really been the very first time in my life when the bulk of the people in my life didn’t fit into more than one of my Venn circles.

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I’ve started exercising like crazy again.  I was running, swimming, and cycling alot a couple of years ago, but pretty much dropped them when I started my first nursing job and did nothing but cry and think I was going to die for a solid six months. But, now, I no longer consistently cry and I’ve realized that I can, in fact, work out on days that I work, and it has become a real lifesaver.  I think I’ve figured out why: these long periods of running, or swimming (not biking yet because I haven’t worn a good enough callous on my hiney yet for long rides) are a way to help me transition during all of these hard stops and role changes in my life. It feels kind of like EMDR…that psychotherapy modality where trauma victims are helped to process traumatic memories through bilateral eye movements or bilateral body stimulation. The exercise becomes a meditative experience that helps me physically work out the stress and makes me feel like I can move on to the next thing in a more whole-bodied way.  That may sound really stupid, but I think its legit.  And probably why then, exercise has become so addictive over the last six to eight months….sometimes I feel like its the only thing that is actually keeping me grounded.

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So, what I’m trying to figure out now is how to live an integrated, whole life when you struggle with dissociative lifestyle disorder.  When the people, things that I’m involved in, and things that are important to me are so widely varied and unrelated to each other….how do I hold this all together?  Is it even worth it to try and hold all of these things together in one existence?  My great fear in life is that in the attempt to manage all of these things and people that I hold dear, I’m inevitably going to drop the ball and fail someone miserably. Or, in my whole-hearted attempts to do everything well, the end results will simply be alot of half-assed outcomes.  How do you really know what to keep and what to let go of?   I really hate it when people tell me to make lists and prioritize. My brain does not work that way. Everything, everyone….is important to me.

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I always feel a little self-conscious about the fact that I have some crazy and out of control ADHD.  This contributes alot to the fact that my life fragments so much – I get interested in everything and everyone and so constantly fly off in different directions and say yes to too much and try to do everything right NOW. In my crazy running around I make to-do lists and then forget I made them, I start projects that I hope I’ll eventually finish, and every day becomes a process of making up things as I go along.

My nursing career coach told me the other day that his own therapist’s opinion is that people with ADHD might actually be primed to be the most healthy people in today’s nutty world with too much information and stressors and activity because we can flit superficially over things and not get too bogged down.  I’m not sure I’m convinced, but I trust his opinion, so I’m tentatively going with it.

Maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. Yes, my life is fragmented, and definitely messy, but maybe it’s just because my life is big and I’m blessed to have good people and good things happening in every direction I turn. There are some adventure and thrill to the unpredictability of my life, and I am certainly never bored.  I’m finally getting to do things I’ve always wanted to do that I never thought were possible or would actually happen.

And yes, I may be a hot mess express the majority of the time, but I’m definitely not sitting back and letting life pass me by.  I’m not letting my fears control what I do or get involved in. I’m trying really hard every day to grow as a person and become better, and be more authentic than I was the day before.

But, it gets exhausting, feeling like on almost a daily basis I’m teleporting from one alternate universe to another.  It’s frustrating sometimes to be the only common denominator between a bunch of Venn circles, knowing that I’m doing all the transitions by myself, knowing that it’s up to me to hold my world and life together.

So, look, as I promised, no fantastic, helpful conclusions! But if anyone out there knows what it’s like to live a fragmented life and has somehow remained or achieved integration, please….please….share your wisdom.

2 thoughts on “How To Live a Fragmented Life

  1. Somewhere you acknowledge that everyone is important to you. I feel you feel missing something important in your life. What is it so? Can you write or send a mail …or chat with me , I can make sincere attempts to make you comfortable?

    Like

  2. Somewhere you acknowledge that everyone is important to you. I feel you feel missing something important in your life. What is it so? Can you write or send a mail …or chat with me , we can try to make sincere attempts to make you feel comfortable

    Like

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