Angst, and finding the balance

By Long Shot contributor Joan Scharf:

What exactly is angst? Well, officially it is a feeling of anxiety or apprehension. The urban dictionary describes it as  a transcendent emotion in that it combines the unbearable anguish of life with the hopes of overcoming this seemingly impossible situation.

The term became used more often in the late 1980s with the advent of movies with a cast of characters dubbed “The Brat Pack.” Typical late teen/early twenty-somethings who always seemed to be clashing with something in life be it their superiors, rules, even themselves.

But angst is not unique to the younger generation. Each generation suffers their own kind of angst. It just varies by degree as one gets older. A young teen suffers from a lack of a social life or significant other, a college graduate suffers from the heavy load of loans and not being able to find a job, a 40+ something begins to suffer from mid-life angst of “did I make the right decisions?” They question a long term relationship, a lengthy employment in an unfulfilling job – asking what really is their purpose in life.

The 60+ somethings ready to retire or newly retired look back and ask if they accomplished everything they wanted to do, they are on the cusp of becoming old and forgotten to the rest of the world. Once needed as a parent, an experienced employee who was looked upon as trustworthy and a good role model, now looked upon as a medical liability to the same company and an employee who can be replaced by much cheaper labor.

Beyond 70 and the new angst is centered around healthcare, savings accounts, prescriptions, pensions, and the inevitable breakdown of a body never designed to last for 90 years without lots of maintenance.

How does one deal with the angst of each of these passages? There is no pill, no flat answer, no one size fits all, no prayer request. There is only life,  and in life one can only look for balance. I don’t think living longer provides the answers we have all been asking. I doubt that at 90 years of age, one looks skyward and exclaims “finally, I know my purpose.”

The only answer is to look for balance. For every bad thing, look for one good thing. For every minus, look for a plus. If the car breaks down today (a huge minus), then say to yourself that at least it broke down at home and not driving on the freeway and no one got killed (the plus).

Is it easy? Certainly not. Life can be overwhelming and at times, just plain stink. Unfortunately, there is no other choice. Poets, painters, writers – all express angst in their work. When angst is overwhelming, just think, this too shall pass and in ten years you can look forward to the next stage of angst. Ha!

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