Where Has the Passion Gone?

Dear Tabby,

You helped inspire this post. And no, it is not about sex or even romance, though you obviously could inspire either of those things. (rawr)

It’s about those passions that keep you going through the day: the thing that keeps you happily up at night, the thing you don’t have to put on your to-do list because you won’t forget it, the thing that makes you ignore the passage of time.

I have had very few men in my life (and I’m not just saying that in case my mom is reading). I have had a lot of passions.

Music was my passion for a long time. I was a music major for a while in college, and I practiced up to eight hours a day between singing and piano. Then writing took over and music faded. I had always written, but I dove into fiction with, well, a passion, at least for another few years.

But I had also discovered philosophy, especially philosophies of language and culture. Suddenly my world was crackling with significance, and it seemed as if my infinite appetite for systems and theories—just say it, my intense nerdiness—might have a home.

And on and on it goes. Academia, vegetarianism, babies, homemaking, yoga, cooking, homeschooling, community organizing: I jumped into all of these things with an intensity that is, to people who don’t do intensity, a little hard to understand. And it is even harder to understand when that intensity just stops.

It used to bother me when it stopped, because it stops pretty cold sometimes. It’s like you said, Tabby:

When friendships faded or changed, I felt like I had failed somehow.

All that time and energy put into a relationship, a career, a hobby, a “calling,” and then it ends—what a waste. Or at least, that is what I thought for a long time. But now I see that just like friendships, some passions aren’t meant to last, but they are wonderful while they are there.

And also just like friendships, you have to nurture them in the midst of all the crap that interferes. Otherwise you find—as I have in the last few years—that the few passions you have left are looking rather lifeless, and for some the fire has just plain gone out.

So now, friends, I’m a little stuck. I’m a person who’s always been driven by intensity, but I’ve got nowhere to put it. Maybe I’m like a midlife cougar, hoping to find an all-consuming romance when I ought to be grateful I have someone to go to Home Depot with of a weekend.


But I’m not ready to give up yet. I have high hopes that, once I let go of those old interests that aren’t doing it for me, something new and shiny is going to catch my eye. It might be the start of a beautiful relationship, or it might just be a torrid and short-lived affair, but I think passion—probably a lot of passions—is still out there for me.

Are you doing anything to keep your passions alive? Or are you, like me, a little at sea without an intense love to throw yourself into?

[By the way, if you are an intense person or are a person perplexed by living with an intense person, check out Lisa Rivero’s blog Everyday Intensity]


About mina

Like a rock: sometimes hard, sometimes crumbly, occasionally brilliant, sometimes dense.

Posted on June 7, 2011, in friends, inspiration, intensity, questions, the third act. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Oh my, I’m struggling with this right now. I just don’t know what I want to do when I grow up…again. My kids are working there way through the homeschooling gauntlet and I need to start planning for my 2nd life, but finding the motivation and the purpose has been difficult. Ordinary chores also lack appeal such as cooking and cleaning. So, I’m just taking small steps and setting daily goals with the hope that something larger will ignite. Similar to smile therapy helping you actually be happy :o).

  2. psam ordener

    Struggling with this right now – what do I do in my next life? My baby will graduate from homeschooling on Sunday (his choice, his transition – his final dance recital). I’ve gone from being a daughter to being an Army wife to being a career woman, to getting divorced, to living single for years, to getting married again, to becoming a mother at 40 years old, to homeschooling, to being a dance mom (not expected when you have boys) and now . . . what next?

    I used to think I’d travel – the Army gave me a taste of that, sending us to Germany for the first tour of duty and then to England for a year – but now I’m really too tired for climbing around castles, taking long hikes, etc. I picked up crochet again, which I learned as a child but hadn’t done much of for years, but that doesn’t excite me. I garden, but that just soothes me, it doesn’t excite me and make me want to do something new and different. I read a lot and volunteer. I think about going back to college, but . . . nah.

    I need ideas!

    • Congratulations on graduation and new beginnings! I wonder if it will be easier to figure out what’s next once you have passed the upcoming milestones with your youngest. I think being open to what’s next is often the first step…

  3. I don’t know about Kato’s smile therapy helping me be actually happy. Mostly my smiles mask the turmoil and chaos in my head, which I choose not to share with people (except on blogs). I’m struggling greatly with my passions, now that I have children and their needs take center stage. Their *vast* needs and intensities that drain my will to live most days… I used to have strong passions and now I feel like a floundering fish, laying in a puddle of water, flopping around in the demon sun while I slowly suffocate. Also, some jerk kid is burning a hole between my eyes with a magnifying glass. I’m trying so hard to put one foot in front of the other that my former passions: writing, reading, photography, etc., are no longer on the radar. I’m usually so single-minded with my passions that I cannot achieve balance in other areas of my life. I burn out regularly. Elton John writes songs about me. Great post, mina!

    • Kim B. You are such an evocative writer! But I know it is hard to get into the flow of the words when noisy children are burning a hole between your eyes. Maybe start small. Write a blog post for 40 Questions.

  4. I am writing something right now about my chronic “Jack of all, master of none” way of life. It wasn’t intentional. A busy life simply left me little time to follow any real passions so I just tried them all when I could. Choosing one seemed too dauting. What if I chose a single passion and then never found the time to do i? Then I would be feeling guilty and unfulfulled. The passion buffet seemed to work. But now I’m left with not enough skills in anything. When the free time arrives I am lost becasue none of my passions were ever developed into “The Passion” and I feel frustrated that I can’t do it well. That’s my current struggle.

    • That really resonates for me. I know just enough to be dangerous about several dozen potential passions, but I am not fully engaged to the point of mastery or even near-mastery with any of them.

    • I feel like I struggle with lack of passion. I have many interests, but I am still looking for that thing that I can really grab a hold of and get into. Similar to the “Jack of all, master of none,” I have said (actually, I stole this from my brother) that I’m good at everything but great at nothing. I’m sure that’s the pessimistic view and I’m actually great at a lot, but it’s the question of which one really gets my blood flowing and makes me want to throw everything (or at least a lot of me) into. What is it that I’ll really WANT to do? It makes it harder that I live with 3 people who each have at least one passion and there’s me on the side, sitting on the couch watching it all.

      • I am sure you’re great at a lot, too. Sometimes that doesn’t help. You can be great at things that you don’t even care about, and you feel like you should do those things instead of muck around with something that’s fun and interesting even if you aren’t the greatest at it. I thinking mucking around is probably one way of finding new passions or stirring up old ones. Too bad I suck at mucking around! I need to do a lot more.

  5. I’ve had a lot of passions and each one has added to me. I think I have to have something to be passionate about or I feel kind of lost. For the last couple years my passion has been my book. I took an on again off again hiatus from my book during chemo, because I was having a hard time focusing and finding my flow. Now I am on again (almost.)

    But my book isn’t the kind of passion that is just for me. I set up expectations to finish it and get it published and that gives me stress sometimes. Plus I have insecurity about my writing ability which manifests in avoidance issues. So, I have a passion, but it isn’t an easy one and, while it can give me great joy it also causes me stress.

  6. psam ordener

    Both of my children have found their passion – the elder in computer animation and design, the younger in dance. They are so animated, so alive when they talk about it! I am happy for them but I miss that in my life. There is no color – no focus – no goal. It’s just one foot in front of the other, over and over, doing the same old mundane things every day.

    • For me there is a fine line between structure and mundane..and it’s a line I struggle with daily. I love order and structure. I am comforted by a schedule. WIthout the order I would get nothing accomplished. At the same time I resent the sturcture because it limits my creativity. As my kids get older I am drawn more and more to just throwing out all the rules so that what we accomplish has deeper meaning. And then I see an accomplished person (or worse, a more academically successful child) and I think OH NO! I HAVE TO GET SOME ORDER AROUND HERE! It’s a vicious circle.

  7. Just like there is less drama in our lives at 40, maybe the same is true of passion? In other words, it’s not that we don’t encounter drama or not that we don’t have passion, but it’s more that those blood boiling moments aren’t as consuming as they once were. Maybe it’s a positive? We just THINK we should feel passionate when wisdom and age and perspective is the real achievement? Hmmmmmm, I wonder… Of course, it still doesn’t answer “what in the world am I going to do with my time.” Contemplating my navel just doesn’t cut it.

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