They call it “malaise” in English. The constant awareness that you are just dragging yourself through a life that is going too fast for you to ever catch up.

And every moment feels wasted and never enough.

I grew up with a pressing pain in my heart. And the worry that I would always be too small in a world that often felt way too big.

I’d wake up in the middle of the night fearing death would come and meet me before I’d had any chance to actually live.

Day after day, the pain grew a bit deeper until I buried it behind a big smile and many, many words.

To the world I was this very outgoing girl, who could talk to just anyone and was perhaps a tad “weird.”

In my heart, there was a crater the size of a field, I could never quite fill nor I could ever walk the whole way.

It felt so vast, I often wondered if anyone else had the same void inside themselves.

It was only recently that I came to accept how I spent the majority of my life with what the French call “le mal de vivre.” (literal translation is “the pain of living”)

It sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

Le- Mal – De- Vivre.

Just like the title of one of those black and white movies, where the heroin stands on a cliff by the ocean in the very last scene. Will she jump in or live on?

But life is no romance and often feels unbearable to the ones who are afraid to live.

And afraid I have been.

When the pain became too oppressing, I slowly gave up on the façade I had been showing to the world. Which in my “you keep yourself together” personal world, never happens.


At my end, you would hold it together no matter what. There is you and you alone, while everybody else stands around watching.

I had lived with the “malaise” long enough to know that I had come to that place where the suffering heart must choose.

It is the place where one gets to decide whether this life is worth their time, tears, and hope.

There is no more “I’m just going to hang around and see what happens” here. You either fully give yourself to life as she is, or you simply let that void swallow you in.

The soothing words I had offered others through my work, just sounded empty.

I did not want to hear any encouraging pep talk. I certainly did not want to be reminded of the great love and joy I was surrounded by.

They say that when you give up on yourself, you start loving someone else instead. In my case, not even my husband and our dog could change my mind.

I kept on seeing myself home alone. Old and disenchanted. Both my beautiful man and our dog long gone, there I sat, in our half-lit kitchen.

Crushed and unwilling to move, while waiting for the Lady who never waits to finally make her appearance.

“I have been expecting you. What took you so long Lady? It isn’t fun to feel dead among the living for this long”, I defiantly starred in her bony face.

In that kitchen, life felt like a lost battle, that left me with too many wounds and not enough bandages.

The same life that, one day, surprised me with an unexpected encounter.

While sitting in an old and empty chapel, I heard a gentle whisper echoing in the silence around me.

“Had you really wished to go, you would have done so already. It is not death that you seek, child.”

I recognized that voice.

It was the same voice that had come to my rescue so many times before.

I felt invincible and unfazed as a kid. My bold temperament came from knowing that someone near me had my back.

This benevolent and very quiet presence made sure I’d be in and out of any experience, without ever feeling stuck.

But after one set back too many, I started to lose hope. The world suddenly turned way too loud for me to really hear those guiding whispers.

I could still sense this loving hand gentling the way ahead, but I became very distracted by all the commotion around me.

Among those old and quiet walls, I suddenly came to see how “le mal de vivre” is none other than a momentary disconnection from our entire self.

We don’t just give up on ourselves, but also on that bigger part that keeps vigil on us at all times.

The reason why we can still feel it, it is because this presence never leaves our side. It is only our discouragement and distrust that stand in our way.

When that happens, we tremble through life unable to feel how still and unmoved our inner core actually remains.

We roam relentlessly, hoping to find the one person or thing that will save us from ourselves.

In truth, no one or no thing could ever help us to either stay or go, for that is the one choice we get to make within the silence of our own heart.

Whether we call it Soul, Source, or God we are not to be here alone. We came with an entire army, made of one.

It is not death that we seek, but the permission to be reunited with all of our self.

A permission we erroneously expect from the world, until we see how we never stop being our own world.

We simply forget.

As I am writing this, my husband and our dog are playing on the sofa. I want to frame this moment and store it away.

One day, sitting in the kitchen all by myself, I will get it out and the whole place will come alive again.

I will hear his laugher and her tail wagging like mad. I will smell them both and know they are right next to me.

As I close my eyes, what once was blends in with what is now. My heart aches a little, but it is ok for joy often hurts more than our melancholy.

In Grace,

Antonia Lyons

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