Zeitgeist is a difficult word for me to get my head around. I’m sure it’s got that semantic trick of meaning more in its original language than in English. To me it’s the prevailing mood or background to significant events- whether they be part of one person’s life, a community’s or a nation’s shared experience.
I can’t say my whole life has been infused with one particular Zeitgeist things come and go, I change, living circumstances change. At the moment I am realising what a material person I am. Most things I want to do involve acquiring something that costs money. This must be because I am having a terrible time adjusting to not having a half-time to full-time professional job with good pay. I haven’t had full-time work since 1999 and was looking for it until 2007, when I gave up, defeated. At first, when I worked around 30% to 50% of the time, the household seemed OK, we even had some short holidays; however, when I got the boot in mid-2007, we suddenly had to tighten our belts in a way I hadn’t done since I was a student. It’s tugging at me now, this mood of not having what would satisfy me and I think it’s because Christmas is approaching.
Christmas shouldn’t really be material- at least for Christians, although it seems to be on the surface in most directions I cast my gaze! Christmas was never religious to me and has come to mean a time for relaxing, catching up with friends and exchanging presents. To me it’s a time when people give physical gifts in appreciation of a person’s contribution to their lives- not just for the custom of giving things to all and sundry. The last few years, presents in this household have been pretty sparse. My partner always gets me things and puts them under the tree and I always try to get him some things too- although last year and this one it will be pretty much using his money.
Now there is a definite zeitgeisty sort of thing I’ve discovered while writing that last sentence- since I have been conscious of what people do for each other (or NOT), I have been fiercely independent. The dependency for money and shelter on someone else is something I have avoided ever since I was a teenager, and independence of feelings and thoughts is something I have hung onto since about the age of ten- and probably unconsciously before that.
So now I see that the parts of the zeitgeist of my life are all about being an individual and always having an “opt-out” clause due to my (formerly) maintained ability to be independent when I feel I must. Now I feel trapped in my collection of habitual thoughts and I can’t adjust properly to my changed circumstances. Other people think I am OK or just smile blandly when I say I dislike being dependent, but really I’m sure they don’t appreciate the depths of my despair at not being able to break free and be me again.