I think I am having an “aha” moment. Over the past couple of months I’ve had a flat, disinterested feeling that I was blaming on winter, on gray skies, on spring too many months away. But now, in this moment, I think it is more than that. I’ve been struggling on a soul level and didn’t realize it.
I’ve had a divided feeling between the part of me that loves her bit of land, likes the sandbox play of building a straw bale house, enjoy the dirt and grime of gardening, and bugs and wood fires. All of these things make me “happy.”
Another part of me has spent a lifetime helping others to find purpose and meaning in their lives, to work toward something and not against something. I love being side by side with somebody as the dreaming, meaning-seeking part of them wakes up and comes alive. I love the question, “What do I have to offer others, and how will I do that?”
Here is the conflict that has brought me down into winter. I’ve been trying to convince myself that I may be done with my “work” with others. I’ve written pros and cons down lists of paper trying to convince myself that I could be “happy” just working the land and building new stuff–that I have done enough workshops and coaching and constellations.
I had no idea what a bad argument I was making with myself until right this moment.
This morning Milt sent me a wonderful article from The Atlantic about Victor Frankl and his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning. This was an important, shaping book in my earlier life. Frankl was sent to a German concentration camp at the height of his career as an important psychiatrist and there he discovered an important difference between the internees who lived and those who died. Those who survived the German concentration camps survived because they had found meaning—a reason to live and suffer and go forward. Those who died had lost any and all sense of meaning in life.
The article by Emily Esfahani Smith explores in depth the difference between the pursuit of “happiness” and the pursuit of “meaning” in our lives. Put into the simple math of my own life. Puttering around our place makes me “happy” but it does not add “meaning.” Working with other people, the youth radio project, sharing important strategies and tools, pushing people to think outside of their own smaller selves and into the bigger realm of what do I have to contribute to this world is what gives my life meaning. To quit working with others would be like cutting my own arm off. It flattens everything and leaves me sad and depressed. So much for the pursuit of happiness.
Although sometimes it feels like I struggle alone, writing these posts, writing more books, offering workshops to people to share what I have learned, but it is not a fruitless task. It is who I am.
I believe in the goodness of people and their right and their ability to bring forth some larger, greater part of themselves. I want to assist that process. I want to constantly strive to bring forth something greater in me. Happiness is not the be all and the end all of this human life. When we struggle and suffer with relationships, children, careers, finding our place, we are making meaning of it all. Of course I could be happy puttering and planting and growing and building–but it would not fill the need in me to be a part of building a better, kinder, more gracious and beautiful world.
Darn. And I thought I was going to retire. But to what?
What is the meaning and purpose in your life? What contributions are yet to be made by someone such as you? Are you looking for that meaning? Please do take the time to read the article I’m referencing and consider your own big questions. What are they? Perhaps you’ll have your own “aha” moment. If you read the article, be sure to click on the flowers in a psychiatric hospital link at the end of the article for another interesting read.
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