Wednesday, July 25, 2018


I checked in with a friend of mine recently and she said she was "okay but still searching for the meaning of life." I responded, "that's a given, the search never ends, does it?" She responded in a way that suggested I knew what the meaning of life is and I needed to share my secrets. So why just tell her when I could tell a whole bunch of people at once?
I used to think the meaning of life was a search for love - true love. I was young then. So... very... young. But as I grew older and I had more and more life experience under my belt, that goal changed. The goal kept changing. Why? Because I met the goals. I was growing, learning, evolving, gathering, every day of my life. What good would it be to hold onto something that was years behind me as a goal? Like goals, meaning is what we make of our experiences, and what we crave above all else. And when we find it - will it be enough? Will it fill that empty space inside us that we can't define with any words?
That depends. You'll know when you get there, right? It's different for everyone, because we're not robots. Some want money and derive meaning by making money. Go ahead and roll your eyes, but that means it's not Your Meaning. Some want to see their kids be successful and happy, some find meaning in music or art, some find meaning in friendships and relationships. There is no Meaning Of Life, in other words, for everyone. There is no old man on the mountaintop who holds the secrets and riddles you to get the answer out of him. I also think that once you stop searching, and settle into a life where days melt together and you hardly feel the will to live, you need to get back to your search. Actively.
You may need help getting up and getting motivated to do this. I have been facilitating a book club this year for Self-Help books. I never read very many before but I find them, well, helpful. None of them promise a 3 step program to making all your dreams come true. They offer inspiration, advice, philosophies, research findings and stories of experience. Starting there on your new journey could be right for you. If you think you are too deep into your funk, finding a therapist might be the right first step. I know, you don't want to do that. It's embarrassing, and they make you talk about your past and your pain. It's hard work to look at all the things that have been holding you down. It's also very freeing. You might find that you can finally move forward. And when you can move who knows where you will go?
My friend and I are both going on 50 years old, in the next couple of years (she's older than me nah nah nah nah nah). So neither of us can expect to find meaning in the same things we might have found meaning in when we were going on 20. When we were 20 and in college together, we were just trying to get our papers written, meet boys, and not gain the Freshman Fifteen. I tell my kids that college sounds stressful, but it's the best time of your life; in the best of circumstances of course. No real bills to pay, away from home, but still tethered safely, time to learn and time to play. There will be no other time like that. So meanings change. We get jobs and have families to support and have to fix the car when it breaks down and take care of our older parents.
It's not about being famous or doing something "amazing" with our lives. Being ordinary or average isn't the worst outcome we can have. We watch our friends have kids, we watch our kids grow up, we go on vacation either to a resort or in a tent. We can make meaning out of all of that ordinariness if we want, little by little every day. With some bigger pushes in between. So what do you want? What do you value? Who are the people you need around you? Is there anything holding you down that you are avoiding dealing with? Be introspective, question your world, notice things, learn new things, talk to people you might not otherwise talk to, get out of your safe box. The meaning will be there.

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