Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning. – Joseph Campbell
Life will tell you when it is time. Life will call you to look for meaning. Many events can trigger this call. The best place to seek meaning is in your life story. You have been living your story for your whole life and your lived experience in the present moment will tell you when its time.
What sort of lived experience am I talking about?
- Look for meaning when chaos arrives in your life.
In 1998 when my daughter was in Grade 11, she began dating a boy. He was older, charming and exciting. One day, she announced she was leaving home. She quit school and moved into a small apartment with him. Life turned upside down! I had hopes and dreams for her, but they were not meant to be. Everyone in the family grieved the loss of her from our lives. Eventually, she got pregnant, they married in our back yard and my grandson was born shortly after.
- Look for meaning when your heart aches.
After my daughter left, my heart felt broken. Months later, it still hurt and I wanted to understand why. I needed a new perspective.
I began writing with other women: first about my parents, then my childhood, teenagehood, adulthood and present situation. I began to see how my story, my husband’s story, and our family sagas had converged in a perfect storm.
For the heart ache to heal, I needed to go back to the beginning to rediscover who I was then and now.
- Look for meaning when life feels pointless.
For a long time I ached to do something with the hurt of this loss.The story I told myself about my past as a transient military child made sense when I understood that my grieving of small and large losses was undeveloped. I learned that loss compounds if it is not released.But that was not the end of it. I learned that to be resilient, I had to open my heart and be present to my emotions right now. I needed to embrace what needed to be healed in me.
When I look back at this story with eyes of kindness, I realize how difficult this situation was for my daughter; perhaps even more than it was for me. She was so young and innocent. I remembered how difficult my life was when I left home too. I see the confidence and growth which has come from this struggle to be her own person. After all she has been through, I appreciate her strength. I, myself, grew in compassion, as I watched her break out of her cocoon and become a beautiful butterfly.
When you begin your journey into story, you too will see how events have meaning when viewed as a big picture.
- *Write the story of your life using stepping stones (events in which your life changed direction abruptly) as a guide. Simply listing these events is helpful. Stories can be as short as one page or as long as a book. Remember every event has a beginning, a middle and an end.
- *Write a memoir beginning with a small slice of your life; focus on one time period, or even one event. Use the prompt, “This period of my life is like…” Then try another slice. And another.
- *Create a fairy tale, a fantastic but universal, symbolic tale that embodies what you’ve learned from your life. Resonate with others through the common lessons in our human story.
- *Write a poem or a series of poems using imagery, metaphor and rhythm. Let it express your story idea in a metaphoric way.
- *Write a letter to a grandchild sharing what you have learned about life so far.
Look beneath the facts and discover the deeper meaning of things. Look for patterns. Question everything. Ask what touches you? Who do you love? What movies make you cry? What books do you devour? How do you deal with anger and other strong emotions? What is your body telling you about what works and what doesn’t? Follow the clues. You are a whole being. Search your body, your mind, your heart, your soul.
I ask you again. When will you begin the search for meaning in your story? Is now the time?