by Sandra Lee Schubert
“My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”
–Charles M. Schulz US cartoonist (1922 – 2000)
We might disagree with Charles Shultz that his life had no purpose. His Peanuts characters continue to bring joy to many people, over many generations. Sometimes when we are on the right path it seems so effortless that we think that we really aren’t working. Most people I know who do what they love never think of it as work. While the rest of us may flounder and falter, failing and trying again in our search for the kind of work that will give us pleasure. Some people are born into their greatness, while others have it thrust upon them. Others quietly do great things without any one taking notice–simply living with great heart. You may not have a great talent or vocation but have created a wonderful family, go to work, come home and live your life, day to day, doing the best you can each and every day. We can’t all be great, or careerists but we can find meaning in our lives nonetheless.
“Three and a half billion years of evolution has built the need for meaning and purpose into human beings. It is as real as our need to breathe.”
I heard Bishop Desmond Tutu at an event at Trinity Church Wall Street. He was talking about the new biography of his life with author John Allen. I looked forward to hearing him and seeing him in person. Funny things can happen when you are in the presence of someone who has accomplished great things. You can be inspired to greatness or you can feel pitifully small. There may be some other things too. You see the person as real; flesh and blood, very human. That moment can come as a surprise. This is the dilemma we all face. We want our heroes to be perfect and they so rarely are. We are all subject to human fragilities and weaknesses. The greatest person is not the one who is the most beautiful. How do we honor someone and keep that person as human? We look to these people as icons and their humanness can disappoint us. We can begin to question everything. A small moment can have a big impact. The advantage of seeing Bishop Tutu was realizing him as infinitely human and fallible. Did this diminish his greatness? No. I can appreciate him more because my idea of him is no longer clouded by my own illusions. The danger is comparing our lives to others. They have done more. They look better then me. How big is their bank account? They were born into greatness. The list goes on and on. We spend so much time comparing that we stop doing anything.
Finding meaning in our lives may not have anything to do with doing anything. Charles Schultz may have been right. He was not striving, stressing or worrying about what his life was about. He was just in the moment. We can’t find meaning by just shopping, eating, or working really hard. We could find it through a well-lived spiritual life or a one lived with purpose. Or we can find meaning by acknowledging that it exists.
The deeper meaning of life is where we choose to dig deeper–allowing for the value of our life to grow and thrive. Ask yourself each and everyday what has gone well and why did it? If you had a good conversation with your boss, describe what about that conversation went well. Did you do something different? Did you respond to a negative with a positive or not overreact when your boss was a little less then polite? Try for outlining three positive things and the reasons why they went well at the end of the day. If you do this routinely you will begin to build a good foundation for uncovering meaning in your life.
Desmond Tutu didn’t wake up one day and decide to tackle apartheid. It was the thing he had to do because it was the need in front of him. Each of us has the potential for greatness. We are human, fallible and wonderful. The meaning we have in our life is what we create. Look for the richness in each and every day. Create and acknowledge the good you do each and every day. The deeper meaning of life is the well you can draw from.
“I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” –Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
* *** Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™ The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to email@example.com.