So here’s a little question for a day off of work:
If you could do anything to bring more meaning to your life, what would it be?
I know, I know, that’s pretty heavy for a Monday. But it is a national holiday and we are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King who certainly did many meaningful things in his life.
Last week at work, we hosted William S. Breitbart, MD, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NY. Dr. Breitbart — who is board certified in internal medicine, psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine — has spent much of his career working to ease the emotional fallout facing terminally ill cancer patients and their families . During his decades of research and clinical experience, he has developed short-term meaning-centered psychotherapies based on Viktor Frankl’s theories first outlined in Man’s Search for Meaning.
It’s no wonder I spent a lot of last week thinking about my life, its meaning, and how I could live more fully. Because, as Dr. Breitbart pointed out many times, though we may not want to face it and may not know when and how we’ll die . . . we will indeed die.
Dr. Breitbart describes facing death as facing a wall. We can’t stare at that wall all the time. So we turn around and see where we’ve been. Unless we’ve got a terminal diagnosis, most of us don’t spend a lot of time sitting with that introspection because we’re so darn busy looking to where we’re going — to work, to dinner, to the store . . .
But when we do stop to look, meaning can be found in many places: relationships, the natural world, spirituality/faith . . . art.
As I writer, I know I find meaning in telling stories that are important to me, in figuring out how to express thoughts and ideas that matter in my world. I’ve kept the fiction to myself during the last couple of years, but the nonfiction also matters a great deal. I delight in your responses here at the ‘Rati. I also hear from others about the articles — even the press releases — that I write and how they matter.
I like that as much as I like the process of writing for myself.
In addition to the pleasure of meeting people who’ve enjoyed my writing, I’ve also known the incredible honor of hearing that my books brought laughter to at least two people in their last days of life. I can’t begin to express how profoundly that truth has affected me, how much I cherish knowing that something I’ve done delivered those moments to others as they faced the Wall.
I’m not sure where this post is going . . . it’s probably just the beginning of a process of examining what I want to do with my writing now, how I want to delight in its meaning for myself and to experience more of the ineffable pleasure of knowing it has meaning for others.
Today, on this holiday, I have no conclusions about any of this . . . just a desire to bring up the subject and discuss it with anyone who wants to participate.
Look at that question at the beginning of this post and, if you’re willing, let me know what ideas it sparks for you.