Sunday, January 25, 2009
As I mentioned at the beginning of year, among the issues I want to focus on in 2009 is meaning: on making 2009 our “year of meaning.” Toward that end I am commencing a “meaning coach” training in June, inviting readers to share their “existential difficulty” stories, preparing a book on meaning-making, and so on. In today’s newsletter, I’m sharing one reader’s story. Catherine’s story begins after a few announcements. If you would like to share your “existential difficulty” story, drop me an email (to email@example.com) and I’ll send you along some prompts and guidelines.
The next round of creativity coaching trainings begins the week of February 9th. For information on the next Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and the next Advanced Creativity Coaching Training, and for information on becoming a free client in the next Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and receiving free email-based creativity coaching, please visit:
A few spots remain in the March Deep Writing Workshop in London. For more information:
If you’re interested in the subject of making meaning, please take a look at The Atheist’s Way, which is now available from Amazon:
Last but not least, if you are thinking about taking the Meaning Coach Training that will begin in June (it will be the first of its kind), come on board soon. It is filling up. For more information:
Now, on to the main event. Here is Catherine’s “existential difficulty” story:
“Do you realize how disconcerting it is to feel like a teenager again - in your 60s?? And I’m not talking about the carefree, ‘Gee, it’s fun to be alive!’ kind of feeling that comes with discovering yourself and hanging out with best friends. No, I’m talking about the leaden, ‘Who am I, really?’, unfocused and unbalanced kind of feeling that so many teens experience as they’re discovering their identities, that feeling of just not belonging anywhere, of being unable to ‘land’ on recognizable soil.
“That’s the feeling I’ve been dealing with lately, and it has come to the forefront of my life within this last year. I’ve been retired now since 1999. I went into my retirement from nursing/office work with plans to have my own small practice of healing touch and doula work. I had high hopes for establishing my very own practice. However, in my neck of the woods, the Middle West, alternative and ‘new age’ practices are not much sought-after or trusted. So although I trained and met others in the fields I was interested in, I could not establish a community to work within - no one else wanted to meet with me for support or communication, and I found myself essentially alone.
“Well, that’s not how I operate best - I’m a ‘people person’ and I need the energy of others to keep me on my toes. I knew that from previous experience, so I really worked at contacting folks interested in alternative health. However, I had no success at building a community of alternative practitioners and after a short time, I had no clients of my own either. I lost interest in what was supposed to be my retirement job.
“Fast-forward through a move to a new home 15 minutes out of town, new grandchildren arriving on a regular basis, and some health issues, and here I am, entering 2009 and I still don’t know ‘what I want to be when I grow up.’ Life has become just a series of days to be gotten through, with no real focus and no real energy being directed at anything of importance. I wake up in the morning and often cannot think of why I should even get out of bed. If there’s nothing on my calendar, such as a lunch date or a babysitting stint, I have no reason to even get up.
“Or, if I do manage to get up and going, there’s nothing ‘calling to me’ that I really want to spend my time and limited energy on. One thing I have done is taken up writing … and that has probably saved my sanity. I have managed to join some writing groups that offer me some goals to work toward on a monthly basis. But writing, for me at least, is easy and doesn’t require a lot of effort. And it’s also lonely … I spend lots of time all by myself at the computer preparing for those infrequent times of sharing my writing with others in my groups.
“I have no illusions that what I write will make it into the ‘outside’ world and make me famous or even give me a sense of having contributed to the betterment of my world. It’s just a way for me to pass some time, and maybe something I write will from time to time evoke a positive response from someone in my group. But overall, I sense that there is something missing here … something being wasted, and that time is running out for me to discover and use that talent or gift before I die.
“That sense of limited time, of needing to hurry or else lose what I have been given, is what differentiates me from the teenager - I don’t have the luxury of a lifetime ahead of me to ‘work on myself.’ The feeling of emptiness, of waste, is exacerbated by the sense of fleeting time passing me by at a rate that astonishes me and leaves me frustrated. I have devoted most of my life to being a wife and mother and to the needs and schedules of others. Now that I am here, by myself, everyday, with no one to work ‘for,’ I am lost. And there seems to be little hope of finding myself before time runs out … but I continue to work on it.”
As the year proceeds, we will look not only at these stories of existential difficulty but also at how to effectively meet these challenges. If you would like to read along and to think along as we examine these matters, I recommend two of my books, The Van Gogh Blues and The Atheist’s Way. Let’s make 2009 our “year of meaning”!
Have an excellent Sunday.
Posted by Eric Maisel at 9:45 AM