Thursday, February 12, 2009
I’m very excited by our meaning conversation, which I think is moving us nicely in the direction of understanding what “making meaning” entails. You will see this very clearly in today’s first-person report from Janine. By the way, if the June Meaning Coach Training Program interests you, I suggest that you think about getting on the list and securing your place. A first section of 16 has filled up and a second section is filling. For more information on the training:
Before I present Janine’s story, I want to share an email with you that I got from Kirk in Seattle. His response to my new book The Atheist’s Way expresses very clearly what that book is about: meaning-making rather than gods-bashing. Kirk wrote:
I recently bought your new book The Atheist's Way. I have bought and read all the so-called New Atheist books such as The God Delusion, God is Not Great, The End of Faith, and a whole bunch of others, but yours is a in a category of its own. It is not the book I expected it to be but instead has spoken to a deeper part of me than any of the others. I'm only halfway through right now, savoring each page and chapter. I have always thought of myself as "existentially challenged", but I think your term, "existentially sensitive", is more accurate. And that situation of the guy going to the mall to buy a file cabinet, only to lose heart in the midst of the effort, is priceless to me. I've been in that situation more times than I care to remember!
The whole notion of "making meaning" is a real gem. As a lifelong "seeker" (I am now 53) of meaning it never occurred to me that I've actually been creating whatever meanings I've had in my life. And that we don't live in a Meaningless Universe; we live in a universe whose meaning is supplied by the billions of us humans who create it, again and again, minute by minute, almost as if it is our sacred duty to do so. I work at a respectable-enough government job, which pays enough to raise my family, but there are days, I gotta tell you, when I reproach myself for not having a more progressive, creative or happier way to spend the days and earn my living. I'd like to imagine that the insights you have given me in your book might just get me going again.
Thanks for the book,
Kirk in Seattle”
Thank you, Kirk! To learn more about The Atheist’s Way or to purchase a copy:
You might also want to visit the Atheist’s Way site:
Let me mention again the virtual book review tour associated with The Atheist’s Way. It might just interest you no matter what your belief system. I invite you to review The Atheist’s Way, positively or negatively, and post your review on your blog, on your website, to your newsletter group, or just to your friends and acquaintances. Together we will pick a day when you do this posting and that will be “your day” on the tour. It’s that simple. If you’d like to lend your voice to the discussion of The Atheist’s Way in this fashion, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more here:
Here is today’s feature, from Janine. I think you’ll enjoy it!
NEW STORY, NEW LIFE
Thoughts on meaning by Janine Tschuncky (email@example.com)
At fifty, I have a brand new life because sometime in my late thirties I decided to trade in the old story. The facts stayed the same, but it’s the story that changed. I’d like to share some of my stories with you – old and new. Stories about the events, people and places we encounter in our lives have a huge impact on who we are in the present, and who we are in the future. Stories are one of the most powerful tools for creation that we have regardless of what medium we use to express them.
The original very brief story of my life as I once told it into my early thirties
I was born in Switzerland. I had a wonderful extended family, but a mother who was always unhappy and sick. My brother was her favourite and she openly despised me. My grandmother, whom I loved more than anyone, came between us and I spent most of my time with her. I loved to draw and write stories but my mother would often tear them up, saying that she could do better. In 1967 my family decided to move to Canada. I was heart-broken, at eight years old I knew we were doomed.
My mother grew sicker and sicker and I spent all my free time looking after her. I didn’t have a life. She hated me, or often told me that she hated me. At age thirteen I became bulimic in an effort to control something in my surroundings. By the time I was twenty-one she died. Because my dad had just filed for divorce, my younger brother and I had to arrange her funeral. We should never have had to do such a horrendous task by ourselves. I pushed myself to attend university, healed my bulimia but continued to have regular bouts of depression. I did manage to write some stories and take art classes. My degree was in art history.
I eventually went on to work in publishing, had my own work published and worked out some of my depression, but despite feeling much better, I always felt that I was a late bloomer, that I could have done so much more if I’d had a supportive family instead of a mother that hated me and a father that competed and a brother who was raised to the status of sainthood. So, I had a lot of regret, not to mention resentment.
Results of this story: felt like a victim, unloved, useless, powerless but justified.
The brief story of my life as I told it in my later thirties
I was born in Switzerland. We moved to Canada in 1967. In I968 we moved from Manitoba to British Columbia and then back to Manitoba in 1975. My mother died when I was twenty-one. The year after, I attended the University of Winnipeg and graduated with a four year degree in art history. In my late twenties I got married to a writer and soon started writing myself and being published. I started working in publishing, trained in various forms of bodywork (including studying Huna Kane with a medicine woman from Hawaii), taught whole foods cooking classes and personal growth workshops in Hawaii, Manitoba and Ontario.
Result of this story: I didn’t feel like a victim any more but I didn’t exactly feel passionate about it either. I felt blander and worried about who exactly I would be if I gave up my old story for good. Regardless, I was willing to try it on.
The brief original story of my life, as I now experience my life
I was born in Switzerland, a beautiful place. I had a loving grandmother who taught me about gardening, herbs and let me use as many flowers as I wanted for my mud pies. She encouraged me to draw, read and write stories. Because my mom was ill a lot, I spent a lot of time with my beloved grandmother. In 1967 my family decided to move to Canada. Although I was really sad about leaving I was very excited about waking up two days later in the boreal forest of northern Manitoba. I connected deeply to the rocks, jack pines and the lake. This connection has been invaluable in a project I’m currently working on which is a collaboration/celebration of the boreal forest involving writing, photography, music and sound.
Sadly, my mother didn’t fare so well in Canada. She grew sicker and sicker until she died at age forty-nine. She was a real example to me in a lot of ways. Because I wanted to be well, I learned everything I could about healing with food, alternative therapies and personal growth. One of the highlights on this journey was spending time in Hawaii learning Huna Kane and being the whole foods cook for Nicki’s retreats. Because I didn’t have a huge family support structure I learned how to create a family and have a wonderful network of friends – my chosen family.
Despite dealing with depression, I always saw myself as a survivor and attended university, wrote stories and created images. Somehow I had the strength to heal from bulimia and went on to a career in publishing with one of Canada’s foremost literary magazines. The people I work with are creative, fun and dedicated and I’m very fortunate that I can be myself at work.
I recently turned forty-nine and spent the year leading up to it writing a short book about my mother’s illness. My mom and I lived in and shared eleven houses in twenty-one years. Each chapter is writing from inside these houses. By the end I had twelve chapters because the investigation had created a new house for my mother and me to occupy with a new story. Hence the book is called The Twelve Houses. This book is an investigation into what creates illness and more importantly, what creates health. I had a fabulous forty-ninth birthday party where about twenty people brought their stories to share. Later, a piece of this book was accepted for publication. There are moments, or whole days when it is difficult to make meaning or sense out of events around me, but I just keep moving and creating.
Results of this story: I’ve searched in many corners for meaning only to find that it isn’t something fixed and outside of me, it’s right here inside of me. I get to create meaning. Life happens and it doesn’t mean anything, and it doesn’t mean anything that it doesn’t mean anything. That’s freed me up a lot, to create meaning that is empowering, that continues to propel me forward into a passionate, creative life lived one moment after another.
Think about joining The Atheist’s Way virtual book review tour and coming aboard the Meaning Coach Training!
Have an excellent Sunday.
P.S. Last chance to join the Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and/or Advanced Creativity Coaching Training that begins tomorrow, and also the last chance to come aboard as a free client. For more info:
Posted by Eric Maisel at 8:40 AM