I was recently asked, “what gives your life meaning? Who, or what, is meaningful to you now?”
It was a good question, because it made me think. The answer to “who?” was easy. My husband. Wider family and friends too, but ultimately him. We have been together longer than we haven’t. We have shared a life together with all its ups and downs, cared for his parents together, aunt-ed and uncle-ed together, experienced losses and disappointment together, built careers and then said goodbye to them, and we have explored the world together.
“What?” was a little trickier though. I thought about what makes me feel as if I have done some good in life, and that was meaningful to others. Oddly, until I was writing this, I didn't think about the things I did as part of all my jobs, providing development and opportunities to people in countries in the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East, even though I am very proud of those projects. But I did think about my online writing and moderating. Whether it has been here, on other blogs, on messageboards, or even just corresponding with readers, writing has helped me figure out what I think and believe and value. That in itself is enormously meaningful – it has affected how I think about myself, and how I think about and act towards others. It has also taught me that helping people can be enormously rewarding, even when they don’t want to hear what I might be saying at the time, it might be useful to them later. And it has opened a world full of wonderful people.
But then I thought some more. What else makes my life meaningful? I don’t produce great art, I don’t currently volunteer anywhere, I’m not a major influential figure in anyone’s life except my husband’s. I would not be specifically missed in anyone's day-to-day life. But I have accepted that. I'm okay with it. I know I'm loved, appreciated. I have good relations with my family and friends. I thought for a minute. “You know, what?” I said. “I think it’s just life.” It felt so right when I said it. Yes. My life is meaningful, and I find it meaningful. Just living, and living life, gives my life value. Not in a selfish way, but in a grateful way. I have this wonderful life, that could disappear at any moment (health, death, accidents, earthquakes, or the sky could fall). Of course I find it fulfilling!
My life is not extraordinary in any way. My house needs a lot of maintenance, my office is a complete mess, I need to build my social network beyond the few friends I see regularly, and we need to move/downsize in the next 2-10 years. But I’m so lucky in other respects. We have enough (we hope) for our retirement, we can travel and have amazing experiences, see amazing places, and meet amazing people, I have reasonable health (a chronic health condition has been quite well managed so far), I get enough sleep and almost enough exercise, and there is so much in my life I love to do – like writing, chatting with friends online and in person, cooking, exercising, enjoying nature, photography, reading, and just learning about things – that I never have time to do the things I feel I “should” do. Life is meaningful just because I have it. That’s privilege, for sure. But it’s also full of gratitude, enjoyment, learning, love, laughter, kindness, friendship, family, and adventure too. Surely, that’s more than enough.