29 May, 2023

Life makes my life meaningful

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.

22 May, 2023

A No Kidding Grumble

Okay, today I’m going to have a gripe. Nothing major, but just some things that have irritated me.

On FB, I have a number of friends I met during a time of loss. A number of these friends have gone on to have children. I’m very happy for them, and enjoying seeing the occasional photo and hearing about their parenting stories, the ups and the downs. I feel a special bond with a few of their children, and have met some of them. But just occasionally, they post something that I feel like responding to them with just one word. “Seriously?” Infertility amnesia in action.

One of these women puts up a lot of parenting posts. She is an avid follower of a particular parenting style, and I actually find it interesting to occasionally read posts or articles about the philosophy behind it, and how to put it in action. But she shared a video about a woman giving birth, commenting that she had found childbirth to be an amazing experience. (Well, duh!) But seriously? Did she forget about those of her friends who would have given their right eye to have had the chance? Yes. That’s the answer. She forgot about us all! Because I don’t want to contemplate the possibility that she just didn’t care. Sigh.

Another friend seemed (it wasn’t clear) to have established a part-time baby photography business. So random babies appeared regularly on her feed. I love to see photos of her son. I remember her pregnancy, as well as the losses that preceded him. I feel, in an odd way, connected to him. I feel less connected to the children she had and hid when we first got to know each other, and I certainly don’t love to see photos of random babies. And I don’t like that I feel like a grumpy old woman when I have to look at these. One link to her photography site, on the other hand, would be fine. I’d feel like supporting her then. Bah humbug. Yes, that’s me.

And unrelated to those friends, but continuing the grumbling theme (lol), a gripe about someone I know personally. They tell me all about their friends’ kids. I’ve heard about the friends for years, met them once or maybe twice, but never their kids. It’s nice they all have close relationships. But I don’t really want or need to know all the details about these kids. Talk about rub it in!

Okay, grumble over. Life will now resume as normal! 

15 May, 2023

Choose your life

One of the autobiographies I read in the last year or two, Andre Agassi’s Open, had a quote that backs up a common theme of my posts. I know I repeat myself. But each time I'm inspired by someone else's words, by someone else's take on life, I think that I need to share it. Because maybe my past posts haven't reached someone, but this one will. And the message is? That we need to choose to love the life we have.

In the book, he talks about the fact that he hates tennis. (His wife, Steffi Graf, agreed, apparently.) But he chose the life of a tennis player. Agassi wrote,

no matter what your life is, choosing it changes everything.”

It is so true.This life might not be our first choice. But when it is our only option, we need to acknowledge that, and choose it. Choosing to embrace our lives, choosing to accept that we are Not Kidding, makes all the difference. It allows us to let go of a daily focus on loss, the guilt, the blame, the resentment, and it allows us to feel joy. Perhaps particularly, it allows us to embrace and enjoy the features of this life we might otherwise not have had – the freedom, and the little things, like the late weekend mornings in bed, spontaneity, peace and quiet, being able to read a book uninterrupted, eat and drink what we want when we want it, being able to work, travel, etc, and so many more. 

Choosing the life that I have, rather than the one I wanted, knowing and accepting that there is no alternative, actually gave me back my life. It gave me a life in which I felt pleasure, contentment, hope, friendship, and so much more. Choose your life, and then live it.