L is for Life
For thirty five years, thru change after change in my life, I've managed to hang on to a small piece of jagged granite on which is inscribed... "Life is not a problem to solve, it is a mystery to experience." It sums up what I've learned in over a half-century of living.
In my younger adult years as a parent, life was about the daily struggles of raising children and trying to provide for them, and work full-time while doing it. There wasn't a lot of time or leftover energy to ponder the meaning or purpose of life, while making sure the kids had food and a decent place to live, and did well in school. When you have children, parenting is, or should be, your number one priority. (A lot of young folks have missed that message today, and are so busy focusing on their own lives that their kids are pretty much raising themselves.)
Sad to say, much of my energy for living, up until the last four years, was also taken up with trying to make various marriages work, having made very poor choices in partners. I have said often that I count myself as a survivor of those relationships, and I celebrate my birthdays as such... as another year when life didn't get the best of me! It's been hard, really hard, at times. Still, the magic and wonder of human existence hasn't escaped me along the way.
I used to believe that life was all about solving the problems, climbing the mountains, crossing the valleys, and acquiring knowledge. Much like running the good race, and hoping to make it to the finish line in best form to win the prize. I don't believe that anymore.
Of course we are here to learn along the way, hopefully we pick up some bits of wisdom in the course of years, probably more from our mistakes than our successes. We learn what works best for us and what doesn't work, and we learn a bit about human nature and interacting with other folks. But it isn't all about the learning process. Some folks get too focused on the process and forget about the bigger picture... the experience! It's kind of like looking at a rainbow and examining the arc and intensity of each color band, but never noticing how it all comes together to create a breathtakingly beautiful arch across the sky, often after the darkest thunderstorm.
The various pieces of our lives, when looked at in perspective, fit together like the pieces of a crazy-quilt to create a unique picture of of strength and beauty. Sometimes it's almost magical how weird jagged shapes fit into the next piece just perfectly, better than we could ever anticipate. Much like what life bring us next!
In the last ten years or so, long after the kids were grown and out on their own, and the striving to earn more and acquire more stuff had lost it's attraction, it began to dawn on me that the real purpose and meaning of life... the real place where joy is to be found... is in helping others. In reaching out with a friendly smile, or a hug, or a cheerful comment, or to lend a hand. Finally it became clear that nothing else in life is really all that important. Things come and go, and all that we hold dear can disappear from our lives in an instant. What lasts is the good feeling that comes in knowing we made someone else's life just a bit easier or brighter, if even for a moment. That's the life I want to live, and it's the legacy I want to leave behind.
Much about life remains a mystery. We do not know all the answers - why things happen as they do, or what comes after. But I do know with certainty that life is about learning to view the bigger picture, about treasuring the experience, and about realizing that we are all interconnected... all family... here to help each other along the way. Join me on the journey... reach out to someone and let them know you care!