Sometimes . . .
You just need to think. And, ask a few questions.
Simple things like:
- Who am I?
- When will the sadness stop?
- What’s my purpose?
- Where do I go from here?
- How do I find—me?
Have you ever had moments, hours, months where you have been consumed by these tenacious thoughts?
My episode began shortly after the death of my sister. For over five months, I became her caregiver, her driver, and on more than one occasion, her conscience. When her body could no longer fight the disease ravaging inside, she slipped silently into sleep. She left.
She left, but I struggled to continue.
Many days felt like I was walking into a swirling abyss of loss obscuring my view of where I was and where I needed to go. The beat of life refused to stop, but my mind struggled every day to do the ordinary things without the constant barrage of memories. Go to work. Do the shopping. Smile.
When you spend so much of yourself on giving, doing the next thing to keep someone alive, it defines who you are. Everything else in your life comes second to this one focus.
Then, it all stops. And you ask yourself again and again, “Was it enough?”
“Who am I when I stop doing, when I am not a caretaker…? What have I come here to give? What is unfinished for me to learn, to experience? Am I leaving a legacy that enables others to live bigger lives than I have?”
Why was it so difficult to pick up where I left my work, my daily routines?
The answer eluded me. I did what comes most natural to me. I started to read.
Not sure of what I hoped to find in words, in other’s thoughts and ideas, I simply began with what sat on my cluttered desk:
- SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient, Jane McGonigal
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Cal Newport
- Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being, Shawn Achor
- Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change, Michelle Gielan
I made no deliberate choice on where to begin. None of the authors wrote about grieving, but each book gave me something to ponder. Took me out of myself and toward what matters most.
Do you now what it’s like to be a bookaholic (if such an affliction exists)? This undefined quest took me to the far reaches of Amazon and the public library. I kept looking for the words, the ideas, the hope that I had a purpose.
How had I fallen this far, and what could I do to pull myself back?
I needed to find myself. I needed to find the real me.
How could I inspire others when I doubted if I could inspire myself?
I stopped writing. There was no writer’s block. Nothing stood in my way. Perhaps, I was afraid of what would come tumbling out—exposed and unable to ever put all the memories back into Pandora’s box. But I never gave up hope, so I just kept reading:
- A Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person, Shonda Rhimes
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
- Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, Ellen J. Langer
- The Gift of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown (actually, I’ve read every book she has written)
- Finally, a novel: Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
- Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change, Beth Comstock
- Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover
These authors opened my heart to view the world without the all-consuming veil of the past. Each one gave me examples of the power of the human spirit to survive and thrive, to transform, and to become more than we think possible.
Struggling with words on paper, I began grappling daily with short snippets of thoughts and ideas. Anything to keep pen in hand forcing the words out of my mind and into the world—giving them life and meaning.
I read more . . .
- Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker
- The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
- I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion, Dawna Markova
- Why?: What Makes Us Curious, Mario Livio
- Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others, Robert Glazer
- A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, Brain Grazer and Charles Fishman
- The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better after Midlife, Jonathan Rauch
- Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life, Twyla Tharp
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth
Have you ever felt the wall you have wrapped around yourself begin to crack with shards of light and hope dropping in, inviting you to move? I needed this time. These nuggets of life, which each writer unselfishly shared, pushed in as I was pushing out.
“Bear this in mind as you recover from whatever has brought you down: grant yourself some grace.”
As spring flowed into summer, then fall, and finally the barren days of winter, I read books on nutrition, photography, writing, creativity, and more articles than I thought my Evernote account could hold. I was recovering, evolving, and giving myself some grace.
After eleven months, almost one year, here I am. Well-read, a bit wiser, and inspired to let go of the past, stop my angst over the future, and live today, this hour, this moment, this one second.
This journey took more than books.
The people in my life, my family and a very dear friend, all stood by ready to hold my hand, give me the space to explore, and they never gave up because they knew what I could not see during those months.
I was home.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
What matters most?
For me, and for you?
Today. Living in this “one precious life” that is only yours to live.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
I know what matters most.
Will you join me in giving without regret, bringing joy to every moment, and making this life your best gift to yourself and the world?
Send me a note or share with others. And always—be and become #yourbest.
February 2, 2020