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  • Tara Ferguson, PhD

Client Stories: Jamie* reflects on the meaning of life

In our newest addition to our Client Stories Series, Jamie* shares her thoughts on the meaning of life. As Jamie undergoes many changes in career, relationships and identity at mid-life, she ponders over our human tendency to seek fulfillment in things, goals and people, and how it can seemingly leave us just as empty as when we started. She is realizing that living each moment fully by being present for each and every aspect of her experiences, even the emotionally difficult ones, may be the trick to outsmarting the existential human need to search for "something more." More from Jamie:

"Some thoughts on a meaningful life....

Maybe celebrating all of life, the ups AND downs, the comfortable AND uncomfortable is one ingredient for a meaningful life. Like the special sauce.

Maybe it's the simple things, like checking on a neighbor, opening the door for someone or smiling at a stranger that add up to a meaningful life...

Maybe being honest about my ugly past in order to help another or being present for my friends and family...

Maybe having a meaningful life is not a destination but a daily practice.

Maybe engaging in innocent play or changing my mind about someone or something contributes to a meaningful life...

Maybe understanding that I'm not alone. That other people experience this empty feeling will help me to feel a part of humanity. Sometimes I feel separate and I'm not comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes I think about drinking that feeling away and my brain searches for a reasonable excuse. Death? Disaster? Or maybe it's just a Tuesday? But experience shows that never ends well. :)

Maybe friendships make life more meaningful. Last week I jumped on an airplane to reconnect with my college roommate in the midst of a pandemic because he needs a hand. Maybe friendships have seasons and this is our season.

Maybe acceptance and forgiveness is what I need. Sometimes it is so hard to reach, I have to dive to the bottom to get it and touch all kinds of icky emotions along the way. Like when I used to dive to the bottom of the lake as a kid, I would touch it and then I could come up for air.

Maybe the overwhelming feeling I've been getting in therapy, the one that I try to choke back is actually the real me. The me that grieves the loss of a father, loss of innocence, the loss of a decade to drunkenness, the loss of the grandparents that died before I got sober, the loss of a relationship(s).

Maybe accepting all the loss will help me find the freedom I crave. Freedom to grow, create, love, be vulnerable. The freedom to make mistakes and admit failures. The freedom to not take myself so seriously.

Maybe the meaning will come when I finally let go all of the stubborn shame that surfaces sometimes. Shame around my alcoholism, sexual abuse, the behavior that led to the sexual assaults, shame that comes with not meeting societal norms.

Or maybe there is no such thing as a meaningful life. Maybe "meaningful" is just an adjective we put in front of life to make ourselves feel more important because sometimes we feel small and insignificant."

Thank you, Jamie, for sharing your enlightening and inspiring thoughts! If nothing else, we are all glad to know that you are sharing the human experience with us, and that we are all in this together. May we all find peace in all the moments that make up our days, meaning in the experiences that lead us to growth, and fulfillment when we look back at the end of our lives :)

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of clients. This article was published with permission from the author.

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