I realized a few days ago that it is 2 weeks to my next birthday, and I have looked forward to this one for a while, as it is the answer to the question - what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything! For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, you need to read The Hitchiker’s guide to the galaxy. As I am approaching this birthday, I thought I would return to the heart of my blog writing - lessons learned - and share 4 lessons I learned as I consider the question - what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything! Today I will talk about the things that have made life meaningful to me - the lessons I learned that put meaning into my life.
I have had a long battle with this question - what is the meaning of life. It is a question that has returned to me time and time again, as different things have happened in my life. My mother passed away when I was 9, and my dad when I was in my early twenties, and these early losses made me question the meaning of life, especially since I don’t feel as if I got to know them as an adult, when I began to know myself. In my late twenties I lost a dear friend, and this threw my faith into a chaos that has never really calmed. I had someone close to me take her life, and I wondered how it was that she felt her life was so meaningless. And my own battles with depression, and having a career that seems futile, made me question the meaning of my own life. In all of these things, I felt that I had more questions than answers, and I wondered as I searched why good people were taken away. So this has been a tougher one to answer. However, despite the questions, and the fact that I haven’t always found the answers, here are the things I know to be true in my quest for the meaning of life.
1.Follow the nudges of your heart.
This one has taken me a long time to accept. I find it easy to follow the nudges of my heart when it sends me down to the beach or to watch the sunset, or to write on a particular topic, but harder to follow when it tells me to put myself out there, take the road less travelled, risk embarrassment, stand alone. But the truth is - my heart has never set me wrong. In the simple things - when I am nudged to call a friend or acquaintance “out of the blue” often one or both of us needed that conversation. When I am nudged to take one route on the road over another, often I end up in the right place at the right time. When I am nudged to share a particular story or experience, it normally strengthens a relationship or brings encouragement to someone who hears it And when I haven’t followed the nudges, things can feel forced, resistant or downright uncomfortable. My heart is a wonderful compass when I am feeling lost. And in any decision, I can ask myself - how can I make this choice from a place of love (and not fear) (paraphrased from Oprah) and my heart can lead me to the right solution, every single time.
2. We are all connected
One of the things that saddens me these days is how individualistic we are encouraged to be sometimes. I have read and followed a great deal of personal development, and I feel that so much emphasis is placed on breaking away from the pack, and meeting our own needs. And I get it - I am as independent as the next girl, maybe even more so. And I also get how we can be surrounded by people who aren’t supportive, and may even be toxic. However, I can’t help but think that we are all here together because we need one another and we are all connected. It isn’t just the fact that we all have different talents and skills and can complement one another to make so many beautiful things possible by working together. For me it is the fact that there is more that unites us than divides us if we are willing to see it, and we can see so much of ourselves reflected in others. We have more in common than we care to believe sometimes, and I think it is those things which connect us. Our common stories of passion, and of loss, of opportunity and of the things that slipped away. Our universal languages of laughter, of music, of rhythm, of art. Our common emotions of joy, sorrow, grief and love, these things bind us together if we let them. We can live lives where we are true to our values and ourselves, and still do this journey of life with others alongside us who see us and who we see.
3. Service to others is important
One of the big parts of my life that has always called me to the best version of myself is to be in service of and with others. Connecting with others and giving of my time and energy brings so much meaning into my life, especially in times when I felt consumed with my questions. While I thought that seeking out those who could use my help might make me dwell more on how much need there was in the world, instead I loved feeling like I could actually make a difference to the need that was out there. I always felt that I had been fortunate in life to have been met with such kindness from people - whether it was my teachers at school, the longstanding friends that I have here in Barbados, the friends I made when I moved to England for university and their families who often embraced me, and even now the people I have met as I have travelled to so many places in the world. One of the biggest promises I made to myself as a child was that the adult me would have an open home and an open heart, and I seek to create that daily. The feeling that we are all connected has made it easy for me to feel the importance of service, and that has definitely given my life a sense of meaning.
4. Everything is a thing.
I can’t cram this into two paragraphs of a blog post - heck I wrote a whole book with this title, and so for the purpose of this blog, this topic at least deserves its own post, and so that will be coming as a part of this series. But suffice to say - I feel that the dreams and desires we have, the visions and the paths we intend to take - these are all valid, and every thing is definitely a thing. And when I remember this, I remember that even when my heart nudges me off the beaten path, I will find there are others there to share that path with. I will definitely be writing an entire post about this next! (If you want to pre-order the book, then click here, and if you want the first chapter of the book, then join my mailing list!)
Over time there have been other thing - big and small that have given meaning to my life and moved me forward in this journey, often making it truly enjoyable. These are things like laughter, thankfulness, my sisters and my nephew, my other friends and family members, good books, and the realization that the world around me is beautiful and every day I have a new opportunity to find more meaning in this weird and wonderful life.
Tell me what are the valuable lessons that you have learned in life, and the things that continue to bring it meaning? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
And I continue to send you big love from a small island.
PS above is a photo I took on a walk a few mornings ago. It could technically be described as a weed, and it appears to have grown through a concrete wall, and produced something beautiful. That sometimes is how I feel about life - we can still come through the walls around us, and make something beautiful.