Progress

 

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Mom — thank you for asking the hard questions!

 

Okay, so I had a talk with my mother yesterday. We were just chatting — I had sent her some flowers the other day on a whim and she had called to say thank you. We were talking about everything and anything — the dream I’d had about my father a few days earlier, the nightmare I’d had the night before, moving, being bored, a new baby born into the Black clan, etc., etc., etc.

At one point in the conversation she asked me: “So, why aren’t you writing?” I was a little taken aback. Not that she would ask such a question, but because she asked. I really didn’t think anyone paid attention to whether I wrote or not. It’s such a personal thing, and I do so little of it, really, that I figured it was mostly un-noticeable.

Anyway, after I got off the phone I really started thinking about why I don’t write anymore. I know focus is a problem, but that’s simply an excuse. And it occurred to me that I really don’t do much of anything anymore. Since I stopped working. Since I retired.

The other day I wrote a little bit about man’s search for meaning, and for finding purpose in life. Well, I guess my purpose had been working, at any job, for so long that work had become my purpose. Not the satisfaction of any particular skill or achievement, but simply the act of working.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all the jobs I had — except selling encyclopedias — that I was dreadful at, but I know I was good at just about everything else I did, and especially as an education assistant. Then, some things happened in the last year/year and a half at my job that really made me doubt myself and my abilities. Coupled with some big personal family issues I began to spin into depression and became unable to cope.

With the help of a great doctor, some fantastic meds, counseling and support from friends and family I was able to get out from under the feelings of despair, anxiety and depression that had taken hold of my life. I made the decision, for my personal well-being, to not return to work. And, I think that I’ve been unconsciously doubting the ‘rightness’ of that decision for the last little while.

Because I’ve not come to terms with not having a job anymore, I’ve been unable to move forward with anything else — especially writing.

Writing was that thing I always lamented I didn’t have enough time for, because I was always working. And yet — I accomplished more writing when I was working than I have since having all the time in the world to do as much of it as I care to. Crazy, huh?

Last night, while out for a walk, I decided that something needed to change. I thought about how I used to think when I was working, how I used to make plans all the time for what I would do with my free time — my days off, my holidays, my evenings, my weekends.

This morning I got up and I made a plan. For my health and for my personal life. It’s a pretty simple one, but it’s a plan. I’ve given myself small goals to accomplish daily, weekly and monthly. Essentially, I’ve decided to treat retirement as a job. A job that I  control, and that can provide me with as much meaning and purpose as I choose to create.

Thanks Mom!

 

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What’s it all mean, Alfie?

 

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I am reading Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. My friend, Heather, gave this book to me for my birthday a couple of years ago. I’ve been reading it slowly ever since.

It’s a tough read — not just because of his experience in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, but because it deals with profound ideas about what ‘meaning of life’ is.

Lately, I’ve been struggling. (When aren’t I, some would say.)  What is the meaning of my life? What is my purpose? These are questions that plague me daily. And so far, I don’t have any answers.

I go about my days with a huge ball of uncertainty in my gut. What, exactly, am I doing with my life? When I look back on it, especially having worked on my Zero to Sixty project — which still isn’t finished — I can see that I’ve done a lot of things, but none of them, with the exception of being a mother, really amount to much. I’ve dabbled but never committed.

Frankl says; “One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” What, I can’t help asking, is my concrete assignment in life?

Writing has always been a constant in my life, and I’ve had several small successes with it, but is it my purpose? And, if it is, why hasn’t it manifested in a greater way? Is it because I’m lazy or lack confidence or ambition? Is it simply a matter of not being good enough, not possessing the right combination of talent and desire? No, I believe it is because I lack one simple, fundamental and very necessary attribute: the ability to focus.

Why didn’t I become a teacher, a nurse or a professional BlackJack dealer? Why didn’t I pursue one of the many interests I had to completion? When I look at so many of the people I know they have all focused on one aspect of their life — they zeroed in exclusively on one special talent or ability and made that the central focus of their life. Whether it is pottery, waitressing, nursing, driving bus, working in an office, being an administrator, teaching — they all have one thing in common — strong focus.

So, the question is: Can I discover focus at the age of 60, can I cultivate it into something meaningful? Can I, before I die, identify and satisfy my purpose? Can I, as Viktor Frankl advises, “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”?