So you ask, “What do you mean by ‘making meaning, making soul’?” I’ll start with the “making meaning”.
I mean making the attempt to see our personal daily experiences as part of a much larger picture, as part of the political, social, and spiritual landscapes of our times. Who we are and what we experience are made not only by our own choices, but by the particular matrix of our familial, cultural, ethnic, religious, educational, racial, political and economic conditions in which we find ourselves. I want to make some of those pieces of the matrix visible in my life, and explore what is under my control to change or make better.
While I can only speak from my own voice and experience, I want to use my particular challenges as entry points to understand those others with ongoing challenges. I believe that we can make ourselves larger and see ourselves in a much larger picture of life by stepping into those entrances to see, to enquire, and hopefully, to understand not only my own self, but whoever and whatever is other. This making meaning is a first step toward having a life of depth and purpose, of contentment and joy. What does it mean to live a more or less middle class life, with chronic illness, in Canada at the beginning of the 21st century? As a woman with invisible challenges? What can I do with this? How free am I? How free are you? And what are you making of your one wild and precious life (to paraphrase the poet Mary Oliver)?
These questions help me transform the chaos of unfair suffering into a carefully woven web of connectivity and belonging. It helps me know and walk together with all those walking in the same direction, towards compassion for self, for others, for all. Join me.
With warmth and care,
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Hi, Cat. I worked through a book on Sunday called “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life.” I applied one exercise from the book to my health problems and was startled by the result. There were lots of questions that I pondered and answered in writing, but I’d like to share some of them here for anyone interested in “trying them on.” Pondering on these completely switched around my sense of unfairness about my health challenges, the “it just doesn’t make sense” attitude I still fall back into, and the deeply heartfelt “why?” that comes up about them.
Here are just a few.
“Could your problem be a solution?”
“Could your focus on the problem be the problem?”
“Could your problem be the story you tell about the problem?” (It’s better to cast yourself as the hero in your life story, not just a survivor, or even a victim)
“Could your solution be the problem?”
And a bit later on the author wrote, “If you can identify some benefit that is coming to someone because of your continuing problem, offer yourself the following prescription and give yourself a little jolt.” And it really does jolt you, this one.
“Until I can find another way to… (insert the benefits of the problem) I should continue to sacrifice (insert whatever the problem is costing you).”
I’m not, and I don’t think this “prescription” is saying, when we add in an illness to the formula, that we’re unconsciously making ourselves ill or incapacitated, or anything else that self-defeating. I think the idea is to be jolted into seeing that there is some value and purpose to our struggles. And there is no need to feel use-less, or less useful, because our capacity has reduced. Sometimes our perception of ourselves as being less than we were “before” is wrong. We’re just different now. And to feel that we aren’t less, but maybe even more, because of our problems, is tremendously empowering.
You’re really big in my eyes. You are more in my eyes because of your problems. I think of you often, and mostly about your wonderful, determined example of love that is made so poignantly beautiful by its constant shining through your long-suffering. You’re a hero to me.