During this time of isolation, we are sharing prayers, poems, inspirational music, videos and quotes that uplift our spirits in a special email newsletter each Tuesday. Here is an excerpt from our January 19 edition.
Reflection on Living a Meaningful Life during Covid
What does it mean to live a meaningful life during the time of covid? When we are now under stricter stay-at-home orders, it seems to be getting increasingly challenging to carve out a daily existence that feels personally meaningful. “There’s an emptiness gnawing away at people and you don’t have to be clinically depressed to feel it,” says author Emily Esfahani Smith. Her research shows that what predicts this despair is a lack of meaning in one’s life. Meaning is about finding our “why” so that we can survive the “what.” Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, said that “meaning makes a great many things endurable- perhaps everything.”
But how do we figure out our “why”? James Hollis, in his book “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life”, defines it as “being in right relationship with your soul.” That sounds like a tall order. Fortunately, James Hollis gives us a good starting point that seems relevant and practical for right now. “When we are tracking right, the energy is there. When we’re not, we have to fabricate it.”
Applying that approach to my life in this time of covid, I decided to track my energy. For a week, I kept a journal noting my activities for each day under one of two columns:
Activities that energize me
Activities that diminish my energy
When I looked at my days through that lens, I was surprised to discover that I actually had more activities that raised my energy level than I had expected. They usually included a component of learning, or creative expression, or deep connection. They were tied in very closely to my values. I felt depleted when I watched the news and absorbed the messages of fear and hatred or when I had too much sameness in my days. As a result, I have started to modify my daily schedule. Being in right relationship with your soul takes commitment. I still find myself watching CNN, but I am also taking time for podcasts, connecting with the friends who listen and care, and venturing into poetry writing. Some days I even remember to open the “Purposeful” app on my phone and set an intention for what really matters to me.
Grief expert David Kessler says that in this time of collective grief, we need to create “meaningful moments.” I was reminded of that by Arlene Duncan who sent me a picture of her mother, Myrtle Nicholson, as she celebrated her 100th birthday last March. She marked the occasion by creating a snow angel. The look of joy on her face and the twinkle in her eye was unmistakeable. She had figured out how to live that moment and live it meaningfully. What an inspiration she is to me in this winter of covid lockdowns.