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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

What gives us meaning

Life

 3:30 am. I lie in bed unable to sleep. The wind outside is strong, and I am worried. I think wrestling thoughts about bills, weatherstripping, the website I maintain, but mostly about my mother.

She called me earlier in the evening, agitated, to insist that I write her obituary. She wants to make sure I don't say too much--a concern readers of this blog will understand--or things she wouldn't want said.

 Her death is not imminent. But she's tired of days filled with doctor visits, eyedrops, pain, and loneliness. Her life often feels meaningless. The obituary is one thing she can control, if she does it now. And it will be a summary of the meaning of her life. She seems satisfied with what I've written, but I weep as I read it to her.

Back to later sleeplessness. The dog, sensing something, comes in, turns one-and-a-half times, and lies down on my bed. She's young. When she's older, it will take her more turns to settle.

 When you can't sleep, read a book, they say. I pick up the book I'm reading, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Author Chris Hedges says that we are addicted to war because it makes our lives seem to have meaning, even though most of the meanings we give it are false.

We see defeat as signposts on the road to ultimate victory. We demonize the enemy so that our opponent is no longer human. We view ourselves, our people, as the embodiment of absolute goodness.

Liz, seeing the light in my room, comes in. "Why are you awake?"

"Can't sleep. Why are you awake?"

She is finishing her essay. "Will you read it, Mom?" Of course. Now the bed contains a dog, a girl, a mom, and a glowing laptop. We huddle together to parse the meaning of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

When we have come to an end, the girl and the computer leave. The dog stays behind, snoring gently. It's 4:30 now, and the girl and I will soon sleep.

 Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said that “Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”  I know that my responsibility, my meaning, is in what has just transpired. And I know that meaning is a higher meaning than any ideology can offer.

Before I doze off, I think about the twins leaving for college soon, and I wonder what will give my life meaning then.

Nothing to lose sleep over: there's so much in life to live. 



 

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