What Is "Meaning" Anyway?
Today is December 28th—my birthday! I have officially turned 58! I’m writing this from Florida, where I’ve been since Christmas, and I cannot express how much the sun and warmth this time of year always lifts my spirits.
What New Gifts and Challenges Will the Coming Year Bring?
In just a few days, we will be entering 2019. I can’t help but wonder what new gifts and challenges the coming year will bring me, my family and friends, our country, and the world. How will I/we receive those gifts and answer those challenges?
What gifts will I create for myself, bestow onto others? And how will I make meaning of my days?
What Is “Meaning” Anyway?
Meaning. What is “meaning” anyway? I think the word can be intimidating. It can feel too grand, as if each of us must strive to find the cure for cancer or singlehandedly solve the problem of world hunger. Anything less would be considered mundane, unworthy of “meaning.”
Yet, if we reflect on those moments in our own lives that meant the most to us, we would most likely remember the teacher in elementary school who gave us a word of encouragement or praise, the stranger who helped us with a flat tire, the little note a loved one left on our desk or pillow—just because they cared.
Meaning Is Expansion … It’s Making a Difference, No Matter How Small, In the World.
For me, meaning means connection—to others, of course, or to a passion that feeds our hearts and souls. Meaning can be found by taking pictures of your surroundings, getting out in nature, reading a good book. Meaning is expansion, a moving beyond our limited boundaries. It’s making a difference, no matter how small it may seem, in the world.
In January on WomanPause, we will be looking at resolutions or intentions for the new year. (No matter how many times so many of us resolve not to make resolutions, they sometimes creep into our consciousness just the same.) We will discuss how to make choices that create meaning, how to commit to those choices, how to see our new dreams come to fruition.
But before we look forward, let’s reflect back.
What were your moments of meaning this year—big or seemingly small—the moments that you will carry with you as you cross into 2019?
This time of year is traditionally a time of making “best of” lists. Best movies of the year, best photos, best moments in sports. My older son and daughter-in-law came to Florida to spend a few days with Steven and me. They shared a list that they made together of their “Top 10 of 2018.” I encourage you to do the same on your own or with a loved one. Try to include the moments that made you laugh or spurred you to think about something in a completely different way. Moments of connection and meaning. If you are anything like me, writing this list will feel empowering, make you smile, and fill you with gratitude.
Here’s mine—Diane’s Top 10 of 2018 (it’s actually a top 11—but who’s counting):
Starting this blog! I’ve so enjoyed connecting with all of you and writing a piece each week that I feel proud enough to share. I owe great thanks to my wonderful readers, to my inspiring interviewees, and to my dear husband Steven, who has not only supported all of my time-consuming labors of love but has given so much of his own time to making WomanPause a success. He handles the technical end—and takes many of the beautiful pictures that accompany my words.
Connecting with the “stars” of my book in progress. I am writing a nonfiction book that follows the lives of five formerly incarcerated men. Each of them has so generously shared his story and has allowed me access into his life and experiences. I only hope to do their stories justice and to open up conversations about mass incarceration, reentry, and the struggles and rewards of making a new life. These guys are true rediscovery heroes.
Thanksgiving Weekend—taking Steven on a mini-vacation into NYC to celebrate the holiday—and his 65th birthday was such a special time!
Giving a reading of my work—and hearing others read theirs—this month at my Antioch residency. I was honored to read a few short memoir pieces to an audience of my peers and to hear some of them read their work.
Working with wonderful mentors and teachers. I am truly blessed to have Ana Maria Spagna, Rachel Howard, Gabriela Pereira, Michael Frontier, and Deborah Roth in my life. I could never have wished for better guides on my journey.
Weekly sleepovers with my daughter. Rachel stays with us about once a week. (She’s completing a PsyD at Hofstra and staying with us cuts out much of her commute.) It is always a great joy to see her and to see how she’s following her passions. It’s especially fun when she brings her dog Lucky.
Trips to Chicago to see my son and daughter-in-law. It’s always great fun to see Aaron and Melissa, to hear about the important work they’re doing to help others, and to spend time with their pup Frankie! And … Chicago is one of my favorite cities.
Wake up calls. While I don’t get to see my younger son very often, speaking to him almost every morning helps to get my day started—whether I’m ready to or not!
Exciting new happenings for Steven’s kids—his older son and girlfriend announced their engagement, his daughter and her husband announced that their first baby is on the way, and his younger son is enjoying the travel and new responsibilities at his job.
College essay season. Working with my students to craft their own memoir pieces—helping them discover who they are. And … a few months later … hearing of their acceptances to college and sharing theirs and their families’ joy.
New Year’s at Karen’s. My group of friends spends New Year’s Eve together every year. While this year’s get-together hasn’t happened yet, I am including it on the list. Ringing in the new year with friends is a wonderful ritual that reminds me of all of my blessings.
Wishing everyone a joy-full close to the year and an inspired entrance into 2019.
Thank you for sharing some of your precious moments with me this year. Looking forward to what lies ahead.
With much love and gratitude,
Happy belated birthday Diane 🎂I marvel how expressive you are. Your list is full of gratitude, the key of life. I’m bouncing all over your blog mostly behind the eight ball lol… clearly I march to my own beat🤦♀️Somehow I feel you get it and don’t mind. Steve’s photos are great please keep the good vibes coming!
Thanks, Dorothy! I love belated wishes–they keep the bday vibe going! And thanks so much for reading–and commenting–in any order! We need all kinds of beats in this world. Yours is lovely! P.S. I will pass the compliment on to Steven!
I absolutely adore this blog. Because of the way it’s structured, I had no idea that you only just started it! Blessings and love, dear one!
Thank you, dear Janet! And happy birthday to you!!!
Hi DIANE, I loved your list. And I look forward to seeing you and the rest of the gang at Karen’s. You’re right, it is an anchor moment for us. Thanks Karen & Robert!
May 2019 be healthy and happy for us all.
Thank you, Janet! I look forward to seeing you too! And, yes! Thanks to Karen and Robert!!
Happy and healthy to all!
Happy Birthday, Mom! We love seeing you and Steven in Florida. Love you, Aaron
Thanks, Aaron! We always love seeing you guys! Love you too!
Happy Birthday, Diane. You have brought goodness to my life. Your students must be told: I witnessed Diane’s joy when news came of your college acceptances. They can find “meaning” in this.
Thanks, Andrea! Yes, I remember sharing about my students’ acceptances at the last residency! Thank you, for remembering too! XO
Diane – Happy Birthday! Hope you are celebrating with all your favorite things and people. I loved the idea of spending time declaring the ten best for the current year and have spend time actually doing it. In addition, I mentioned your post on my blog today so maybe some of my readers will check you out. I look forward to hearing from WomanPause in 2019!
Thanks, Nicky! Would love to hear about your list! And, for my readers, please check out Nicky’s wonderful blog of self-discovery called Exploring the Mystery: https://nickymendenhall.blogspot.com/
Happy Birthday, Diane!! You accomplished so much in 2018 and I have a feeling 2019 is going to be just as wonderful! Wishing you much joy and success in the new year! Love, Melissa
P.S. – These photos are beautiful – nice work, Steven! 🙂
Thank you, Melissa! Same to you! Wishing you all that you wish for yourself and the world! And yay for Steven’s photos!!
HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ! I love your “top 11” list- I’m going to make one now! Thanks for the inspiration!
Thank you, Adriane! I’d love to see your list when it’s done!!