Recent life events have left me feeling many things – mostly grief over the death of my younger brother, who faced alcohol addiction and mental health issues for many years and passed away in June at the age of 33. This loss has definitely triggered an introspective look, thinking about humanity, life, and how to approach the world.
What is the meaning of life anyway, and how can one pursue their dreams when everything can change so suddenly? Whether someone dies in an accident. Or a terrible illness strikes. Or when the iron-clad grip of severe alcoholism destroys a person. Are we here simply like a field of different flowers blowing in the wind, never knowing when at any moment an elephant foot might stomp down and crush us to death in a single second, with utter disregard to whether the flowers stomped are a new young bud, a flower in the middle of life, or an aged flower at the end of its natural days?
It reminds me of this Slate article from 2014 where a waitress asks the Dalai Lama the meaning of life, and he replies that the meaning of life is happiness – but the real and more difficult question is what and how is real happiness achieved. Is it money, mansions, and expensive food? Probably not. Or is true happiness achieved with love, compassion, and a kind heart? If so, how does one go about ensuring a kind heart? I just yelled at my kids for not chewing with their mouths closed at dinner tonight – so… crud. Guess my kind heart definitely needs a lot more work.
After thinking on things a bit, here are some of my newly revised life goals:
- Love My Kids: Always my top priority, particularly after I left my full-time job 7 months ago to be a stay-at-home mom, raising my kids in a loving and supportive home is absolutely a top focus of my life and I am sure it will stay that way until they are all grown up. In particular, I am trying to impart to my daughters a sense of self-confidence combined with an understanding that needing help is okay and there is nothing to be ashamed of if they are feeling sad or anxious. Honesty and addressing hard feelings openly is so important.
- Make Art: As an artist, whether painting, drawing, making comics, or working toward writing my first book, I think that being true to my creativity is essential to my humanity and exploring ideas and passions through those projects is essential to me being true to myself and not neglecting my own happiness. What if all the art I make is really cruddy? Who cares. What if I publish a book and zero people buy it? Also, who cares. I need to pursue my art with passion and without fear – knowing that whatever I produce will be enough simply because it is my process and my journey and the creation of the work that adds value to my human experience.
- Work Toward Kindness: Whether donating time and volunteering for causes I care about, or supporting a friend going through a tough time, or staying calm and collected through difficult parenting moments, I need to foster kindness in my actions. I feel that I inevitably fall short on this one and my past failings on this are tied to all of my deepest regrets – speaking in anger and frustration when my kids are misbehaving, or saying something foolish, heartless, and insensitive to family, colleagues, or friends. It’s easy to beat myself up over all the miss-steps, but I need to try to learn from my mistakes, apologize, and move forward – starting fresh each day to do my best to act with kindness in what I do. I am reminded of an Anne Frank quote: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
I can only hope that my brother has found peace. He loved my kids, his nieces, so dearly and I hope that I can honor his memory by remembering him with love, and helping my kids to remember the good times with him. To all who have lost someone – may you find peace in your heart.
The July postcard that I made is a condolences themed card with a simple candle shining. It isn’t available yet on my Etsy store, but I hope to add it in the next week or two.
I don’t know the meaning of life. Do you? Why are we here? Why do terrible things happen? Where can I go as I move forward carrying this burden of grief? So many tragedies in the world, and so many people we see are carrying their own burdens of grief – whatever deep pain or loss they have faced in their lives. May we each find solace. May we find tenderness with each other. May we find compassion in this life.