Some weeks back, I wrote an article about the high levels of personal depletion that I was observing all around me. The post was titled “Shot, but too stubborn to fall down”, and it received a lot of attention. It seemed that people were hungry for the psychologically sophisticated advice that was the take-home message of the article: “Fall down, dammit. Fall down, and stay there for a while. Do it voluntarily, pre-emptively, proactively, before your mind and/or your body remove all choice from you…”
So guess what I did on the weekend? I fell down, dammit. I fell down and broke my arm while enjoying a lovely morning skate at my cottage on Lake Manitoba. I got up, drove myself to the little country hospital near my cottage, bit down on a stick while they casted me, and drove back to the cabin while contemplating all the ways in which a fractured arm did not figure into my plans. Then I took the pain medication the nice doctor had given me, and all contemplation ceased for a while!
But now there’s plenty of time for pondering – time that would normally have been taken up with baking shortbread or wrapping Christmas gifts or shovelling out from the blizzard that is currently raging outside my door. Pondering is one of the few things left for me to do with my diminished wee life for the next five weeks, and I intend to do it well.
Several people have asked me already what I’m supposed to be learning from this event, what purpose it is meant to serve in my life. My inner smartass has a ready response — Clearly, keeping me from baking shortbread is the universe’s way of slenderizing my thighs – but I keep this response to myself. One doesn’t wish to appear unspiritual.
Years of being a psychologist– of bearing witness to people’s struggles to understand events ranging from the merely unexpected to the truly astonishing or shocking—have given me a different perspective on the matter of meaning. Meaning is not so much discovered, I believe, as it is created or assigned by the person who is committed to having a meaningful life. Depending on the day, that awareness is either comforting or discomfiting to me. The good news is that I can stop trying to read the unfathomable mind of the Almighty, and trust that any necessary guidance or direction will be provided to me in good time. The hard news is that, in the meantime, it’s my job to settle down and pay closer attention to my own heart and mind, to notice and to tell the truth about what’s working (or not) now that life has been altered.
So that’s what my bum arm and I will be up to over the next few weeks. I’ll be heading back to the cabin with my well-worn copy of Greg McKeown’s brilliant book, Essentialism. For the fifth or sixth year in a row, I’ll spend time reading the book and looking at what’s been emerging in both my personal and professional life. Then I will deselect and eliminate the stuff that needs to go, and commit to what is meaningful and life-giving for the year ahead.
My skates, alas, will stay in the city. But any and all offers of shortbread for the journey will be gratefully received…as will any recommendations for additional books to take along with me. What reading materials or resources do YOU take along on your purposeful planning retreats?