There are memories that never seem to fade from the landscape of my life’s meanderings. Like an Eastern NC sand burr, they continuously catch and attach to the fabric of my wandering thoughts, requiring the painstaking chore of extraction. There is no ignoring a sand burr once you are aware of their firm attachment to your party of one.
Years ago I was asked by my pastor, “Are you happy here?”
“I’m not clear on what you’re getting at.”, I replied.
Without relinquishing, the question was reposed, “Are you happy at (name of job I worked at the time)?”
I recall a similar question posed years before the other. “Why are you here?”, asked a deacon of the church I served at the time.
I responded similarly, “What do you mean?”
“Why are you here, right now, at (name of job I worked at the time)?”
“Because it’s my job.”, I replied slightly confused and dismissively.
“No, not good enough. What is your reason for being here today, tomorrow, and the day after, and so on?” Like the extraction of a sand burr, this line of questioning continued for a few minutes.
Over years of living days into nights into days, these particular memories of completed conversations have continued to infuse ongoing conversations. They have led me to answer the question, “Why…?”, anew, afresh, again and again.
I am grateful to my inquisitive companions for their distracting questions that subtly guided me to realize that I prefer meaningfulness over happiness. And…I have come to learn that there is a profound difference between meaningfulness and happiness. Though there is a harmonic kinship in the experience of meaningfulness and happiness, we can find ourself dreadfully misplaced if we negotiate our journey towards happiness, targeting it as the destination…the intended end. Pursuing destinations of meaningfulness or happiness have the power to become a moment’s…a day’s…a life’s purpose. Give me a path of meaning. Happy is the breeze.
“What’s your biggest fear?” I was asked recently. The question has stayed in the halls of my mind. It was not the first time I was asked this question or had heard it or read it. It’s like the elusive, “Who is your hero?” question. Or the, “What is your biggest regret?” question. I do have PEZ answers; those answers that stand at the ready when they are necessary supplements for pushing past an inevitable crash from the depleting pressure I can feel when expected to sustain and to effectively participate in socially engaging & polite dialogue. But real answers do not immediately come to my mind. And if they did, the kind of answer that truly meet every qualification of the words that build the questions, would I share them?
These questions are of the sort that are deeply anchored far beneath our life’s surface waters. To mine for the answers to these questions would require a thoughtful and honest appraisal of self. It would require reflection, discovery, and exploration that would take a person somewhere beyond the comfortable reach of the primary senses, beyond easily accessible “within reach” memories, beyond what others have told us about ourselves (and that we pick-and-choose to believe), and into the massive dark and nearly alien waters of self-awareness.
As I approach birthdays, I can feel the weight of the questions waiting. I think others feel them, too. Otherwise, why ask the questions? There are times that we cloak our desire to know more about ourselves by posing questions that express a desire to know others. Maybe their answers will help us to form our own answers. Then again, maybe we ask the questions as an avoidance of some type. Or maybe we rush to be the first to pose the question because that’s the easier and more dominating role within social interaction.
I believe that I have come to know this: There is an inner self with which we either daily brutally fight or that we daily heavily disguise…or both. I guess that’s another question to add to the list. #birthday #melancholy #nostalgia