Today someone told me they admired my altruistic dedication to working with people living with chronic illness. I laughed and replied that there is nothing altruistic about it. I am a selfish creature. We all are.
My desire to help others and be of service is real and true. But when I delve down to the core motivation for this, I am primarily driven by my own need to feel that my suffering has been meaningful. That I haven’t been sick on and off for 16 years without reason or purpose. If I can take what I’ve learned and use it to help others, then I am rescued from the existential terror that we suffer just because we are alive, and that there is no reason for it.
So if I have helped you in any way, it is with deep gratitude that I thank you for helping me just as much, if not more, in return. I am not selfless, I am selfish. I want my life to mean something. And because I am selfish, I also want your life to mean something.
Has your illness helped draw you closer to what matters most to you?
There’s gotta be a reason for our suffering. Otherwise, it’s just too much to bear. But the cool thing is, we get to decide what that meaning is.
When I was a senior in high school, I took a class with the best teacher I’ve ever had. His name was Mr. Nucio. He had been struck by lightning twice. Do you know what the odds of that are? 1 in 360 billion. In other words, not very likely.
Which makes me think he was a special fella. And in fact, he was indeed a very profound man. I think all that electricity shooting through his system really worked in his favor.
On the first day of class, he announced that the meaning of life was “47.” The entire year’s learning was built around this mystery. How was the number 47 the meaning of life? On the last day of class, after a year’s worth of build-up, he announced what the elusive meaning of “47″ was. He said, “That’s the meaning of life for me. 47.”
“But what does it mean?!” we all asked, aghast that he would not give us the answer to the meaning of life, after all that.
“None of your business,” he said. “That’s my meaning. Go find your own.”
And with that, the bell rang.
So today I ask you, what is your 47? What’s the meaning of your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
* * *
Yay! I’m back to blogging after an unintended several-week hiatus. I was one of the many unfortunate peeps across the country battling the flu epidemic. It knocked me down for a solid week and a half, and then, on the heels of all that fever and coughing and sniffling, I started graduate school with a five-day intensive colloquium in Arizona.
I haven’t been in school since 1998, so the transition back into academia as an adult, single mama with MS has sent me running back into bed to hide under the covers and stew in my overwhelm at least once a day for the past two weeks. But fortunately, I always recover and scrounge up the courage to face the books again when my cat, his perfectly calm, zen-like nature, looks at me with those big, unblinking eyes, as if to say, “What’s all the fuss about, Karen? You got this.” And so it is. I got this.