15 August 2012
Trying to Be Useful
I know I'm not THAT old. :) At least that's what all the women in New York who are in their forties and pregnant with IVF twins tell me. But I definitely feel like I'm older than I ever thought I would be as a woman who does not have any children.
Do you know what that does to you? It makes you feel like your life is ticking by. Very quickly.
I never imagined my life turning out quite this way. I did have lots of goals in my teenage years - many in addition to having a family. Stuff like becoming financially self-reliant, investing in real estate, starting a business, owning my own home, traveling the world, being successful at something. And I've had time to work on those things...it has truly been extraordinary. But, I always thought I'd have several children by now. And since that hasn't happened...as time has gone on, I have craved more and more the desire to be an influence for good. Or at least to try. Over the years, in little ways, I started to realize that doing good brought more joy and fulfillment than money in the bank or professional success of any kind. This realization came from stuff like: working with and mentoring some teenagers in Brooklyn - even while my first husband was filling out divorce docs from another state; reaching out and visiting people who were sick or who had new babies or just needed a visit - even on days when I felt very, very alone; uplifting those facing infertility or divorce - and trying to give them hope - even when I couldn't have felt further from meeting a husband or having babies myself. Those moments of service changed me. They saved me.
I just recently read something in this book called Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life and it resonated with me so much. It says....
"We all need to feel useful to others. It's an indispensable nourishment for the soul. When this need isn't satisfied, it leads to pain that is all the more searing if death is near. A large part of what is called the fear of death comes from a fear that our life hasn't had any meaning, that we have lived in vain, that our existence hasn't made any difference to anyone or anything."
The author goes on to tell a story about a man who had a long history of alcoholism, drugs, and violence. He became unhinged when he was told he had brain cancer. It turns out he had no family, no friends, and was a lost soul. A psychiatrist started visiting him regularly during the few months of life that he had left. During those meetings, it became clear that what made this man's death intolerable was the fact that he hadn't done anything with his life. And so the psychiatrist asked him if, in the time remaining, he could do something that would be useful to someone. The man said he had never thought about it. He considered it for a while and then said, "There's a church in my neighborhood. I think I could do something for them. They need an air-conditioning system. I know how to do that." This man ended up waking each morning to go to his rooftop job, installing that air conditioner. His work was slow, because of his declining health. The parishioners got used to him being there and spoke to him, brought him sandwiches and coffee, etc. The experience was so meaningful to him that he got teary eyed when he spoke of it - as it was the first time in his life that he was doing something that really mattered to others. One day he couldn't work, and the end was very near. The psychiatrist went to say goodbye to the man. He didn't have the strength to speak, so signaled for him to come closer and he said, "God bless you for saving my life."
Oh man, have you guys ever done some form of service for someone else, when you were in a moment of need yourself? How was it? If you haven't experienced this yet - I'm rooting for you to give it a try!
P.S. Danny and I just watched a movie with our laptop on our bed. We have a TV that works perfectly fine. But I don't know - movies in bed is so much more fun. :)