Especially for Parents: Finding meaning in the pits

by Angie Williams

At times during the pandemic, this column has felt a bit tricky to write. I often draw on my own experiences as a mom of two young daughters, but in spite of the fact that we successfully baked cookies last weekend and even created homemade Thanksgiving name cards, many days it feels that we are just getting through it. Perhaps you are experiencing the same in your own life and/or work. Happily, there is good news on the vaccine front, and you can almost feel the hope and light at the end of the tunnel.

We still have a few challenging months ahead, so I’ve been thinking about what messages may resonate as we all seek to dig deep and press on until we reach the other side. I remembered the story of Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, neurologist, and concentration camp inmate during World War II. As he lived through one of the most horrific experiences in recent history and observed his fellow inmates attempt to cope, he developed a theory that those who persevered best were the ones who were able to establish meaning in their lives. In Frankl’s view, meaning can be found through:

  • Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others,
  • Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression, and
  • Changing our attitude when faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

For many of us, our experiences and interactions have become more limited in nature, and we may be dealing with hardship in various aspects of our lives. But I appreciate how Frankl identifies that no matter what we are facing, there are always opportunities to create something good for ourselves, our families, and the community around us. I hope this message of meaning brings some encouragement and inspiration to you as you balance all that life requires right now.

This morning a friend randomly dropped off a book on my porch called Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (which, frankly, felt like a not-very-subtle nudge from the universe). The quote on the back says:

“Where is meaning in the meteoric passage of time…where is meaning in the pits?…I think these questions are worth asking.”

– Anne Lamott

As we move through the months ahead, I hope to reflect on meaning and how it can be uncovered or created (if only with cookies!) even in these strange and difficult—but fortunately, impermanent— times.