Pursuing meaning

I had this great conversation with my brother Devin, a month or so ago. We talked about having kids, and how that has changed our lives. He shared that his colleagues in his psychology program have asked him, why he and his wife chose to have a child when the research shows that having children decreases happiness. He responded that what he is pursuing is not happiness, but meaning. And he assured them that very few parents would say their life has less meaning since having kids. The distinction hit me as profound. Perhaps even more so since reading the book Devin gave me for my birthday “The Happiness Trap.” The book too, a sort of acceptance commitment therapy manual, suggests that our pursuit of happiness is based on the pursuit of a feeling that is, by nature, transient; and the hope for its permanent dwelling within us is unrealistic. The author, Russ Harris, suggests that only when we accept the changing landscape of our emotions can we dwell in a state of meaning which is actually the “happiness” that we desire. I have been a happiness seeker my whole life. And I’ve long held the belief that “If you’re not happy, you’re not doing it right.” Well, mothering has challenged that statement and in so doing, shook me to the core at times. Am I failing at this mothering thing, if I’m not always happy? What do I need to do to get rid of these feelings of frustration, fatigue, and even hatred? Flipping my pursuit to meaning instead of happiness has had, might I say, a life changing, hopefully, or at least year- changing effect. I dislike disciplining my children, but I find meaning in teaching them, and seeing them gain empathy. I hate seeing my children be mean to each other, but I appreciate the opportunity it has given me to hone my skills of patience, empathy, and forgiveness. My life is less happy-go-lucky than it once was, but it is full of so much more meaning.

2 responses to “Pursuing meaning”

  1. Wonderfully put. I’m still in the trenches many days. Glad to know finding meaning equals Happiness. I’d never replace my children for a life of ease,(most of the time)?

  2. Thanks, Kjirsti. This came on the day I needed it. Please know you were meant to post it today.
    Love Rebecca

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