Oh yes I am going there and no I am not inebriated. The ‘meaning of life’ discussion is one that only cropped up for me in the past in that peculiar environment that emerges in the small hours of the morning after consuming a copious amount of alcohol or drugs.
Those moments were definitely part of the reason I loved getting wasted back then. It always felt warm and reassuring to be surrounded by other people in altered states who wanted to go into those deep conversations with me.
I have one particularly fond memory of getting high and lying on the floor with friends, wrapped up together in one big blanket and talking about what we thought life was for. I was full of the amplified love and openness that MDMA generates and although our discussion was probably just drivel, at the time it felt transcendent.
Nowadays, for the sake of my safety, I have to be much more sober. But I still allow myself to reminisce about those kinds of nights. The problem with sobriety is that thinking about the meaning of life feels less deep, less insightful, and more depressing.
The strange thing is, that apart from the times when I was using, I didn’t really think about the meaning of life at all before my breakdown. I just plodded along on autopilot, following a trajectory I hadn’t stopped to question. I’d often consider my impact on the world and the bigger picture in terms of our global future, but not what I was doing here on this planet.
I genuinely see the questioning that came with my depression as one of it’s only real gifts. I met people on the psych ward who were in their sixties before this happened for them. They had this awful realisation at that point that they’d been striving for all the wrong things for the majority of their lives. I found that so sad. I felt grateful that I had this opportunity to take time and think about what I really wanted from life.
The problem is, the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t really find an answer. I can identify the things I don’t want. I don’t want a high powered job. I don’t want a mortgage again. I don’t want lots of money or a fancy car. I don’t want to spend my days sat at a desk creating nothing but documents, nothing real. I don’t want to struggle and feel so lost.
Sometimes in therapy this comes up. Because it’s hard to keep doing the work when I don’t know why I am doing it. Am I going through this process of ‘healing’ just to make life tolerable? And do I even want to be alive if the best I can hope for is to tolerate living?
Essentially, exploring all of this relentlessly in my head has led me to the conclusion that there is no ‘meaning of life’. In my CoDA meetings, I am seriously jealous of my friends who have found a ‘higher power’. That drives them. It gives them the feeling that they were created for a purpose, that they’ve got some kind of mission here and that their suffering is all part of the journey that was intended for them.
I guess that says that the meaning of life is exactly what we want it to be. If that is a career, starting a family, or becoming an activist for some cause we’re passionate about, it doesn’t matter because it gives us a focus in the times we feel lost. So maybe one day I will find the meaning of my life, maybe I will have some revelation and suddenly hit on what I want my life to be about.
Until then, I will just have to focus on whatever meaning emerges in each day as it comes. Right now that’s watching Comic Relief (a very British TV charity fundraising event), crying at the sad, sad stories in between the comedy acts and stuffing my face with pizza.
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Yeah, asking yourself about the meaning of life can create its own special little hell when you come to the conclusion that there isn’t any. At first acknowledging that it made no difference to the universe that I wasn’t a charismatic leader or a groundbreaking medical researcher was good, because it meant I wasn’t a failure. But deeper probing led to asking ‘Well, if it makes no difference in the long run, why should I get up today? Why should I not kill myself when I’m in pain? Do the good bits of my life outweigh the bad enough to keep trying?’ I don’t think there is any deep meaning to life. My take on it is that such meaning as there is lies in relationships with other people, both in the here and now and in people’s memories of each other.
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Love this. I got sober too and was forced to face my feelings.
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