Finding Meaning in a Life of Transitions
I have a confession to make that I bet a few of you share with me. Whenever I pick up a book that I believe will have a useful guide to life, work, science, healthcare or finding meaning through meditation or spirituality, I always start reading the book back-to-front. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I can’t wait to get to the good stuff, the main points that drew me to the book in the first place. While I am at it, I might as well tell you another habit I have when reading a book about some process that may have relevance; I use a highlighter to highlight the good paragraphs or quotes I want to remember and circle back to sometime later.
I just finished reading a book loaded with so many good nuggets of information in it that relate to all of us trying to figure out what this COVID pandemic means to us individually and how it will shape our lives in the future. The book is titled, Life Is in the Transitions (Mastering Change at Any Age), by Bruce Feiler. I saw an interview with him recently, and instantly thought it would be a great read for me, my family, and friends. And, you know that highlighter I mentioned I like to use to remember good parts of a book, that baby was in overdrive as I started highlighting the best parts of the last chapter and worked my way through the remaining chapters. Let me just say there were more orange highlighted sections than non-highlighted prose.
The central part of the book was taken from 255 interviews, documented over three years, across a wide spectrum of individuals from diverse backgrounds. It illustrates the similarities we all share trying to cope with ‘lifequakes’ - major disruptors that often lead to significant life transitions. These stories illustrate that these disruptive events, some voluntary/some involuntary, are happening more frequently in our nonlinear world and there are lessons we all can use to make our lives better with more fulfillment and meaning. Amazingly, Feiler’s analysis indicates that older adults may have five or six major lifequakes during their lives with the average length of the resulting transitions around five years. Let that sink in a little bit. That means that during over half our lives we are in some aspect of a transitionary change that affects our happiness and mental attitude toward achieving more meaning and purpose in our lives.
I recognize that I am in the midst of a transitionary period in my life and the road ahead is not mapped out with a handy GPS destination finder. However, I know I share a passion that you have to help others in need and it will lead to many good stories to share and promote along our journey. One of the reasons I like this book so much is that it hits on one of my longtime beliefs; good stories connect and empower us. Straight from the book, “Stories connect us. They give us a sense of belonging. They can take two people with no previous relation and give them a relationship for life. There is power in telling stories, of course. There is power in hearing them. But there is greater power in the interaction between the two.”
Stories also bring back memorable times in our past that we want to share but often don’t because we don’t think others care to hear them. Let me say loud and clear, I want to hear your stories and efforts you are creating in your community to make this world a better place. Please share your stories so we all can benefit from your experiences. This is what the 3rd ACT website is all about. I want to share stories that will empower others to act in some capacity to help a child, family, or community out of a difficult time in their lives.
You will read in this book that life transitions are not easy and take time to work through. And, heaven knows we have a lot of questions ahead of us that make the journey treacherous and hard to decipher. Dealing with tumultuous happenings in our lives is a common phenomenon that all families share. However, it is far more impactful and beneficial if you have friends and even strangers that can assist you or your community through a difficult period or transition.
Nobody has a handle on what the COVID pandemic means to our lives and communities in future years. I don’t think it is a stretch to state that many parts of our communities will face unbelievably hard economic conditions in the future that will not be repaired without continuous help and service from compassionate people like yourselves. I can already tell you that I have had several meaningful conversations with caregivers, psychologists, pastors, and volunteers that convince me that the multitudes of individuals affected by the economic conditions is growing daily and the need to serve others will be with us for a long, long time.
Connecting a passage in the book to my Oklahoma roots, Feiler writes about a comment from a question he posed to one of the people he interviewed, John Mury, about the shape of his life. Mury’s answer: a winding river. “This may sound corny, but there’s a Garth Brooks song that really made an impact on me,” Mury said. “It’s called ‘The River.’ He quoted, “A dream is like a river, always changing as it flows; we are merely vessels, who must change as we go.”
“That is what I feel today,” said Mury. “A huge part of my narrative in coming out of the darkness is that my responsibility is not to change the world, but to be the right kind of person in the world.”
Feiler toured with Garth for a year researching a book about country music. Feiler said, “I heard him perform “The River” countless times. There is a line near the end of the song that captures perhaps the greatest insight I took away from listening to more than a thousand hours of life stories. It’s exactly the lesson I most needed to hear years earlier when my own life veered off course, hurtling me into a bog of anxiety, frustration, and fear. Even though we can’t control the river---even though life is ever flowing, ever changing, ever threatening, ever maddening---we must “choose to chance the rapids/and dare to dance the tide. We must never give up on the happy ending.”
Check out this book if you know someone dealing with life’s transitions. I think it has wonderful stories about how so many people of all ages are trying to deal with this crazy world we live in. One way we can make a difference is joining others along the journey that share our desire to extend a helping hand.
Peace Out! Until our next get together...
Roger N. Steed
If you'd like to buy Bruce Feiler's
remarkable book, you can do that here.
“I don’t know what’s more astonishing, the range of stories Bruce Feiler has found in asking people about their lives, or the wisdom he extracts from them. There is no more powerful reminder that the stories we inherit define success---and that definition constantly needs updating. This beautiful book is an indispensable guide to accepting change as it really is and becoming who we really are.”
Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better
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Privileged to be the sponsor of the Live Auction event following dinner at the 23rd Annual-Hope in One golf outing at Oakland University,
Katke-Cousins/R&S Sharf golf courses supporting the
Grace Centers of Hope Men’s Program on Monday, August 10th.
Was pleased with the 3rd Act logo signage in dining hall with my golf guests
and on all bidding cards at the Live Auction.
Also, logo signage sponsoring golf hole on #11 R&S Sharf course.