Decline, deterioration, loss & reversal are part of life
What did President Bush do the day after he left the White House? What do US Presidents do the day after they leave the White House? What does an Olympic Champion do the day after winning a gold medal? What do we do the day after climbing Mount Everest?
Coping with the sudden gap of purpose & connection is a tough task
Well, we come down the mountain again and actually the descent is more dangerous than the assent. But at least when we are coming down a mountain, we are physically busy. In normal affairs, the sudden removal of busyness, status, purpose, connections and toys, is devastating. The loss of a job, the loss of ‘pole position’, just plain getting older is a loss at so many levels – not least, our sense of identify. How do we cope with it?
Deteriorating as slowly as possible often becomes a shadow mission
John Orteg, describing church leadership in the States, used a good phrase. Deteriorating as slowly as possible is often our shadow mission. We’ve lost our purpose and we are hanging onto old ways. Stagnation makes us bitter and it is awful to watch in others. We oscillate from pity to contempt.
Sadly, some people don’t even have to lose a job or come to the end of an exciting project, to slip into “deteriorating as slowly as possible.” They sleepwalk through life in deadly early retirement, going through the motions and not even terribly aware that they are slipping away.
To fall in love with life again
Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his father who was growing blind “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Professor Kay Jamieson’s husband gave her this encouragement on his deathbed: “You will fall in love with life again.”
Hope has little to do with external success. It has everything to do with loving life
None of us can live without hope and a sense that growth in is possible. But sometimes we confuse hope with trappings of success.
Hope does not mean controlling outcomes. Hope does not mean having status, control and perquisites of our past life (though we may miss them dreadfully).
Hope is a growth in our spirit. It is a sense that what we are doing now is an important task that only we can do for our communities at this time and in this place. It is sense that life will blossom in new ways taking us by surprise and delighting us.
Psychologists help people fall back in love with life again
When we have suffered a hard jolt, psychologists play an important role in helping us find our life’s purpose again. So do good religious ministers, good teachers and respected mentors. Even the smallest child can help us find our way again.
Sadly, though, we have had successful lives, or just live in rich countries or work in successful countries, we can begin to drift. Before long, we are sleep walking. We are not in love with life any more. We have become zombies, without hope – without the sense that life will still surprise us.
Are you living a zombie life : I’ve put John Orteg’s Symptoms of Deterioating as Slowly as Possible in Part Three.