Finding Vs. Making Meaning: Faking it Til You Make It

The Mature Boomer’s Secret to Reinvention

There’s a helpful article posted on Next Avenue, PBS’s website for Boomers.  “How to Move On When Your Dream Fizzles”.  The key point the scholars make is how important it is to replace an unachievable dream with one that ignites your passion and purpose.  Point well taken.

However, finding a suitable replacement dream may not always be as easy as it sounds.  Beneath the good advice, I would add that there’s a deep challenge that takes us into theological territory:  the difference between finding meaning and making meaning.

When it has become obvious that there is a gap between the expectations we hold for our dreams and the probability that they will manifest as we once hoped, most of the time we experience this as a crisis. We need to take the time to mourn at the losses (dis-illusionment), and allow ourselves transitional time into the new dream.

Ritual scholars (the area in which, along with spiritual development, I earned my doctorate) call this “liminal” time.  There is a period, sometimes extended, in which you feel lost and adrift.  The status quo no longer has its hold on you and the new vision has not yet come into focus.  Sometimes, one is blessed with a breakthrough that definitively ends one period and initiates the next.  But most of the time, there is a less a moment of enlightenment, and more, a gradual lessening of the sense of loss and the growing urge to begin something new, or at the very least, a new way of doing things.

The thing is, when you explore new possibilities, it can feel very “made up”, as if–at least for awhile–you’re play-acting the part. But if it’s something worthwhile, something you think you can grow to love, that is enough to justify getting started and then to keep going, long enough until it becomes a habit.

This requires discipline, hanging in long enough with the hope that passion will once again kick in, if it hasn’t already.  The key thing is to get going with something, anything, flowing forward through your life either within or towards meaning, like a river going over and around boulders–changing course constantly, but irrepressible nevertheless.  You don’t know where your commitment will ultimately lead you to, but declaring that you are at least in the game, is a necessary start.   You can’t “make up” passion–but you can certainly “make up” your conviction that you are somebody who has a contribution to make that the world needs and that step-by-step, you are intent on figuring it out.  This is, indeed, the essence of “making” meaning. Not necessarily being hit by a thunderbolt–but the making of a mature choice.

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Responses to Finding Vs. Making Meaning: Faking it Til You Make It

  1. Kathy Sporre 08/31/2012 at 8:11 AM #

    Carol, I had an epiphany when reading your blog today. It helped to make sense of a feeling I experienced during a transitional time in my life. My dreams and expectations in a very important area of my life had been destroyed. I had this deep, gut-wrenching feeling of “homesickness,” and I desperately wanted to go home. The problem was, that I was feeling this as I was sitting in my home at the time. This “homesickness” was deeper than returning to a physical place. This transition had me feeling as though I was adrift in an ocean; not really knowing where the current transition would “land” me, and I was feeling very uncertain and ungrounded about the present and future. Slowly, over a period of years, this homesickness left me. There was no lightning bolt that hit me and calmed my homesickness. It was the putting of one foot in front of the other and staying engaged in life that slowly brought me “back home,” or, to be more exact, to “feeling” I was home again. Perhaps I will find myself adrift at another point in the future, but I will remember what experience has taught me. That will help me to, “Be still and know that He is God.” I may not be in control of outcomes, but I certainly am responsible for the effort that goes into my life. Blessings. – Kathy

    • Carol Orsborn Ph.D. 08/31/2012 at 9:19 AM #

      Thanks for sharing this, Kathy. Thunderbolts are nice, too. But spiritual work often requires the kind of discipline, commitment and faith you describe.