SOMETIMES life just doesn’t seem to make sense. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to people who don’t seem to deserve them. All our focused and continuous efforts at one thing may fail, yet something for which we’ve hardly worked for seems to magically fall from the sky and land in our laps. We stand by helplessly while our children suffer from the words and hands of bullies at school, our loved ones get cancer, or our jobs disappear. And we wonder, Why?
I believe that all of life’s events have meaning, even when they seem random and nonsensical, and that creative acts, such as journal writing and art, can help us uncover the personal value of every experience. I say “personal value” because each of us has something different to learn or take away from all that happens in our lives.
Making sense of things is very difficult to do while we are in the middle of a particularly painful experience, and all we can do is write about what we are feeling, thinking, and doing. But — and this is key — if we have, through writing and art, recorded our inner perceptions and honest truths while moving through these events, we will not only emerge more intact and healthy, we will possess treasure chests full of valuable insights and gifts that we may turn around and offer others.
When I was in my late twenties, my family — at that time my husband, my two small children, and myself — sold our home and moved to Europe to be part of an evangelical missionary group. To save the world, as we thought. Instead, we lost everything — our friends, our church, the money from our home, and our sense of unity. My family never fully recovered and eventually broke apart under the stress. At the time, I could not understand what was happening to us, nor why it was happening. As we struggled to recover, I fell into a dark depression (is there any other kind?) that lasted two years. During this period, I continued to write. Perhaps not as regularly as before, but I wrote about the events as they happened, my feelings, my fears, recording all of it as honestly as I could. Although I judged myself as immature and idiotic to spend so much time crying and whining on the pages of my journal, I continued to turn to it as a way of finding meaning.
Later, I was able to go back to what I had written and see the common threads woven through the patterns of everything that happened. Through the writing and, later, the reading, I became empowered to understand what I had gained through my experiences: increased tolerance and compassion for others, an opened mind to others’ opinions and viewpoints, and a larger perspective of life in general. Ultimately, I grew into an expanded sense of my own spirituality and purpose in life.
What was catastrophe became a meaningful gift. With or without writing, we grow from our life experiences. With writing, we increase our ability to access our own inner wisdom and strength. We give ourselves the gift of understanding.
As always, I invite you to join the conversation by writing your thoughts in the comments field below.