Existential Authenticity

You might have seen me post this online awhile back. But - what does it mean?

Excellent question. One I've been considering and working through for weeks.

While I don't have any specific answers, I'd like to invite you to follow along this journey with me.

I've been nagged by a persistent, unsettled feeling for the past few months. Pretty much boiling down to what is the purpose and meaning of (my) life? 

I've described this to some close friends as being "inconvenient" because frankly, it is. Everything is fine - better than fine. There are always things to work on, but our family has shelter, food, water, and is healthy. When it comes to the necessities, they are taken care of. So what gives?

My good friend Margi (who kindly listened to me for hours while I processed as I visited Austin, TX in June) remarked that the timing of this wave didn't surprise her. If you're in a state of survival, you don't really have time to ponder the big questions, right? So now that the dust has settled from newborn babies, moving into our house, and each of us starting new jobs... it's not totally surprising that I'd come to this point.

I think we all do, as humans. Question the point, question our place, seek our purpose and meaning.

For me, it's particularly sharp as I question what it means to be a woman, now that I'm done having babies. For a good chunk of my adult life, I was waiting for that - waiting to find my mate, waiting to conceive, waiting and hoping after our miscarriage, waiting to birth James, waiting to be ready for another baby, and then waiting to birth Thomas. I've always dreamed of having my own family, and - here they are! Messier (but better) than my dreams.

Now... all of that waiting is done. Which begs the question... now what?

That might seem silly, but so much of our life is milestone/striving based. Achieve a college degree. Achieve a marriage or partnership. Achieve a home of some kind. Achieve a family. So... what next?

For years now, I've jokingly referred to an "existential crisis" without fully comprehending the scope and magnitude of what that is. I can share now that it's all-consuming. All-encompassing. My head and heart and soul were tossed about, and I felt scarily detached.

I'm thankful that I had this planned trip to Austin in June. I was staying with my mother, and as things broke around me in late May, I realized that spending time with her - steeping myself in her presence - were going to be more necessary than I knew. We talked - a lot. Each night I was there, we went to bed around midnight, which is saying a lot coming from two women who love to sleep as much as we do. I was able to ask her some scary questions. Scary because... we approached a new frontier in our relationship as mother/daughter. I don't know how to do that. But I'm glad that she was able to hear my heart, and we were able to talk about family, friendships, passions, purpose, hope, faith, love, sadness, regret, growth, learning, healing.

One of our destinations was of course the incredible BookPeople in Austin. Pretty much one of the best bookstores ever. Book stores and libraries have always held special meaning and feelings for me - a quiet, dreamy space where I can just be me. I was seeking a couple of specific books (more on these later), but something unexpected jumped out at me.

I kind of laughed, because... a comic book? About philosophy? It was actually on a rack full of comic book/graphic novel type presentations about big topics. It made me stop in my tracks, because wasn't that what I was seeking? A beginner's understanding of this huge philosophical movement?

I caved. I got it, along with a few other books that I'll share with you soon.

And... I ended up reading the entire thing. Before my plane landed in Denver.

Turns out, this was the best thing I could have gotten, because it gave me a wide, shallow exposure to many existential philosophers. This allowed me to take notes and mark down which thinkers I identified most with, and which didn't ring true to me.

The trip to Austin, along with this book, seemed to open the floodgates. I'm a reader. I always have been, but since James was born, I haven't really read anything new. Maybe - MAYBE - a handful of books in the last 4 years. But that's nothing.

Since reading this book in June, I've since read 3.75 more (almost done with another). It's incredible. I feel more like myself, I feel more solid, than I have in awhile. Now, I need to do myself the service of processing/writing - an outlet since I have restarted an inlet.

This post is already long enough, but I'd love to share my takeaways from these books in future posts. Care to read along?


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