In Search of Meaning and Connection by Jori Lichtman
I can’t pinpoint a date or time. And I can’t identify a specific trigger that sparked me to want to dissect my character, my values, and my way of life. Maybe it’s because I was noticing my actions and reactions, and thinking I could do better. Maybe it’s because I had a moment of clarity when things seemed to fall into place and I attributed that to my attitude, gratitude, positivity, or thoughtfulness. Maybe it’s because I was noticing how others carried themselves through life and I admired and envied their seemingly calm and pleasant demeanors (or on the other hand, couldn’t wait to remove myself from situations and people that were full of negativity).
It’s probably a little bit of all those things but above all, I think it’s as simple as this: while I have a blessed life (with its fair share of twists, turns, and challenges) with a loving husband, three healthy children, a career, and a comfortable lifestyle, the hustle and bustle of everyday life was leaving me feeling lonely, and craving deeper connections and meaning. Interestingly, on the connection piece, I initially thought it was connections with other people I was craving; but I’ve quickly learned it’s equally about connecting with my inner self, my emotions, my mind, and my spirituality.
I wouldn’t say I was the type of person who wasn’t stopping to smell any of the roses, or that I was taking my life for granted, or that I was a consistent complainer. But I also don’t think I was consciously feeling and expressing my gratitude on a regular basis, or reminding myself to not sweat the small stuff. I don’t think I was fully aware of my own thoughts, emotions, and actions, and how these impact my ability to enjoy and savor my life, be a positive role model for my children, my family, and my community, and ultimately live a life of deep meaning as a woman, mother, wife, and a member of the Jewish community.
So, where am I now?
In my own words, I’m on the “Being-a-better-person-and-living-a-more-meaningful-life” train. And, I often say that my hope is to be remembered as a good, Jewish Mensch (a person of integrity and honor) who lived a life filled with positivity, love, and gratitude.
What does being on this train really mean for me?
It means reading books and attending classes with thoughtful content about character development, and having meaningful, and fulfilling conversations with new friends and old. I’m also learning more about the benefits of meditation through a guided program.
It means being mindful of my emotions, actions, and reactions, and knowing that life will always throw curveballs, but I can 100% choose who I am in the face of them.
It means judging favorably. It means remembering that I don’t know the story of the woman who cut me off in traffic, or the colleague who seemed distant and cold last week, or the mother who is texting in the playground, perhaps trying to reach her doctor to find out about her cancer prognosis.
It means being open to new ideas, concepts, and philosophies because by listening, I might let in some knowledge that could change my life.
What have I learned so far?
The journey is just beginning but my cup is already full…
I’ve learned that if you open up, there’s an abundance of people willing and waiting to take you in – to learn with you, grow with you, share with you, and laugh with you.
I’ve learned how incredibly important it is to surround myself with positive and authentic people. Almost as important as the air I breathe.
I’ve learned that having a vocabulary (running through my head or spoken out loud) filled with words like gratitude, patience, self-compassion, vulnerability, forgiveness, empathy, kindness, sharing, generosity, light, and wisdom, makes me a better person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and leader.
I’ve learned that if my 4-year-old uses my bedroom wallpaper as his art canvas, it’s completely up to me if the whole day – and my mood – is ruined, or if that moment is contained, and we all move on to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day. And on that note, it’s a beautiful day if I say and feel it’s one – not necessarily because the sun is shining.
I’ve learned that everybody has a story – a struggle in life, a triumph, their own personal mountain to conquer. And if we’re there for each other, and really open our ears and hearts, and listen, support each other, and learn from each other, it can be a much smoother ride for all of us.
I’ve learned that my own voice – through my written words – serves as a small piece of comfort to many of my friends and members of my community. I truly savor this gift of being able to share my thoughts and feelings with like-minded souls.
Thank you for letting me into your lives and I look forward to continuing to learn, share, and grow together on the path to deeper connections and an amazing life filled with meaning.
Jori Lichtman is a 2015 Momentum Trip Participant with the Village Shul.