Saturday, September 29, 2007


I am asked from time to time if I am happy. The easy answer of course is yes; saying no would then require some explanation that the concerned party probably has no interest in hearing.

But the truth is, I usually do not think of myself as being happy or unhappy. Happiness is too general a word to convey what is important to me in my life. In fact no single word or term serves that purpose. Some that do are engagement, purpose, & meaning, and of these, engagement best expresses what I hold valuable.

First, let me create this image in your mind. Imagine a sailboat on a very windy day. Its sails are billowed taunt with wind and the keel is buried deep in the water as it moves swiftly across the surface, harnessing the forces of nature. All the elements are working, and the boat is engaged in doing what it is meant to do.

This is what I strive for, to be engaged in doing the work I am meant to do, whatever it might be. I am most content with life when I am engaged in my life’s work; it gives me a sense of purpose and meaning. So isn’t that happiness? Perhaps, but I avoid that description because engagement doesn’t mean serenity and peace of mind. The work of one’s life is usually accompanied by anxiety, stress, and a roller coaster of emotional states. Certainly there are times when I feel happy, but there are other times when I’m anything but happy.

A word about “work”. I use it frequently in my writing referring in a broad sense to what we do to fulfill our life’s purpose. Of course this implies that we have a sense of that purpose.
Think of this work as “good work”, work that replenishes the energy it consumes, work that may leave us exhausted, but with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. For me, my years in private practice and most of my emergency room experience was this good work, as is the time spent creating art. I feel the same about writing and journaling. In each of these endeavors, especially creating art, I have experienced the extremes of emotions -, anxiety, self-doubt, distress, frustration, as well as satisfaction and gratitude for the opportunity to be doing all of this.

OK, so in the end it is all semantics