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Recommended Reading for New Year’s

by Dr. Judith Miranti

The holidays have a way of inserting into our psyches a reflective mode that, if ignored, will just keep inserting itself until we stop and pay attention to our mind, body and spirit.  Individuals react differently to the approaching holidays. For some, the holidays are unbearable after the loss of a loved one depending upon their unique stage of grief and whether or not they are experiencing survivor’s guilt. For others, it is a time of thanksgiving and connecting with those we love.

During our reflective mode, these two short reads, God Isn’t Finished with me Yet (139 pages) and Man’s Search for Meaning (167 pages) put a lot into perspective regardless of one’s spiritual and/or religious beliefs.  Everyone wants to find meaning in life.  The self-help books that fill the shelves of bookstores testify to this search.  As we see fewer years ahead than behind, it can be easy to question our value or what we have left to contribute. How can we continue to be generative and give back and live with purpose in our later years?

Sadly, there is no quick fix.  To have meaning and purpose in life is a quest which is never ending but can be fulfilling.  Often we hear clients discuss how they are spiritually, psychologically and mentally bankrupt. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, has captivated generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival.  Frankl argues that while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.  Throughout the holiday, pause and reflect on any one of the top ten Viktor Frankl quotations:

1. “Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.”

2. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

3. “But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

4. “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

5. “The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

6. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.'”

7. “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

8. “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

9. “The point is not what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.”

10.”For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”

Find comfort in God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet.  We still have time to repair old wounds and reconnect with those from whom we are estranged.  We are encouraged to examine our lives and to make reasonable choices that will yield positive results.  We can let go of hurts, forgive ourselves, and find ways of bringing joy into our lives and discovering the spiritual graces of later life.

[Dr. Judith Miranti is Chair of the Division of Education and Counseling at Xavier University of Louisiana. She served as Dean of Humanities at Our Lady of Holy Cross College for 10 years and as VP for Academic Affairs for two. She has also served as the President of the National Association for Spirituality, Ethics, and Religious Values in Counseling.]

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