"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Living with purpose in a noisy world

By on April 25, 2021 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
For Kirk Beckendorf, simple things such as a hike with his wife, Tracey, give his life meaning.

By Betsy Dudash

We live in a complex world. When you factor in a global pandemic that has cut many of us off from the people, places, and activities that ground us, life can seem overwhelming. 

How can we find our place — our purpose — in such a world? Can we find balance by living more simply and intentionally? 

Betsy Dudash: How can we find our place in this world?

To explore this idea, I reached out to some of the people who’ve been a part of my own journey of self-discovery as a native plant enthusiast and advocate, educator, Sustainable Wenatchee board member and artist. 

I asked them how they find meaning and purpose in life and how they savor the everyday moments. Some of those who opened up to me are in their post-retirement “second act,” others are still mid-career. 

Not surprisingly, the answers they gave were as different as they are, but one common motivation is simply, as Rick Edwards put it, “Striving to live in a way that matches your beliefs and values.” 

For Rick, that translates to “promoting environmental stewardship and helping people in need.” 

Kirk Beckendorf seeks “a simple life both for mental and emotional calmness as well as minimal impact on the environment.” 

As an educator, Kirk strives to have a positive impact on students’ lives and hopes to enhance their curiosity about the world.

Environmental stewardship and education are important to many of those I interviewed, including Sherry Doolittle. “I find meaning by volunteering time and energy to organizations like the (Chelan-Douglas) Land Trust and the Wenatchee Museum (and Cultural Center),” she said. “Helping build trails and participating in conservation efforts with the Land Trust and teaching groups of school children at the museum are very rewarding.” 

“My faith in God underpins my belief in being in community with others,” said Susan Ballinger. “We are called to take care of one another and our Earth, so all can thrive.” 

Jana Fischback also finds meaning through her relationship with God and feels her purpose is to share his love with others. She feels called to do that by “educating and inspiring others to be better stewards of creation, and thus protecting the global poor. I want to help people to understand that caring for ‘the environment’ is as much about defending the life-threatening impacts of environmental degradation and climate change on people as it is about protecting the natural world.”

Sometimes we need time, introspection, and a change of pace to figure out our place in the world. 

When Jenny Montgomery was easing (her word) into her 30s, she began to feel that something was missing from her life. She had “checked off goal after goal” and was financially stable, yet still felt unfulfilled. 

Then a friend introduced her to yoga. “Yoga taught me to breathe, sit in meditation, and opened my eyes to a new kind of strength and balance. There is so much growth in the moments you allow yourself to slow down. That is where it all changed. Today I am 36, and I know learning inspires me, investing in the community is time well spent, and living an intentional life is where my soul is happiest.” 

She realized that the void she felt in her 20s was due to her “living without awareness, creativity, and gratitude.”

For Susan Ballinger, “When I hang wet laundry on the clothesline, deliver a bucket of compost to the chickens, or pick berries in my backyard, I feel grounded and loved.”

As you might imagine, living intentionally is often about the small, everyday choices we make. “I want to minimize the footprint I leave on this Earth and I strive to practice actions that will minimize harm,” said Susan Ballinger.

“I’ve discovered that many of these practices bring daily bits of joy and pause. When I hang wet laundry on the clothesline, deliver a bucket of compost to the chickens, or pick berries in my backyard, I feel grounded and loved. These small daily practices fuel the harder work of engaging in local and regional issues to advocate for policies in support of our community’s health and for protection of our lands.” 

For Kirk Beckendorf, simple things give his life meaning: a hike with his wife, Tracey, a conversation with family, or a walk along the Wenatchee River with his dog, Ranger. 

“My mind wants to be thinking about everything that I think I need to be working on the rest of the day. But I try to follow Ranger’s lead and just focus on what is around me — bark hanging from a tree, wood chips lying on the snow under a dead tree dislodged by a woodpecker, the sounds of the water rushing over and around the rocks, ducks and geese chattering.” 

Sherry Doolittle gets outside and connects with nature any way she can. She finds joy in watching the birds or “multitudes of insects doing their jobs” and savors the ritual of watching the sun rise and set. 

Jana Fischback’s young children “have been my greatest lesson in how time passes so quickly and how we must cherish each moment with our loved ones,” she said. “I try to soak up everyday moments with them, even though sometimes parenting is really hard, because I know I’ll never get this time back.” 

A belief in the importance of community seems to be an integral part of living an intentional life. 

Sherry Doolittle enjoys volunteering because it connects her with like-minded people. Rick Edwards loves to “identify…   a need… and then help bring together the people and resources needed to address (it).” 

Jan Theriault always had a job working with others; now that he’s retired, he spends part of his time giving back to the community. As he said, “There is no better gift than giving to others.” 

By striving to live in harmony with their values, every one of these individuals makes a difference in our community.

Betsy Dudash is a self-employed, Purdue-trained landscape horticulturist and designer in Wenatchee. She serves as Sustainable Wenatchee’s board president and writes occasional blogs on sustainability. Betsy also teaches Continuing Education classes at Wenatchee Valley College.

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