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What is your Why for living?

My wife’s mother lived with us for over 10 years after she had a stroke and was paralyzed on her left side. In spite of her paralysis she was amazing. She could get dressed, get her own meals and even cook dinner for our entire family and have it ready when Lynnda and I got home from work. She could even peel potatoes. Our kids were in grade school at the time and went to after school care so Lynnda’s mother was home alone. After a second stroke she needed more care than we could give her and was willing to go to a nursing home.

Our family visited her routinely in the nursing home. She looked forward to those visits. Even in the nursing home she stayed active and made friends with the other residents but then they would die. After Halloween my wife mentioned something about next Halloween. Her mother said, “I won’t we here next Halloween.” She lost her will to live even though her health hadn’t changed. We didn’t know how to get her excited about life again. In 3 months, she was gone.

In the book Man’s Search for Meaning, author Viktor Frankl chronicled his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Frankl makes the point, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” We can choose to see a purpose or meaning in any situation, including the worst of conditions like a concentration camp. Frankl’s book is about how and why he and others survived unimaginable conditions. The main reason for survival was mental not physical. It was a choice to see meaning in the situation and have a reason to survive.

2020 has been difficult for us in many ways but certainly not as bad as a Nazi concentration camp. We have seen an increase in depression and suicide this year. Alcohol demand has increased. At Sam’s Club during lockdown I saw people with carts full of alcohol. The economic effects of the pandemic have been dramatic and could be long lasting. In West Virginia approximately half of the COVID deaths have been the elderly. Many of those were in nursing homes. How many of those deaths were like my mother-in-law? Did they lose their why and just give up?

My wife, Lynnda was in a serious car accident in 2012 and broke her neck. Two days after the accident in the ICU she whispered to the head trauma doctor, “Doctor, we have a trip to Disney World planned for the middle of next month. Is there any reason I can’t go?” I knew then, she was going to be okay. Lynnda had her why. She got out of bed every day and worked hard. One month later Lynnda was at Walt Disney World with me and the grandchildren.

It would have been easy for Shale Crescent USA to shut down during the pandemic. What the entire Team realized, with the loss of jobs from the pandemic, our work was even more important. We had our why and stayed energized. We knew we could work remotely by phone and use services like Zoom for conference calls. We began doing presentations at virtual conferences. We continued to do studies and Whitepapers. We worked with prospects who were interested in our Region. We increased our marketing with radio and print successfully getting our message coast to coast to the USA and even reached Canadian and Asian audiences. I was excited to get out of bed and do early morning drive time shows in places like New York City and Tampa, FL. We helped projects to move forward. Some have already hired local contractors creating jobs, selected sites and could even start construction in 2021.

What is your why? Do you have a dream that still excites you and gets you out of bed? Your why can be as simple as knowing you have a spouse, children, grandchildren or others who depend on you. They may depend on you for the basics like food, clothing and shelter. They may depend on you to do the job you are good at. They may depend on you for psychological support, encouragement or just being the friend, they can talk to. You may think you are unimportant and won’t be missed. If you feel this way, find and watch the Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life. I have been to a lot of funerals. I wonder if the deceased had ever heard all of the nice things being said about them while they were alive. You are important! Find your why, it is what will get you through any what or how.

Retirement can be a big challenge to your why unless you are prepared. I knew several high-level managers who were successful in their career. They worked long hours sometimes neglecting family for the job. They had people coming to them daily for decisions. They were important. Their goal in retirement was to play golf and relax. Suddenly they were unimportant. No one cared what they thought including their spouse was used to them being at work. Two were dead in 6 months. Having a why is essential.

My mother died at 92. Her why besides the children and grandchildren was her church work and the work she did at the senior center where she was publicly recognized. As I write this I’m thinking about her Christmas baking, much of it she gave to others. I can still remember the smell of baking nut rolls on Christmas Eve at our house.

You have talents. You are important. Others depend on you, even if you don’t realize it. Find your whys. 2020 is over. We can’t change it. We can choose to make 2021 a great year.

Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com, is the director of marketing and sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a master’s in environmental engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. He is the author of four books and numerous published articles.

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