Every child is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
In high school, the question is recast, “What will you major in when you go to college?”
After college, well-meaning folks ask about jobs, then marriage, then children, ad infinitum. Society has a plan for your life. So, where does that leave those like me who diverged from those expectations?
My husband and I are OINKs. One income, no kids. Translation: I am not a parent and I didn’t have a career. Thus, the emergence of the haunting, self-directed question, “What IS my purpose in life?”
Susan Pitman, a fellow Hope*Writer, wrote a beautiful musing about “purpose.” The final statement stuck with me all day:
“You and I have purpose: every minute of the day. Trust the journey to reveal purpose as it unfolds in and through you.”
Her thoughts offered permission to reframe my “purpose.” And in that space, a response to the old, nagging question emerged.
True: I cannot point to a single, “big” life purpose. AND, the absence of a traditional role of mother or career woman has afforded me the time and energy to fulfill many small purposes. Furthermore, those unpretentious purposes ARE significant and create a beautiful montage.
A mosaic’s beauty is the product of many small, diverse components pieced together. Likewise, my purpose has been a collection of small, intertwined purposes.
Oh, the joy that this revelation brings! I am experiencing a paradigm shift, untethering me from the former haunting accusations and freeing me to step back and recognize my unique, mosaic-like purpose. It has been here, unfolding all along.
My depression and anxiety began coming back this summer. Ugh. Medication readjustment is slowly helping. I’m so thankful for medical science and the life-changing help they have given me! I am perfectly content to stay on meds if needed. AND, a niggle in the back of my mind asks, “Would it help if something else was readjusted as well? Specifically, the pace and quantity of input I consume?”
Walking through Walmart yesterday, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of items in the store (an indicator that my serotonin level is possibly off.) So many things to see, so many choices! “Don’t think about it, just stick to the list.”
Having narrowed down my focus to birdseed, I was faced with numerous options. Hum…focus…decide…ignore the variety of bird feeders vying for my attention. OK, black sunflower seeds. Next?
Winding through the garden center I came upon employees setting up Christmas trees. Really? Christmas is three and a half months away. Then, leaving that department I was confronted with a large display of fall decorations. Beyond the fall aisle, begging not to be forgotten, were the Halloween items. I could see all three seasons at once and felt like life was racing into the future before my eyes.
In my overwhelm, a realization pushed into my foggy brain: it is no wonder I am overwhelmed and anxious. Life is flying by at break-neck speed. Who has brain cells to live in the present when we are constantly being rushed and filled with all sorts of information? How can I focus on NOW without the risk of being “unprepared” for the future?
I felt like George Jetson on the run-away treadmill. “Jane! Stop this crazy thing! JJJAAAANNNNE!”
Yet, Jane is probably too distracted to hear or notice George caught in his endless loop.
COVID-19 gave us no choice but to “stop this crazy thing” for a time. My heart relished the calm and quiet, knowing that I wasn’t missing out on anything. Feeling reenergized, I took a 5-week online course on Racial Reconciliation. It was so timely and impactful! AND, binge-reading/listening to 20 books, plus websites, articles, movies, TedTalks, and other resources brought a return to the internal downward spiral.
Hum. Astro, George’s dog, jumped off the treadmill and sat happily beside the cat he had been chasing. Like Astro, I desire to decelerate, choose my own speed of life that works with my personal rhythms, and become more present.
The thought of doing that is both freeing and panicking. Decelerating means saying no to some things that I really enjoy: getting lost on social media, the number of books I consume, the number of websites I look up, and being overly-flexible about how I spend my time.
The plus side to decelerating is the potential for more contemplation, peace, creativity, writing, quality time with my husband, family, and friends, and life coming into better focus.
Dad’s photography tip to avoid blurry photos might apply to my life. Zoom-in to focus on the subject; a busy picture won’t hold a viewer’s attention. Lean on something to steady yourself. Hold the camera still. Press the shutter button slowly and gently. Remain still a second longer after taking the picture.
That sounds like being present! A readjustment worth trying!