It sneaks in through my insecurity; it gnaws at my soul like an unreachable itch; it haunts like an endless aching hunger. I wrestle with it, then reach some sort of truce, even experience nice stretches of contentment; then it whispers in again, often late at night, and won’t go away until I give it what it begs for – but I still don’t have the definitive answer, so the best I can do is placate it with words and blind reassurance.
I’ve asked the question in other forums and of many people. How do you know what your purpose in life is? Is it a once-and-for-all purpose? Or does it evolve as we evolve? Do we spend our lives learning lessons and developing skills in order to eventually fulfill our purpose? Or are those experiences and encounters in themselves our purpose already unfolding?
I think that in my early adult years I may have confused my vocation with my purpose. I was convinced that my calling in life was to have children, dozens of children, some of my own and the rest adopted. For so many years, from as early as 5 years of age, all I wanted was to adopt children that nobody else wanted. And so I lived as if that was what was going to happen – and waited and waited for it to unfold. I took college courses in childcare to prepare myself. I searched for the life partner who would have the same vision and calling. As time went by and neither the husband or opportunity – or financial and physical ability – showed up to help make the dream happen, I was forced by circumstances to busy myself with other endeavors and other career choices. After a massive burnout, several severe bouts of profound depression, chronic debilitating fatigue and a body that would never physically be able to carry children, the dream became impossible. Not only would I never be able to have children of my own, I would also never be approved for adoption because of my history of depression.
Because of the severe fatigue, the loss of that dream didn’t hit so hard…I was too tired to look after children anyway, so it was actually a relief to be able to let go of that particular calling. Imagine, trying to cope with a dozen children when I could barely get myself out of bed. Clearly that dream was not within my reach.
Through years of hard work, therapy and perseverance in focusing on gratitude and positive attitude (I call it “rewiring the attic”), I did rise from the ashes and rubble of those days of profound depression and severe debilitation. I’m proud of my progress, and delighted to be in a good, stable, positive place with more reliable energy and motivation than I’ve felt since the early 1980’s. I’ve come a very very long way.
But the one thing that didn’t make it to my here-and-now is a new-and-improved sense of purpose. It’s still a very fuzzy haze of confusion and unknowing…many of the answers that have emerged out of the many wrestlings do sort of click, but not enough to make the lasting impact that I’m searching for. When I was at my worst, so debilitated by fatigue as to be bedridden for long stretches of time, I remember sobbing and asking God what on earth I could possibly be good for anymore. The answer was clear and simple – you can always pray. It immediately brought peace, and for many years, that was the answer I fell back on whenever the question would haunt me again. And God seemed to be very serious about it, to the point of waking me up at night with vivid images of people and global situations to pray for (many of which don’t even ever show up in the newspapers or TV newscasts, so would never have come to my mind by themselves because I couldn’t even conceive of such misery and need when all of this first began). I am not able to fall back to sleep again until I pray for these people and situations. This continues even today, not only at night, but constantly…constant beckonings and callings to pray for a never-ending stream of names, people and circumstances. There’s no doubt in my mind and heart that this is indeed something I’m meant to do. And I love to do it, I love to pray…even when I’m in the middle of a mall, or restaurant, or the hustle and bustle of a crowded city street, I can feel my spirit constantly praying for healing and blessings on the people I encounter and pass along the way.
But for some reason, there’s still something inside of me that can’t accept that it’s enough…at the end of each day, as I thank God for the blessings and wonders of that day, I also find myself asking, yet again, that my eyes and heart be opened to see and fulfill my purpose, my reason for being here. The answers are always the same: pray, love (learn how to love and to be loved) and be light. One of my very favourite scripture verses is from Micah 6:8, and I hug it close to my heart as one of the most beloved answers to my quest for what I’m here to do:
What does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
I can do that. I’m learning more and more about love and mercy every moment. And humility? I can only laugh, because one of the most constant situations I encounter – everywhere I go – is the empty toilet paper roller – I’m serious!! It happens so much that I’ve actually asked God, half-joking, half-whining, if that was my purpose in life, to change the toilet paper rolls everywhere I go…I think He may have actually answered me by asking “well, what if that WAS all I ever asked you to do?” To which I answered, “well, if I knew it was You asking it of me, I would do it with joy.” And I swear I saw His eyes sparkle…and so I change the toilet paper roll everywhere I go, with joy and gratitude, and a little knowing glance and chuckle at that twinkle in His eye.
At this point in time, I honestly don’t know if it’s enough, if these “very little things” can really be my purpose in life. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer that will silence that questioning or feed that yearning…but maybe we’re not meant to know all the facets or nooks and crannies of our purpose. Maybe for some of us, it really does evolve as the day evolves. Some people do seem to have a better grasp of what they’re meant to do, I would like to experience that sense of accomplishment and contentment, but will probably have to continue wrestling with whatever it is within me that is blocking that sense of “being enough”.
For now I’ll continue to pray, love, and be light wherever possible. And change the toilet paper rolls everywhere I go.