Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Life on Purpose

I've been stuck on my purpose lately.

About eight months ago, one of my coaching friends suggested my purpose was to love. I was struggling with an idea of community, helping, health, and wellness, and she boiled it down to the word love. Love is a nice purpose. Love is the sort of purpose one can lean on, put weight into. Having a purpose of love is unselfish. Love is something we are supposed to give unconditionally. Love is a grand purpose. Even last week, I was looking at love as my purpose. I was questioning love as the real bottom line of my purpose, but I was willing to continue walking with it,

Yesterday, I was talking to a close friend about purpose. I asked her what she thought her purpose might be. Most people don't know immediately, so when she answered in that vein, I started asking her about what she was engaged in when she felt like life was just plain easy. Her answer threw me for a loop. I was digging for a "grand" answer, something like love. Her answer: taking care of herself.

My initial reaction was surprise. I was caught up in thinking that purpose had to be selfless; something that ended up serving humanity on a"grand" scale. My purpose, after all, was to love! As we talked more, I kept trying to find ways to frame her answers in a way that would help develop a "grand" statement, but I failed and failed and finally came to the conclusion I must be in the wrong.

I had a psychology professor who once said "Feelings are." What my professor meant was you feel what you feel, and there is no wrong way to feel about something; the statement went along with idea of not shoulding on one's self. I realized purpose must be very similar. There is no ideal purpose for every person, and there is no reason for my expectations for a definition of purpose limit someone else in her search for purpose.

After this conversation, I spent the rest of my day at orientation for my master's program. I loved it. I enjoyed meeting my new peers, my new mentors, my new program. I loved being in an environment where people were talking about research, ideas, and their passion for exploration. I was excited, I was stimulated, I was engaged in ways I never expected to be. Life was clicking along. I met another friend for tea after orientation, and told the girl behind the counter I was "sparkling... " and then added a bit sarcastically "like a vampire" when I realized how over-the-top happy I sounded.  

I don't remember the last time I felt like I was living my purpose. Trying to love all my clients: impossible. Trying to love everyone I pass on the street: exhausting. Living in a learning environment: easy.

I knew this love thing wasn't working, but it sounded good; too good, in fact. I'm going to try out a new purpose for a while: to learn. I started to try to expand it to include something about the good of humanity, but it started to take on that hollow tone again. Keep purpose simple was the primary point in my coach training. While it may not sound as selfless and giving as "to love", I think "to learn" fits me a little more closely.

I'd rather focus on loving the people I want to love any way.

I think my friend whose purpose is to take care of herself is on to something. The whole point of purpose work is to get to the heart of how we want to live. I believe in doing my part for the good of humanity, but it is much easier to do that when I'm living my true purpose, and not trying to live up to some "grand" ideal I've set for myself.

Yours, in learning,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Get Big

I rode horses (and if you would care to argue the point, I rode the best horses) for years. We had a phrase: Get Big. A horse getting big was a thrill, but you had to get just as big as the horse, otherwise, you'd end up somewhere in the dirt. Getting Big wasn't so dangerous as it was focused.

Here is what you need to know: when a horse Gets Big, you have to make the decision to Get Big back, or back the horse down. If you back the horse down, the ride sort of falls apart. Nothing technical may go wrong, but it won't be anything special. If you decide to Get Big too, you are in for the ride of a life time.

Tomorrow starts a stretch of time I have put a lot of stock into for most of this year. In the next 30 days, I will start (and hopefully finish) an ultra marathon, I will start my MS in Epidemiology, I will turn 30, and I will get married. My therapists likes to joke about me adding a few things, just for the heck of it. I think Life just Got Big.

It's time to Get Big back. To accomplish this, I have to stay focused, but I also have to let the ride unfold on it's own. In the keenest sense of the words: I get to sit back and enjoy the ride, while staying present to direct it. I can be scared to death and have the time of my life in the same moment.

The crazy thing about Getting Big: you can never truly be prepared for it, because it happens in it's own time. The first question a lot of people ask when they find out I'm running a 50 mile race is "How do you prepare for that?" Have I trained? Yes. Have I trained hard? Yes. Do I feel prepared? Not in the least. The same goes for my masters, for marriage, and for all of the other things life could possibly throw at me.

Tomorrow morning at 7:40, the starting gun will go off, and I will have to push aside all the fear and doubt I have about running 50 miles, and just go. While most of the runners there will be simply starting a race, I'm going to be starting the ride of a life time. I'd better Get Big, or get left behind in the dirt somewhere.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Surrendering and Purpose

Sorry to be absent for a long time. I was on vacation, and I guess I needed a break from writing.

This morning, when writing for what I am grateful on my chalkboard, I made a mistake. With chalk, of course, you can erase mistakes easily, but I hesitated before grabbing the eraser. Sometimes mistakes are a great way to learn something about ourselves if we take a moment with them.

I started writing "I am grateful for Good Conversations..." but Good came out God. Essentially, I caught myself writing I am grateful for God. I don't like the concept God. I haven't liked it since I was ten, and 19 years of not liking an idea makes it difficult to appreciate. That doesn't mean I don't believe in a higher power. I just don't like the limited view a lot of western religion takes on God.

In the past few years, I found myself looking for a little more spiritual grounding. I really like the Dali Lama as a spiritual leader; his big thing is kindness, and I have been saying for years one doesn't need the threat of damnation to be kind. My take on life: you get out of it what you put into it. You put kindness and love in to the world, and people are going to respond in kind.

I've been reading a great deal lately, mostly because this is my last shot to read only what I want to read for a while. I've been drawn to writers like Deepak Chopra and Caroline Myss. I have had more interesting revelations in the last two months than most people have in a lifetime. I keep getting stuck on one point: Surrender to the path God has laid out for you.

I'm a pretty staunch believer in free will. A "Damn it I am in control of my life and if you don't believe me I will starve myself for a day to prove it" sort of staunch believer. This idea that some great big man in the sky has something laid out for me like an outfit for the first day of school: it annoys me. I know there is value in it, because people wouldn't write extensively about it if there wasn't, but I can't accept it on those terms.

In life coaching, we learn about something called "purpose". Purpose is the one thing that directs everything in your life. If you are living in your purpose, life feels like it is clicking along, you are successful, you are happy, you are able to live the way you feel you need to live. If you are living in ways that contradict your purpose, you feel alone, stressed, exhausted, and generally ill at ease. Don't ask me why, but I love the idea of purpose. Purpose is something I can get behind 100%, and if you ask me, I will tell you my purpose is to love (I'm not totally sure this is the right word, it might be respect).

How is this different from surrendering to God's will? I can't say it is. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is the same thing. Isn't living my purpose going to put me on some sort of path I might not have total control over? I'm going to make an experiment, and see if I can't insert the word purpose for God now and then. If I can more easily accept what I'm being presented with, I will know in my life, purpose and God are one and the same. Maybe purpose is given to us by God, but I'm still a little uncomfortable with that relationship.

It also could be the word surrender. It is possible I haven't totally disassociated the word from the idea of giving up. This step is going to be a challenge for me no matter how I dissect it, so I might as well stop trying to think it through and start trying to live it. I'm going to surrender to my purpose.

Which, if to love really is my purpose, is a pretty appealing thing to do.