What were you born to do? Is there even such a thing as being born to do something? How can you know for certain? At what point along the journey do you receive confirmations about your gifts, purpose, or calling? How can we have clarity about the answers to these questions?
These questions confound most of us at some point in our lives; yet, I’m convinced that no two answers are exactly the same. This is because no two people ever see the world exactly the same way.
Every morning, I do a once-over of the children before they depart for school, and make sure they look solid. Before I consider them fully inspected, I give them that one last look from head to toe to confirm no hairs out of place; clean corners at the mouth; smooth, unbent collars; fully zipped coats; smiles all aglow; and covered necks and chests. “Child, don’t be taking no chances with this weather…can’t be coming down with a chest cold!” (Now say it in the most southern twang you can muster.) :o I’m beginning to sound like somebody’s grandma…probably got it from somebody’s grandma! Inspection now complete, they walk off, and I’m assured that they are all set.
Once they leave, I settle into the domestic affairs of cleaning off the table and counters, and putting away cereal boxes and orange juice. My eye catches hold of a small pile of school papers which contains unsigned permission slips and school announcements, some now moot because of past deadlines. These were all from only one of their backpacks, seemingly from a few days ago. How did I miss that? They probably snuck that past me, I thought. Darn it, I forgot to check the inside of their bags…again! It occurs to me that I haven’t personally checked the inside of their backpacks in quite some time. I’ve trusted their little growing independent selves to handle this aspect of their organization, dismissing the fact that they may need a little help along the way.
In fact, I haven’t been checking on the inside of much, as of lately. Ouch! I consider the question of how often we check on the inside. Sometimes, my steady auto-pilot feature is so engaged, that I don’t do due diligence to my total self by checking on the inside, so by all appearances, it all appears well. This small example of not checking my children’s backpacks is a microcosm of our avoidance to thoroughly check the inside, and sift through the contents of our personal selves. By all appearances, we appear well, but beneath, lies an emergent self that is steadily evolving as it navigates through life and seeks to apply the wisdom gained over the years. It busily trods through life, hoping to present itself better, stronger, more equipped for the race with each new day, yet, it is bombarded with numerous messages, of things unattended, and of stories untold.
Left unchecked, this emergent self carries its ramblings, notions, musings, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and epiphanies under wraps, sealed, to be released probably never, and most certainly, too infrequently. Occasionally however, there is a need to check its contents. A thorough inspection is required to ensure that we have what we need when we need it. We may very well need to review its contents; discard what’s no longer useful, and replenish what’s needed. In my children’s backpack, it was the announcement of the school’s new SMARTboards, a middle school parent orientation, and a May field trip (which thankfully, I will submit in time). In a broader sense, however, a review might indicate that our priorities are in need of reorganization. It might be the realization that we haven’t tended to matters of the heart. It may be the acknowledgment that we need to nurture some personal connections, rest, or are on “to-do” overload, or that our bodies are lacking some key nutrients, exercise, and quality down-time. Perhaps life has become so routine and formal, so deadline-driven; but within, we are in need of some organization, prioritization, and yes, fixation…on the inside.
Check the contents not only to find what’s missing, but to also celebrate what’s in place; what you deem most important, what you’ve insisted on carrying, what propels you. Perhaps those things are glaringly evident, indicating that you are right where you need to be. Celebrate that as well, that you may give yourself permission to occasionally mess up on those things that show up on the outside. If your personal house – your very essence, your compassion, your storehouses of love, generosity, the very inner hearkenings of your heart, talent, art, ministry, gifts – is in order, who cares what everyone else sees? Only you know the hard work that you put in to get it that way. Pack carefully, but don’t keep piling it on. Streamline often, to avoid getting bogged down by dead weight. Broom the crap, and groom the rest! Write the stories, and get it out one way or the other. Unleash the uneasiness that comes from avoiding what’s inside, and take joy in seeing it morph into tangible action. Experience the sweet joy that springs forth from releasing the pent-up frustration and seeming inability to move forward on said project, or action item. Eliminate those things that add no value to what you say is most important to you – your values, your core, your master plan! Cultivate and enhance only the keepsakes – those contents worthy of keeping – that you may rightfully grow into that beautiful beyond-emergent self, from the inside out!!
Though I had gotten my fair share of sleep the previous night, the onset of weather-related allergies made me feel unusually tired and groggy. My equilibrium was way off! I felt lopsided, and my head felt heavier than usual, forcing me to sit up long enough to grab the poncho that I had been crocheting and turn on the TV. It is rare that I get to watch TV during the “work” day, but I figured since my workday is pretty much all day, then that rule need not apply. Plus, I could no longer bear to stand without feeling off-balance. I toggled through the On Demand menu and settled at Oprah’s OWN Master Class, featuring none but Miss Oprah herself! As if that wasn’t enough, I felt like I struck gold when I saw that this was a two-part episode! (I believe it comes on sometime next week, but for those who can’t wait, part one is already On Demand.)
I came away with such incredible insight… beautiful nuggets, gems really…that I just couldn’t keep them to myself! Listening was like having a one-on-one with Spirit, through a wise old sage or modern-day griot; like having a private consultation with one who has already lived life as a great master teacher, one who was now taking the time with me to impart some life-altering truths, if practiced, and wisdom to get me geared up for the next leg of my journey. I came away from the session knowing that I was – still am – on the right track in this quest to live Life As An Art, masterfully and deliberately! It was the conviction and confirmation that I didn’t know I needed. What I gathered spoke so loudly to me. You better believe I had my notebook handy! I’ll do my best to capture some of these lessons below. Oprah’s words appear in italics. All else is courtesy of yours truly. :o
“You can’t survive in this world just believing in yourself…Your very presence comes from something greater.” One thing I liked about her sharing this particular truth, was her careful insertion that one, very decidedly, plays a role in creating the outcome, as “co-creators…co-creating life with a Creator”.
“The universe speaks to us always…first, in whispers, subtly…at first, it doesn’t seem to make sense…then the whispers get louder.” Then you have no choice but to act, right? This is how I was led to share this in the first place. So get quiet that you might hear, and then follow!
“Make a decision to do and be the best. Doing your best always puts you at the next level.” I believe this is especially true if you want to be effective. People know when you haven’t given them your best. Worse yet, is you know, so level up! Don’t settle for mediocrity, or with being average when you know that’s not good enough. Strive for excellence.
“Know your purpose, otherwise you’re wandering. The sooner you know, the sooner you’ll get to working…it feels like it’s the right space for you, where you feel most yourself.” Oprah’s is to inspire, to be a teacher, to teach and to learn. By this time, the hairs on my arms were standing upright! Could it be…? Be and act purposefully, ensuring that the things that you do are somehow aligned with this greater purpose. Be in tune, as well as attuned. Should you find yourself dreaming, then dream…on purpose!
“You are worthy.” You know I know, without a doubt! This isn’t being cocky, not one bit! I know that I’m worthy because I’ve been entrusted with the gift of life, to be used as an instrument, a conduit, a vessel, for helping others attain their highest selves. That gift is worth more to me than any accolade, publication, admission ticket, or any worldly validation…and oh, by the way, it’s not for sale. It’s worth? Priceless!
So when you find yourself becoming anxious about the “defining moment”, and how your Now moments will culminate, consider the lessons that you are learning, and need to learn, in the process.
In addition to being a wife and mother, one of the things that I pride myself on is building a legacy for my children, one built on a solid partnership with my husband. We do our best to regularly discuss our mutual and individual goals, purpose, and our respective trajectories on various components of our lives. In our most recent powwow, I shared with him that while I felt good about the broader portfolio of writing that I had been developing, I was also anxious about what is to come, and what will transpire between now and then – when that elusive “defining moment” unveils itself.
This discussion gave way to the whole concept of “Now”, and begged the question of whether I was truly living in the Now. I’m sure many of you have heard a lot about the “fierce urgency of now”, and its characterization in speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and later, President Barack Obama. Then, there’s also The Power of Now , by Eckhart Tolle (by the way, I have not read the book, though it is part of our home library). My insight on this subject, however, takes on a less political, but definitely more personal meaning as I contextualize it against the backdrop of my life anxieties.
So many times, we become consumed by our own angst, which occurs as a result of our preoccupation about what’s to come – the future, the what-ifs. As such, our success and happiness are hinged in the conditional. The attainment of our deepest desires becomes dependent on a condition. If we could only lose ten pounds, get our hands on more money, find the right mate, were there instead of here, had that job instead of this one, if only we had more time, if only we got published :o, then, and only then would we realize true happiness. Inarguably, we could all use more time and resources (financial or otherwise) to iron out the kinks, to improve and implement our plans, but we actually lose time when our minds overlook the Now. Moreover, we miss the beauty around us as well as the opportunity to create meaning.
While it is important to plan, and to work toward a certain goal, we must develop a deeper understanding of how our Now moments fit into the larger plan. A series of Now events must take place along the journey before we can proceed to the next level. Furthermore, the cultivation of, and engagement in, these moments as well as the required stillness will surely prepare us for more, for greater, for the destinations that lie further ahead. Too much anxiety about what’s to come only heightens our sense of paranoia, resulting in fitful nights of sleep, thereby causing an unshakeable anxiety which ultimately renders us unable to move forward anyway.
So when you find yourself becoming anxious about the “defining moment”, and how your Now moments will culminate, consider the lessons that you are learning, and need to learn, in the process. What you take away from them may very well define how you will handle what you call success. Appreciate how this Now moment is preparing you for what’s to come. Being in the Now teaches us some important lessons, including not taking our success for granted, humility, and patience. Also, it quietly affords us the reflection that we may not have when the rapid pace of success takes off! Now you know what I know: Now is a very necessary path in the greater unfolding of our ultimate dreams, hopes, and visions.
Now is fleeting, so hurry…you don’t want to miss it!
It’s Day 4 of my youngest child being sick with what looks like a wicked virus, or stomach infection. Hopefully, she turns the corner today because she’s quickly becoming a poster child for Huggies Pull-ups. She’s become very clingy, so I’m on borrowed time, even as I type. The last few nights have been punctuated by frequent changes of diapers and full clothing. I’m awaiting the next explosion, so I’m going to try to get this in before the thoughts escape me. :-)
I’ve been mulling over my last post, titled “It’s ALL PurposeFULL“. In that article, I explored the questions that we often have regarding the mysterious nature of the life-changing events in our lives, including “Why?”, “Why me?”, and “Why Now?” My goal then was to provide assurance that we ultimately become better and fuller selves as a result of the more difficult, inexplicable events that occur in our lives. This isn’t to say that we should have to experience loss, tragedy, or hardship to self-actualize, but rather that, the occurrence of these situations in our lives wisen us and enhance our potential to live and love more authentically.
Perhaps I took you to the conclusion a bit too quickly, without letting you in on the middle of the “journey”. While I will never share with you sordid or personal details, or provide you with a blow-by-blow account of the events in my life that shape those truths (certainly not in a blog forum), I can tell you that during those moments in which I questioned the mystery of life, and God himself, I often felt alone, misunderstood, isolated. My faith and hope seemed to be shaken, lacking, questionable. To this day, I will maintain that it was not the actual death of a loved one that shook me the most. Unlike many, when my grandmother (my first true mother) passed away, I had an amazing sense of peace and understanding. As she neared the end of her life, she agonized over increasing physical pain and articulated on numerous occasions the gratitude that she had for a life well-lived. My grandmother believed wholeheartedly that she would be in a better place. Her death was only physical to me. I maintain a relationship with her that most would not understand. I miss her dearly at times, but most times, I feel that she is with me.
I have had other losses that bore a sharper sting than I could have ever imagined. Those jarred me to the core, leaving me to question where I went wrong, and whether this was some sort of karma. What was life trying to teach me? I grew jealous and bitter as I witnessed others around me, realizing the very dreams that I thought were mine just for the asking. At that time, I could not see a plausible explanation for any of it. It seemed that my dreams were always on hold, always waiting in the wings, but for some reason or the other, it wasn’t quite time for them to materialize.
Fast forward to the “now”. I wouldn’t change it for the world! My past experiences, good and bad, have launched me right where I am now. In this very moment, I can be a source of encouragement for those that have gone through similar situations. More importantly, my soul continues to heal as I share the stories with others, especially wives, mothers, and daughters. I come alive as I reveal the anguish of that difficult moment, and share the joy in knowing what I believe that moment was designed to teach me.
By the way, I’ve been hurled on once (good thing I wasn’t making a hat at the time), and performed two additional diaper changes since I started! It’s going to be a long, but beautiful day! It can only get better. :-)