Each of us has a destiny, a purpose in life. Finding it is the trick, because there are so many distractions and demands that lead us astray. The challenge of discovering our inner core and the life’s work that will bring meaning to our souls is one that we all face. Often we find ourselves on circuitous and unsatisfactory paths in our search for the feeling, the passion that will assure us that we have finally found the right fit for our personalities and talents. We question our very worth as we struggle to become the best of ourselves, and we grow jealous of those who appear to so easily find their way.
I was in my early thirties before I felt as though I had found the key to a happy life. Even then I would sometimes allow the inevitable bumps in the road to discourage me and question whether or not I had been successful in choosing a lifestyle and career that suited me. My brothers always seemed to know exactly what they wanted to accomplish in life. One of them boasted at the age of five that he wanted to be a mathematician and just as promised in his toddler days he carved out a highly satisfying career in the world of numbers. His was a straight road, a shortcut to being exactly what he wanted to be. I envied his clarity and determination because I was muddled and confused for all of my teenage years and most of my twenties. It took me so much time to construct a life that made me both happy and proud.
My years as an educator allowed me to be more gentle on myself, because I realized through watching my students that I was the norm and my brother was an outlier. Most people tend to stumble upon satisfaction through trial and error. Sometimes failures actually provide the answers that we seek. In the calculus of life we achieve closer and closer approximations of meaning as we try this and then that. With each new experience we learn what we dislike and what excites us.
This pandemic and the lockdowns that now accompany normal life gave me permission to pause. This new normal says it’s ok to not always be going and doing. I still have my roles and responsibilities, but many of them are performed from the comfort of home. The mom taxi has sits quietly in the garage, as I try to do only what is essential. And I am realizing, we are okay with not doing all the time. Life still happens, even without a full schedule.
The icing on the cake was knee surgery, causing me to be selective about my physical movement. I am taking care of myself and resting it as much as I can. Accepting the fact that this is a time where long hikes and workouts are off the table. And as long as it’s a pause and not an end, that’s ok. (Although I did start a 21-day reset on my diet, including no refined sugar. Damage control is necessary if I am not burning extra calories. No icing, or cake for me, please.)
So in my downtime, I came across a book that is breathing worlds of wisdom into my heart and soul. I do not believe it’s coincidence. It popped up as a recommended title in my Audible app because I love Sue Monk Kidd, and have recently finished The Book of Longings, which I highly recommend. The book I’m listening to though, is titled, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions, and it’s like operating instructions for my current state of stillness.
She talks about our society’s pre-occupation with productivity, instant gratification and always being busy. The paradox is that with all the rushing around and stuffing away of feelings we do, it is impossible for our inner selves to get any soul work done. And that often we are called to wait in order to let growth and transformation happen inside, much like a caterpillar entering a cocoon. We cannot see the important work happening inside, but what is taking place is sacred, meaningful, and beautiful.