I hear the expression, God just wants us to be happy a lot. It bugs me to no end, and anyone who knows me, knows that. I have two problems with it, 1) I don’t believe there is a God who cares about us in that way, and 2) I don’t believe that the purpose of my life is to be happy, in the way people who say that so glibly mean.
The first point – whatever, your mileage may vary. The second, for me, is not really negotiable. If it’s what you believe, knock yourself out. You’re certainly not alone. You will never convince me, though. It may be true for some, but I don’t believe it’s true for most of us, and definitely not for me.
I was lucky enough to encounter a teacher early on in my life, before I had really thought too much about what my “purpose” was. Mostly I was interested in making money, having a good time, and riding my bike. I was a thinker about many things, but I avoided the “purpose” question, cuz I had a vague feeling I knew what mine was, and I didn’t want to accept it yet. Then, in a conversation while shopping with a friend one day, she said something to me that would alter the course of my thinking, and ultimately my life.
I don’t remember how we came to be discussing life purpose specifically, though those types of deep conversation were a common part of our friendship. In the course of this conversation she said she believed the purpose of life was to be of use. Those two words hit my brain and my heart with the force of truth, and I have spent the rest of my life dancing with that idea and the truth of it.
I didn’t want that to be true. I wanted life to be easy and fun, and I liked the idea that life was intended to be that way. I also understood immediately that for me, that meant service to my adoptive family. Somewhere deep in my soul I had known that since I was born, but boy, did I not want to know that. When I look back now, I can see that I had been living that truth, but I saw it as temporary, not my actual life.
When I was in college, I took a year off between my sophomore and junior years. I told people it was because I didn’t really know what I wanted so needed a pause, but the truth was that my parents needed me, so I went home. My mother had had a breakdown and couldn’t be alone, and my dad had to work. So I came home to stay with my mom while he was gone. I returned to school the following fall and graduated 2 years later.
Soon after graduation I had a job lined up in North Carolina, where I wanted to live, but before I left, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. My mother couldn’t cope with that alone, so I went home again to see him through that and turned down the job.
That time I didn’t leave. I’m here still, in the small town in which I grew up, and now in that same house, with my mother the last 9 years. I’ve had a good life here, if not the life I had imagined. I had all the important stuff – interesting and meaningful work (especially the last 20 years), good friends, family close by, including my grandmother, who was my best person in this life. All good. I had fun with friends, and I traveled a little bit, which I really enjoyed. It was not the life I had dreamed of, but it was good, nonetheless. At some point, my decisions were ruled more by the chronic depression I had lived with since an early age than my family, and then at some point in later years, I realized that I was here by choice, not by default.
I bought a house here in 2009, and though I’m not living it in currently, I have no intention of selling it. I will live it in again, at least for a while. When my mother is gone, I may decide to go somewhere else. Or I may decide to stay. I honestly don’t know. I try not to think that far ahead. It’s nice to think about options, though, cuz right now I don’t have many. That’s just the way it is for now, though, and that’s okay. I’m of use to my mom, and that matters to me. I’m finishing my service to my family and then I’ll be free to do something else.
Maybe. Who knows what the future will bring? What matters to me is that I’m living my life as intended, and I’m happy doing it. Mostly. I have moments of resentment, of struggle. Then I come back to the truth of who I am, and what my purpose here is, and I just go on.
That’s all there is really. Wherever you find yourself, whatever you believe your purpose to be, just keep going. Be true to yourself and to what you know your life purpose to be and though it may not look like anyone else’s around you, just go on. Live in the moment, and for the moment, and rest there. Be happy in the knowledge that you are doing what you came here to do. Be grateful for the opportunity. Even if it’s hard. Even if it’s not what you thought you wanted or what your life would be.
This is it. I really believe that you can’t miss your life. You will learn and do what you were meant to as long as you are open to it – as long as you listen to the truth in your heart. Life isn’t about circumstances. It isn’t about moods, or even feelings like happiness and sadness. You can be happy doing difficult things and during difficult times, and you can be sad in the midst of what others and maybe even you consider to be fun. There is certainly a place for fun and laughter and silliness in life, but it isn’t the purpose. We’re here to learn, and to grow in maturity and understanding, to live in community and to LOVE. The rest is decoration. (Don’t get me started about social media..)
I’ve noted here before that Dory from Finding Nemo is my hero. To my mind, she is a model for a good and successful life. She lives totally in the moment, and her motto is, Just keep swimming.
Yep. Just keep swimming. You’ll get where you’re going – where you’re meant to go – but you have to keep swimming. All you have to do is go on. There is nothing more required.