To be completely honest, I didn’t know the answer to that question for a verrrry long time. Even still, after I’ve done a lot to be true to myself, I still have to check in & ask myself if I’m on the right path.
It’s a question that has been asked an infinite amount of times since conscious life began on this planet. What is the meaning of life?
Why are we here? What am I supposed to do with my life? What is the purpose of life, on both the personal and general/existential levels?
Even as a kid, I wanted to know the answer to those questions.
Growing up a Christian, I had church to: (1) give me guidance, and (2) confuse the heck out of me.
On the guidance front, it helped me frame certain “big thoughts” that I had, even as a second grader. The notion of everyone having unique gifts that we could use to help the world fascinated me. I wanted to know mine, and what it meant to use them.
But, to do things “for the glory of God” wasn’t a clear concept. What did that mean in the real world?
And it made even less sense to me when adults, who talked a lot about a God whose presence I saw so little of in, were more judgmental than instructive and equally as clueless about the practical application of our religion. They seemed more of the “don’t do bad stuff” fearful types than the “know them by their works” types.
It made me afraid to screw up.
It made me afraid, especially with the threat of Hell constantly looming, to be truthful… even to myself.
It did its job: it kept me “under control” for fear of punishment, not fitting in, being ostracized in this life and the next.
And it wasn’t a total y unfounded fear.
When I “came out” (gag me, I hate that term)… when I decided to be open about the gal who had knocked my heart’s lights out, some of the most important people in my family life wanted to have nothing to do with me. Some of them still don’t.
I felt cut off from a part of my life & my spirit. It didn’t feel great. And it still puts a bad taste in my mouth.
Because I had done EVERYTHING I could to impress them up to that point. Because I associated accomplishments with approval/love. And, even though I was still the same person, my true self wasn’t “good enough” for them and, in fact, was rejected by them.
And that realization – that others were imposing things on me – changed everything. They were using me to make themselves feel better. They were using me to enforce their values, rather than doing so with their own lives.
Law school graduate.
College professor before age 30.
Volunteer hours, yet still managed to party hearty.
Full of love for all the people I care about, and always shooting for ‘great pal’ with everyone.
Nah, it wasn’t enough.
Some of those things were based on achievement. Others of them are what I do with my personality & my interactions with people & the attitude I choose to have about life. And therein lay the rub.
Once I understood that I had been chasing external approval & living by a set of principles I didn’t actually agree with, I had to take a long, hard look at my life and what I felt like.
Here’s a shocker: I didn’t like how it felt.
I may not have liked how the other people were, but I didn’t like ME. I didn’t like how the life I had dragged myself through felt.
I didn’t have direction or passion or meaning.
I was totally disconnected from my purpose, being so wrapped up in trying to impress others by achieving XY&Z that, at the end of the day, didn’t mean jack-sh*t to me.
It made me depressed. Well, I’ve always been a little blue (hard to believe if you only know loud, crazy Heather), but this episode threw me into the darkest depths I could ever imagine. The things my brain cooked up were horrible, self-destructive, hopeless… and I still struggle with those things today.
But, as bad as it felt to think I was being rejected by the people who mattered to me, it felt equally as good to stop living by some made-up rules that didn’t make sense to me. I started to push past all the boundaries that had been imposed on me & started creating my own.
I wasn’t taught to value myself or to act in a way to make myself happy. I was taught that was selfish, even sinner-ish. So, I had to get in touch with my self-respect, my joy, my worth… and in a positive way that wasn’t necessarily self-serving.
It was a tough journey.
I had to learn to recognize the patterns that had been etched into my brain. I had to face some of my worst demons—memories of abuse, feelings of guilt and anger, resentment that I was white-knuckling…
I had to learn to get in touch with my intuition, my better angels… the goodness that I have to offer. Above everything else, I learned that I always have the choice of what I will be.
I had to choose for myself to live a life a that feels good.
Give me a shout—for coffee, to share your own triumph, to ask a question…