Monday, February 21, 2011

Why Are We Here?

I had some bad moments when I got up this morning.  The younger kids are off from school for President's Day, so maybe that was what was making me feel so out of sorts.  I had gone to bed (and more importantly, to sleep) at a decent hour and actually slept through the night.  It should have felt like a good morning, but for some reason, it just didn't.  Maybe it was the very gray sky and the threat of snow (seriously?) again.

In the last 24 hours, I have actually read two complete books.  This scares me, as it seems the publishers cannot keep up with my insatiable need for decent reading material.  The second book, I read in two hours this morning before showering and "starting" my day.  (It was a great book by James Patterson and yes, Mom, I'll bring it over the next time I come.)  The first one, I read yesterday.  It's called A Dog's Purpose and tells the story of a dog that is repeatedly reincarnated as he (at one point she) tries to figure out exactly why he is supposed to be here.  The last lines got me to thinking:

The deep aching grief I knew I would feel would come
soon enough, but at that moment mostly what I felt was
peace, secure in the knowledge that by living my life the way I had,
everything had come down to this moment.

I had fulfilled my purpose.

(Quote from W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog's Purpose)

Why are we here?  Way greater minds than mine have wrestled with this question since humans had the ability to reason.  Since we gained language skills, we've been wondering why we were put on this earth. 

I have, in essence, a great life.  I have everything I could need, want, or ask for (okay, I don't have an iPad...yet, but we're talking a very comfortable life).  I have a fantastic husband, three great kids, wonderful parents and in-laws, a few good friends, and lots of people who care about me.  And yet...

Why don't I feel fulfilled?

I think the answer lies in not only loving and being loved and having what you need, but also in doing what you love.  To be fulfilled, you have to look forward to getting up every single day, knowing that you get to do what you love doing.  In other words, you have to have a passion for whatever it is that you are getting up to do.

Growing up, I had three goals.  By the age of eighteen, I knew three things about myself.  I was (a) going to get a Ph.D. and be a psychologist; (b) I was going to get married; and (c) and I was going to have one child and she would be a girl.  Okay, things didn't go exactly as planned.

I always thought that psychology was going to be my passion.  I mean, I never, ever had any doubts as to what my major should be.  Well...there was that one year detour into interior design, but overall, it was the study of the human mind that interested me and I was going to help people.  Then life kind of got in the way and I dropped out of college and got married and got off the path to what I thought was supposed to be "my career."  But what I've realized in the past year is that getting a doctoral degree and practicing psychology are not necessarily all that much fun.  Number one, that doctoral degree seems to guarantee a lifetime of student loan debt and an attitude that you are better than everyone who doesn't have a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. or whatever.  And I wonder if it's really that fulfilling to spend your time listening to people complain all day about their problems.  If you're truly mentally ill, you're probably either not able to afford good mental health care because you don't have insurance or you're in a mental hospital.  So if you're practicing psychology in an office, it's a good bet that you are getting a lot of unfulfilled housewives griping about the monotony of their days (hmm...sounds kind of familiar) or people who have been traumatized at some point in their past, or children enduring their parents' divorces...or something not very much fun to watch or listen to.  And honestly, through my own therapy experiences, while I know it's helpful to talk to someone, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my therapists have never really done anything but listen to me.  Most of the "help" I got, I got from making changes in my life; not from anything they ever suggested.  Where's the helping part of the helping profession, exactly?
I eventually finished up my bachelor's degree and even considered going on to graduate school, but by that time I had three children who I realized were probably going to want to go to college themselves.  And I was no longer certain that I was all that passionate about psychology.  Last year sealed the deal when I temporarily reentered the work force and watched people be miserably unhappy doing what I thought it was I wanted to do and complaining about it constantly.  Maybe not the direction I really wanted to go in after all.

I (obviously) achieved goal number two, which was to get married.  There were two false starts and I realized that I would never have lasted in those initial two relationships and would have ended up one of the 50% of people who were divorced, just because I was insisting that I had to get married.  In fact, with the second relationship, I think my mother would have tackled me at the altar if I had actually gotten that far, because she knew that guy just wasn't right for me.  I lucked out and found my soul mate in Justin and have been very happy with that part of my life.  He has given me more than just my three boys (not the one girl I thought I would have, which ended up being quite okay) and I have him to thank for the fact that I am not alone, miserable, lonely, destitute, poverty stricken, or divorced.  He has given me love, a home, children, and a commitment to love me forever.  I couldn't ask him for more than he has given me.  

I won't even dwell goal number three, because obviously you don't get to choose whether you have girls or boys and I wouldn't go back and change having the three boys I did.  It's really amazing that I gave life to three people.

But back to my original point.  Why are we here?  Am I here to be a wife and mother?  Was my purpose to make these three little (well not so little now) people?  Am I here to finish my schooling and go into psychology?  Good God, no!  I get up day after day and do the dishes and the laundry and walk the dog and insist that the kids do their homework and there are days that I feel like didn't I just do this?  Now I'm doing it again???  Right now I have a child forcibly sitting at the kitchen table because he ignored the fact that he had a homework assignment due on Wednesday and I just won't let him wait until tomorrow night to do it.  And two baskets of clean laundry waiting to be folded and one in the dryer waiting to come out.  Sometimes, it really is like being a hamster on a wheel, isn't it?

But then, I started getting final pages from my illustrator for my new childrens' book today and I realized that wait.  Aside from the wife, mother, dishes, laundry, homework thing, there is this other thing.  Something I really enjoy doing.  Something I'm passionate about.  I don't do it enough, but when I do, it's something I think I should be doing more.  I'm doing it here and I'm about to send some of the other stuff I've done out and see if I can get a nibble from a publisher.

Maybe our purpose changes over time.  I'm not smart enough or wise enough or logical enough to know why I'm here.  I do know that it's not for the dishes or the laundry.  Those are just asides.  Things that have to be done.  And I've definitely gotten a lot out of the marriage and kids thing.  But there is this other thing that maybe, just maybe, might be part of my reason for being here.

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