Monday, June 2, 2014

Could this be me in 32 years?

"Being grateful for what you do have is a great practice
 but it cannot erase the emptiness of purpose that is unmet."
-Dr. F. Emelia Sam

I have been contemplating this quote for about 30 minutes now. I read it in one of those short snappy articles that appear in the news feed on Facebook that annoy me as much as fascinate me. The fact that they are short and sweet is why I read them, but nine times out of ten, I end up thinking it was a waste of time even if it was only a minute or two. But, now and again, a little gem will hit me and as much as I try to deny the validity of the advice, it persists in my sub-conscious like a nagging voice that won't shut up.

So, rather than relegate this quote to the pile of other persistent nags, I thought I would take a closer look at this one here. With any luck, I may be able to incorporate it and remove it from the "to do" pile and put it into the "closed file" drawer once and for all. 

For starters, I am grateful.  I am so bloody grateful for so many things, you could almost call me a grateful junkie. I am grateful for my health and my freedom and my family and friends and the beauty that surrounds me every day. These are givens. If you are not grateful for these things in your life, then you have problems way bigger than mine. You can stop reading now. You still have a lot of things to work out. For those of you who are on the same page, read on.

So, here we are, here am I, drowning in gratefulness. Lucky to be alive. Freakin ecstatic some days. It's all good. It's gooder than good. (yes, I know, gooder is not a word, but I am using it anyway. I like alliterations, so sue me) Life has dealt you a pretty good hand. You stop and think about how people in other countries are starving or living in fear for their lives on a daily basis and it is impossible to relate. It is something that happens 'over there'. Not here. Not in your world. Not today. Not next week. Not ever. This thought makes you even more grateful.

Should this not be enough to sustain you? For many, it likely is. There are certainly days when it is enough for me. Days go by. Weeks, sometimes months, when it is enough. But inevitably, the moment arrives when something triggers you. It can be something as simple as reading a death announcement, like the one I read yesterday. You may have seen it as well. The actress who played Alice on The Brady Bunch, Anne B. Davis, died yesterday at 88. You do the math in your head.  Hmmm, just a tad over 30 years older than me. She had a good run, you think. Then you ponder the numbers some more. Hmmmm, if I make it that long, I have at least 30 more years. Initially it seems long. Then you think about how fast the last 30 have gone and you get that little feeling in your gut that comes with fear. That fear of running out of time. Running out of time to realize your purpose. 

Many would argue that we don't have a purpose. We are just insignificant specks. Which side of the argument do you fall on? If we are just insignificant specks without any real purpose, then why would you be fearful? Would you not just accept your insignificant speck status and keep on chugging along, soaking up the resources and bounty around you, never a thought of evolving or giving back until the day you die? Never experiencing that emptiness referred to in the quote above. Is that what it is like for the insignificant speck theorists? It does seem an easier path. And is that path a choice? Is it possible for me to choose that path? It does not feel like a choice to me. It never has. Maybe they really don't choose. Maybe they just don't want to consider the alternative. Maybe on days where the emptiness rears it's ugly head, they just brush it aside, ignore it, poo poo it. Fill it with something. Numb it. Even more difficult to imagine - maybe they never sense it. Wow. What would that be like? 

I am not saying that our purpose has to be something grand. Clearly, not everyone is meant to leave behind a legendary legacy. We cannot all be Gandhi or Maya Angelou. There are countless souls making contributions around the world daily that we will never hear of or know. Our purpose does not have to affect millions. Maybe it only has to affect one other person. In this light, it can be as simple as making one other person's life better. If this is the case, that makes fulfilling our purpose a whole hell of a lot easier. In fact, I imagine there are few of us that have not had some sort of positive impact on at least one other person that has led to their lives being easier or happier. 

Hmmmmm, now that I have looked at it this way, I feel a bit better. A little less pressure to reach some self-imposed standard of successful purpose attainment. Maybe it comes down to defining purpose. If you set the bar too high, you may spend a lifetime feeling disappointed in yourself. However, if you just set your sights on smaller doable contributions, by the time you reach the end of your days, you will die knowing you did make a difference and size won't matter. 

Someone, somewhere, will have acknowledged that you did indeed serve a purpose.

File closed.

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