30 December 2007


I have a purpose. You do too. Don't believe me if I try to tell you that I've known what mine has been all along because anyone who says that is either a big fat liar or she's a tightly bound deterministic sort who hasn't had a wide enough band of existence to discern purpose from not-purpose and wouldn't know purpose if it walked up to her and slapped her upside the head. But yes, I believe we all come into the world messy and gooey, and though what it will be might not seem clear from the gate, we are each born with purpose. We do some awfully strange thing to either confirm or deny our purposes but, like it or not they're there. Purpose exists. And while it is kind of funny in that morbid sort of off-color hilarity, I am fairly sure that some people's purpose really is to serve as a clearly bad example for the rest of us.

I've shaped myself around the inkling I have about what my purpose might be, but there's really no way of telling whether my guess is accurate or not because that sum total doesn't come until after I'm gone and while I hope by then we'll have worked out some inter-reality communication device, my guess is that we probably won't be sitting down to tea to discuss it.

I know I've had several unsatisfying attempts at narrowing down my purpose. I'm pretty sure it has to do with helping people. The results so far have been mixed. When I was a kid I thought I could help people by being a funeral director, but given my inability to keep my emotions in check I decided I'd make a terrible funeral home director if it meant the people coming to me for my professional help instead had to console me. Then I thought I'd help people by doing whatever they wanted. I ended up being taken advantage of a little too often. Many people have remarked on my apparently remarkable patience, so I worked with slightly more tender populations- kids, disabled, elderly. Burnout can come quickly though, and I didn't especially enjoy doing something for which patience is some big whoop-dee-doo deal. (it's really not. work on it, and you'll see too) Then I hear a few things about how calming my voice is - practically a magical potion for customer service jobs, so I wonder if my purpose could be to work as a financial customer service pod person for a major corporation. That particular quest started off all right, but somehow my purpose began to include handling oozing molding dripping unsalable products which, I gotta say, scrapes some of the dazzle right off the dream. I slowly wondered 'hunh, I have no particular accounting proficiencies, so why am I such a whiz at this 10-key again?' I'm confident that I stuck with that job as long as I was able to because, as a single mother, a job with health insurance and benefits make an incredible difference and I sorely needed them, right up until the trade-off started to make me sick. I didn't go back.

Someone also told me that I did nice work with computers, so I thought I could help people by making things look pretty on a monitor. But once I started taking programming classes I quickly realized that I'd rather have shredded paper stapled to the surfaces of my eyeballs than write computer code. Yes, I try to keep as up as I can tolerate on computerish happenings, but I've meet a few geeks in the ensuing years and, ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to say I am no geek. I wish it were not so, but 'tis true.

The way I'm coming to look at the situation, it makes good sense to keep getting up each day if there's one thing I want to keep coming back for. So maybe I can make that one thing, whatever it might be, the thing I'll think of as my personal write-in candidate for the position of My Purpose.

And if I keep getting up every day, and if I keep returning to this thing I've elected, I believe I'll either discover that the thing I thought would propel me into bliss isn't working out so well, or I can realize hey, this seems to be doing it for me, and I can keep exploring the edges of that thing.

If I was an umbrella stand, (well first, I'd be mind-numbingly bored, but stay with me here...) I would be constructed with reinforcements at all the right umbrella stand places. My knob would be strong and tight. I'd be sturdy. I'd be heavy. I'd be built and ready to hold umbrellas under the harshest sun and against the strongest winds and even under substantial spring rainstorms.

But at the end of summer when colder weather starts to roll in, I'd probably get my feelings downright hurt for no longer being that fabulous wonderful umbrella stand that everyone knew and appreciated during the mild months to somehow suddenly becoming this toe-stubbing heavy-ass frozen-to-the-deck troublemaker. Fair weather friends, I'm telling you ... how d'ya think we umbrellas came to use that colloquialism anyway, duh?

So if I was an umbrella stand frozen to an icy landing out there alone and feeling washed-up, I would hope that the falling snow would either submerge me until leaves start budding or that it would say soft snowy things to help me feel less uselessly alone. One snowflake might blow prismatic kisses toward me. Or a little snowflake children's choir would sing me tender lullabies. Or a usually snobby group of early adolescent snowflakes who'd normally skrinkle their noses at me would have an empathic moment in relating to my emptiness to crack barely-perceptable snow smiles. Old snowflakes who've been around for weeks might smell weird, but I'll bet they'd be the most compassionate companions. They'd circle their sun spotted flake arms around me, telling me soothing stories about how sometimes we think we've lost both our worth and our way. Those times can be trying. They can be untenable. But eventually -and there's always an eventually if you wait long enough- then (if you're a snowflake) kids come out to play, or (if you're an umbrella stand) winter eventually passes and then everyone will be so glad to have your sturdiness back around again, or ("like people", as the snowflakes tell my umbrella stand knob because they don't have their glasses on and they don't realize it's a knob and not an eye) you realize that this thing you've been questioning and doubting, the thing you've agreed to get out of bed and get dressed for, this thing you have been practicing is, quite possibly, exactly what you were meant to be.

If I was that directionless hope-challenged frozen umbrella stand, old snowflakes saying that kind of thing to me would probably be just the perfect sort of murmuring. It might even be just enough encouragement to make me stick around to see what would happen come the end of winter.

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