There you are, again, sitting on the floor, neck deep in the drudgery that is rumpled laundry waiting to be folded and distributed to its respective dressers, wondering if there is more to life than this? Post kids, finding fulfillment becomes extra challenging. There are rewarding activities that come from a little self indulgence (going to hot yoga or reading self help books in the bathtub… oh, is that just me??), but I'm not referencing that type of fulfillment, I'm talking about actual purpose.
Many of us, men and women alike, will never even make it to the self exploration required to identify our purposes in life. Kids or no kids, it's a struggle that requires time, intention, and introspection. The few, the lucky, will seem to come out of utero primed to do what they were born to, and then there's the rest of us.
It's easy to get lost in momming and never make it out, sorta like when you dress your pajamas up with a jacket, call it an outfit, proceed to wear it all day, and then roll right back into bed with them still on. Self neglect is widespread in the realm of parenting, and it's a sure fire way to stunt growth. Many of us will go to our graves never having found our reason for living.
This is probably going to hurt a little, but your soul purpose (the play on words is intentional) is not “only” to be a mother. Ouch, I said it. Don't hate me. I say “only” not as a way to condescend or minimize the immeasurably important role that is motherhood, just to express that there is more. Let's break this down logistically for a minute, somewhere between 80-90% of women have children during the course of their lives. That's the bulk of the population. The world needs variety to make it go round, child rearing is more or less a given in a woman’s life. That's a whole lot of us filling the same bracket. Birthing and raising children is a requirement for our species’ survival. Yes, it has purpose, loads of it, but as far as being your reason for living, unlikely. The reason you're alive, yes- you, me, and everyone else, but that's completely different from your purpose in living. Make no mistake, a solid two decades of our lives will be dedicated to sculpting and nurturing our children. Flour, water, and yeast don't make bread unless crafted by our two hands. And, fostering the growth of our children is purpose laden, fundamental stuff. Decent humans make for a decent world.
But, here's the problem with parenting being a soul purpose- It ends. At some point, your children leave the nest, and your work is over. You'll forever worry about them and field the occasional phone call, but assuming you did your job right, they won't take up residence in your basement or look to you for constant support, post adulthood. So, who are you after that?
Unintentional parenthood came early for some, and that's put a strain on personal progress. Not to say that we don't learn copious amounts about ourselves during the process of child rearing. Strengths are identified that we never knew we had and priorities are shifted in ways they'd never have been otherwise. But, parenting also serves as a major distraction from the individual woman that resides somewhere in there, amidst the boo boo kissing, dinner making, soccer games, school drop offs, and dishes. The focus is on others. Much of learning yourself, as a woman, happens with the mistake laden, self indulgent and self absorbed craziness that is your entire 20’s. Motherhood and womanhood are two exclusive beasts, with vastly different types of growth inherent to each.
Others have chosen parenthood early. It’s a natural social progression to marry and start a family. If you were blessed enough to meet the yin to your yang in high school, that process is accelerated, and the aforementioned exploratory 20’s may have bypassed you. You might have checked right into motherhood or a career that fell into your lap, and has thus far made all of the choices for you. Pursuing your passion can be scary stuff and feel like an overwhelming responsibility. For most women, this isn't a conscious choice, but a subconscious avoidance. Knowing what feeds you as a woman is, for many, life’s greatest mystery, and entertaining the idea of figuring it out can be so mind boggling that it leads to paralysis.
Generally speaking, it's nice if you can identify what makes you tick before you procreate, but things don't always come in pretty little packages with perfect timelines. It's going to be difficult to do your soul searching with a bunch of hungry, dirty diapered toddlers tugging at your apron strings, but it's more than possible. It's imperative. Listen now and listen hard, if you want to lead a truly satisfying life before, during, and/or after children, you have got to identify what the hell your soul was put here to do.
This is always, every single time, going to involve serving others. Being instrumental in the lives of your fellow humans comes in a myriad of forms. Maybe you bring health and confidence by teaching yoga. Maybe you inspire young brains of the world by teaching. Maybe you prepare healthy meals that invite nutrition, or create music that gives a voice to others thoughts. Whatever this thing is, once you acknowledge it, a spark will be ignited that cannot be burned out, and you won't be able to turn your back on it without significant emotional repercussions.
I have a lot of things that I love to do. Decorating makes my heart go pitter patter, exercise lights me up, reading feeds me, cooking and baking warm my soul, but none of these things are IT for me. I exist to accumulate knowledge via reading and life experiences and then dispense that information. It is my raison de vivre. I can't not do it. Anyone who knows me will attest to this. If we’re in the same room, at some point I’m going to unload info that I believe will be of use.
Initially, I went to school for interior design, but towards the end of the program I realized that this field was too aesthetic for me, and centering my life around it felt trite. I resigned to make it a hobby, something to help friends with, and then promptly changed my major to psychology. A year away from a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, I quit the biz to become a hairstylist. Probably doesn't sound like a smart move given my passions, but at the ripe old age of 27, and in the midst of a struggling marriage that was soon to end, I didn't feel equipped with enough life experiences, patience, or know how to counsel anyone through anything.
Doing hair was creative for me, but never purposeful. My soul found a way to emerge within the constraints of my job, as it often will, and what drove me was the interaction I had with the women in my chair, a captive audience to dispense the aforementioned information to. Two hours of face time lends itself to intimacy. Women who get their hair done with any consistency, spend more uninterrupted personal time truly engaging with their hairstylist than most anyone else. Bonus for the girl who loves talking about relationships and human nature.
After my third child, work became overwhelming, given my propensity for depth in interaction and communication. Between my job and parenting, I didn't have much left to give. I was running on empty. When we moved, I decided to stop doing hair and try my hand at being a stay at home mom.
Care taking fuels me in many ways. I'm a nurturer by nature, but my kids aren't interested in the ramblings of a 40 year old woman or why the mucilage emitted by chia seeds is cleansing to the digestive system. After almost a year of having minimal outlets for communicating and sharing, angst set in, commingled with a little depression. Facebook and Instagram became unjustifiably interesting, and I often found myself lost in my phone, trying to fill a void with crap that other people were posting to fill their voids, i.e. pictures of dogs cuddling kittens and chalkboard signs for every non monumental event in their children’s lives. Not gonna work. I knew I wasn't feeding my soul, but didn't know how to remedy the situation. Doing hair again, and building a clientele from the ground up, wasn't realistic or financially sensible with three kids, and would land me right back into the exhausted boat I started with. I asked the Universe for an answer, it arrived in the form of blogging. When the inspiration showed up, it was like a sucker punch, swift and clear, stopping me in my tracks. I knew exactly what I needed to do and exactly how to do it. When you identify your passion, it'll hit you hard, there will be no denying it. Blogging may not be the end all be all, but my eyes are opened, and I have unwavering faith that my path will unfold before me if each step I take is conscious and with purpose.
Let's chat about how to work this out for yourself:
1. Be mindful, take moments for yourself to be still and listen. Ask for guidance, whether that's to God, Allah, the Universe, or your spirit guide. This may take time. Ask and ask again. But, you've got to be still to hear the answer. Make that space for yourself. Get off your phone and hide in the closet for five minutes. Go for a run without music. Turn off the lights when you're on a bathroom break. Quiet your mind in the shower. Breathe and listen. No excuses.
2. Pay attention to how you feel when you’re pursuing different endeavors. This requires mindfulness again. Is there anything that you're doing, be it ever so small, that ignites purpose? For me, when I'm talking to people about subjects that evoke passion in me, it's like my brain goes on autopilot, and I'm a bystander to my own words, because my soul is acting through me. It may be different for you, but there should be some sort of spark, a soul’s remembrance if you will, when you're in the zone of pursuing your purpose.
3. Read some books about the subject. See recommendations below.
4. Journal about it.
5. Talk to a friend, brainstorm, voice your deepest ideas and fears. Epiphanies are easily met when putting thoughts into words.
6. If there is a fear holding you back or a contextual issue, list the worst things that could happen if you went for it. And, remember, step one doesn't have to be moving to a third world country to join the Peace Corps. It could be as simple as organizing a food drive at church. Work within the realm of your own world.
7. Know this with complete assuredness, when you open the door to progress and desire, to something meaningful that enhances you and those in your wake, turning your back on fears, you will be doubly rewarded. Doors will fly open all around you. But, you have to take the first courageous step, keeping the fear of failure and inadequacy at bay, or you’ll never even see those doors. The prize of personal risk is progress and nothing halts progress quite like fear. Fear often comes in the form of excuses; “I'm too busy,” “I’m too tired,” “I’m too broke.” Bullshit. This is what you were born for. Get it.
And on that note, I'll leave you.