So tell me — why.

Thought leaders, social media influencers, and even Ted-talkers advise us about the power that comes from “finding our why.” They tell us “our why” comes from within us, and that it is precisely what drives us. Indeed, only when we know our “why” will we be able to move our life onto a totally new, more challenging and more fulfilling path. They explain, knowing our “why” helps us make more intentional choices. 

It is our mission statement.

It is our conviction.

It is our core source of motivation.

It is hogwash.

It is a brick wall.

Stay with me for a minute.

In the 1940s, Viktor E. Frankl was held captive in a Nazi concentration camp. Through the pain and agony, what kept Frankl from giving up was, yes, his purpose… his “why.” But he found meaning in his fight, and that’s what gave him the strength to push forward through a life that was filled with indescribable pain. 

Let me repeat this: He found meaning in his fight. He didn’t fill his days imagining his purpose following his release; he was “living on purpose.” 

This isn’t a case of “potato, potahto.” Waiting to live until you know your purpose and living on purpose is entirely different.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t force ourselves to find our “why.” 

Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next month. I’ve tried. You see, at some point in life, we have to stop thinking about taking action and act. In other words, finding the right direction in life is something we can create by exploring and experimenting. When we shift the lens in which we view what we’re doing, we change its experience. 

In the past, just thinking about finding my purpose would make me sweat.

My stomach would be tied up in knots searching for answers to questions like, what’s my higher calling? What makes me come alive? And quite bluntly, what should I be doing with my life? 

Butttttt… what if our purpose is very different than what these Ted-talkers are telling us? What if…

Our “why” has nothing to do with what we do. 

There, I said it. Our “why” has nothing to do with what we do. In fact, our purpose is quite simple. It’s to awaken, to discover, and to nurture who we indeed are. It’s to know and love ourselves at the deepest level and guide ourselves back home when we lose our way. The more we do this, the more aware and present we become, creating more harmony in our lives. Everything else is our intense passion, inspired mission, job, hobby, and so on. While these things are powerful and very worthy, they’re not our purpose. Our purpose is much, much bigger than that.

This profound understanding of purpose is felt right in the soul of my bones. 

It diffuses the frustration I experience when my work isn’t appreciated or when my efforts are overlooked or criticized. Sometimes people will treasure my work, sometimes they won’t. Sometimes I’ll get the gig, sometimes I won’t. I’ll be thanked, and I’ll be taken for granted. I’ll give, and I’ll get nothing in return. I’ll be “Liked,” and I’ll be unfriended. That’s life. But, so then what? I have no purpose or meaning?

Absolutely, positively not. 

Tying my worth to that yo-yo circus is exhausting, discouraging, and even makes me resentful. But if I anchor my purpose within, sweet friend, I’m bound to find things I’m ridiculously good at, and I’ll never feel lost or stuck. And as for brick walls, well, I’ll just shift my lens.

So what am I missing?

  • Coronavirus is a potentially deadly virus.
  • 7.5 million Americans have been infected.
  • 210k+ Americans have died from it.
  • Our government used it to take away our inalienable rights – in particular:
    • To work and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.
    • To move freely within the country or to another country.
    • To worship or refrain from worshipping within a freely-chosen religion.
    • To think freely.
  • Only 6% of the reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are solely attributable to coronavirus.
  • We quarantined and closed the country to “slow the spread.”
  • We did not quarantine and close the country to eradicate the virus.
  • We quarantined for months and still got sick.
  • We opened the country, and we’re still getting sick.
  • We were told masks wouldn’t help. We got sick.
  • We are told we must wear a mask, or we won’t be allowed in the store/bank/restaurant/gym/insert name of any business here. We’re still getting sick.
  • We know more about the virus now than we did eight months ago – which means it’s no longer something we don’t know anything about.
  • We know who is more vulnerable to complications, should they get the virus.
  • We know who is more vulnerable, by age, should they get the virus.
  • The media, the critics, and the debate moderators say this is the most critical issue, and it’s on the top of everyone’s minds. The political spin is that this will make or break President Trump’s re-election.

In summary, whether we stay in our homes or go outside, we can get sick. Whether we wear a mask or not, we can get sick. We know if we have a compromised immune system or any disease/health challenge, we’re more at risk. If we’re 65+ in age or older, we’re more at risk. We know we cannot completely rid the world from this virus now that it is here.

So why are people still hung up on this? Knowledge is power, and we have tons of knowledge, right! We can decide if we want to go outside or to that neighborhood BBQ or trick-or-treating. “To think freely” is not only our inalienable right, but it’s also a POWER.

So what am I missing?

Decisions children shouldn’t make

I loved her for more than 40 years, and then one day, she did the unimaginable – she broke my heart.

I can’t describe my relationship with my mother. We barely had anything in common. But she was what I thought all mothers were, and that is, immortal. I also saw her as invincible, sometimes the enemy, always a nurturer. Never a woman – much less a woman with problems and experiences similar to mine.

And then she died.

It wasn’t until that day that I realized she was a person who experienced pain, just like me. She felt sorrow like I did. She held regrets, endured loneliness, had bad habits, addictions, held grudges, and had a laundry list of mistakes under her name. She had feelings. Turns out, she was like me, and I was like her. She was more influential in my life than I realized. With every passing year, I like to think our relationship grew and evolved into a newer, more significant, grander relationship. Until she abandoned me.

But deep-rooted issues are the least of my problems. It’s the cause of my mother’s death that has me wrecked.

It was three months before she died. I had just turned 40, filed for divorce, quit my job, and was hitting up neighborhood psychics and tarot readers daily. I didn’t have a plan for my future. I didn’t even have an idea for Tuesday. I assumed leaving a lousy marriage and starting over was the answer. Instead, it stirred up a weird animosity toward my family.

The day I moved into my new place is the day I’d take back.

My mother and I were making a quick trip to the store for cleaning supplies. Only ‘being quick’ didn’t happen. It wasn’t one of her ‘good days.’ She had a lot of medical issues brought on by her weight. Obesity comes with a slew of health issues. Our quick run was more like a gradual stroll with many rest breaks.

Still, I was happy she offered to help. My mother was nothing if not a clean freak – and my floors were sticky and the ominous dark spot on the bathroom wall needed diagnosing.

Patience isn’t one of my virtues. 

I drove a Jeep Wrangler – a nearly impossible vehicle for her to climb in and out of.

After five minutes, and that’s all I was giving her to get in the car, I noticed her struggle. No matter how strategically she placed her hands or angled her body, she couldn’t lift her leg and hoist herself into the passenger seat.

Thinking back, I am ashamed at how invisible she was to me.

It wasn’t until her legs gave out, her arm nearly pulled out of the socket, and she lay flat on the pavement that I jumped out to help her.

The sling was one thing; the black bruising was another.

Weeks later, she was still unable to bring her right arm above her head. And the skin from under her arm and across the front of her chest was turning blacker every day.

We ended up at Urgent Care – several times over the next month.

I was at work when the paramedic called.

They were in a helicopter and headed to St. Joseph’s. The paramedic spoke so slowly. He assured me the facility they were headed to was the most advanced (but also the busiest) stroke center.

My mother suffered an ischemic stroke early that morning, but it had been several hours before she was found. Siri gave me the 411: An ischemic stroke is a type of stroke that is caused by a clot, or some other blockage, within an artery leading to the brain. The patient’s prognosis after an ischemic stroke is good. More than three-quarters of people who suffer a stroke survive for a year and over half survive for more than five years. Many survivors recover their independence.

They found clots in my mother’s lung.

Three days later, the doctor handed me a form that was signed by my mother the day she was admitted. It was a scribbled signature, but it was a completely legal and fully-witnessed document naming me my mother’s trusted medical power of attorney.

And then her doctor presented me with a medical decision.