this weekend on super soul sunday on own, oprah interviewed steven pressfield - they were discussing finding your purpose in life and a couple of questions you can ask yourself to uncover what yours might be. like... what are you afraid of more than anything in the whole world? and... what would you do if you knew you were going to die in three months? what would you do if fear was not a factor, if money were not a factor?
I've been thinking about these questions for a long time. I've discussed them over and over again, with friends, with family, here. I've posed grand and lofty aspirations - to donate my time, to write a book - as well as the more down to earth desires - to be the best mom I can be, to make a difference.
And while I sometimes feel I am making progress, with the exception of maybe the book idea, some days I know I'm falling way short. Are my expectations of what I should be doing in line with where I am in my life? And even more so... are we all even called to a higher purpose? Is simply being the best me I can be right now enough? Because believe me when I tell you - oftentimes the best me takes a tremendous amount of work.
I decided that since I asked the questions, fully expecting a response or two, it would be unfair of me not to post an answer myself. And, since I have never been a woman of few words - you'll get my answers, and my thoughts... here.
What am I afraid of more than anything in the world?
After much soul searching, I've realized there are two things I am most fearful of and they actually go hand in hand. My greatest fear is being alone. Being left... alone. I don't believe I realized the full magnitude of this fear until my momma passed away, and it was only recently that it has begun to make any sense to me.
My mother was my closest friend, my sole confidant. The only person I trusted with me - my fears, my true thoughts, my feelings - both the good and the not so good. She my rock, and when she died, well, the only thing I can say is that it felt as if something in me died that day too. I look back and I realize that slowly, from that day forward, I put a padlock on my heart. If you don't let yourself really love, you won't get hurt. If you push away the ones that want to love you, it won't hurt as much when they leave anyway. Borne out of fear and a desire to protect myself, I am certain, and yet - inevitably leaving me exactly where I feared the most. Alone.
My second greatest fear is disappointing those people in my life that I care for. As a child, I hated to disappoint my parents, I didn't want them to be mad at me, so much so that I was that child. You know, the agreeable one? The perfect one? Never in trouble, always over achieving? Yes, that was me.
As I got older, that fear of disappointing got me into a few more messes than I would like to admit. With friends, with family, with Big J. I've gone along with what others wanted. I've been in friendships I had no business being in. I responded with words that I didn't really believe, just so you wouldn't be angry. Wouldn't be disappointed. Would like me. Wouldn't leave me. Alone.
See the connection?
What would you do if you knew you were going to die in three months?
This question is always a difficult one to answer - there are so many things I'd love to do in my lifetime. I would love to travel more, visit Europe and take my littles to Greece. I would love to run the Grand Canyon. I would love to go to the Super Bowl, preferably when the Colts are playing. I would love to lay on a white sand beach for an entire week with a good book or ten.
But the truth is that, given just three more months - I would simply do what I fear most... love.
I would love my family and my friends. I would call my sisters every day, and spend time with my littles. I would laugh with them and hold them close enough to feel their hearts beat. I would sing more, stress less, speak my truth and say no a tad bit more often. I would be present in each and every moment, and never ever speak of when or what-if.
And just maybe start on that book I keep threatening to write.
What would you do if fear or money were not a factor?
With nothing to fear and all the money in the world? I have been thinking about this for more than a few hours now since first posting the question, and still the first and only thing that comes to mind is that I would do exactly what I would do if I had only three months to live.
Maybe we are not all called to some higher purpose in life. I know I will never be the next Mother Teresa, I will certainly never be President, or raise a gazillion dollars to build schools in Africa. What I do know is that stripped of the extraneous, stripped of the busy noise that surrounds each of us every day, stripped of my fear of being alone and disappointing - my first thoughts on waking and my last thoughts at night and countless in between are about those I love and care for. My people.
And if I really think about it, maybe that's all there needs to be to my purpose right now. Maybe it doesn't have to pressure filled or grand at all. Maybe for me, its just all about opening myself up to love, about not holding back or being afraid and doing as my friend Kristine suggests... simply enjoying the ride.