Finding My 'Why'

My workplace has been advocating a program to help employees be more engaged in our jobs and life in general. Every quarter or so, a couple of interactive posts walk us through personal discoveries and lifestyle changes that we can make to better our lives. The concept is lovely. The timing and application to an individual may not always have the intended effect.

When the first two posts came out, I diligently clicked through them. Afterward, I left work feeling even more inadequate and disengaged than ever. I was slipping into an existential crisis, and I hadn't seen it coming.

The first post was focused on your "why." Your raison d'etra. Your purpose. It was an exercise in thinking about how your job aligns with your purpose. Because engaged employees have jobs that line up with their reasons for being, right?

As I clicked through, I found myself skipping pages, not writing in anything, and getting more and more resentful. "I don't have a 'why.' I don't have a 5 year, or even a 5 week plan. No, I can't imagine looking back at the end of my life and saying, 'This. My career was my purpose. This is what my life stood for.'" Can't I just like my job and love that it contributes to helping people when they need it most? Isn't that good enough?

After having had my fill of that post, I thought I'd move on to the next and feel better about myself. Until I saw the title. It was about meal planning. How good engaged healthy people - who love and care for their families - plan meals out ahead of time, do food prep and make meals ahead on the weekends, create menus together. Smiling happy faces eager to spend life's precious hours chopping carrots.

My inner monologue was something like, "WTF-ever. I'm NEVER going to do all that. ANY of that. My idea of 'meal planning' is 'I plan on eating at some point today.'" 

I tried to push it aside. Ignore it. After all . . . I have PLENTY of other things to juggle and worrying about every day. I slogged on.

 

I soon found myself resurrecting the crochet skills my grandma taught me . . . and I wondered if crochetting as protest would have surprised her at all. Somehow I doubt it. My hard-headedness has been kind of a "thing" for a long time.

I marched in both the Park City and the SLC Women's Marches with my daughters. The images, voices and emotions are memories we will forever share. Nothing held us back or slowed our steps -- not snow and ice, not confused or furrowed brows or muttered disapproval. Mostly I remember the "thank-you" from the young girl at the drive-thru and the elderly bearded white guy who pulled his car over, looked me in the eye and said, "Thank-you. Thank-you for marching for ME today!" Still makes my eyes wet.

But as life marched on, the pesky email newsletter notices kept coming. WHAT IS YOUR 'WHY?' They demanded to know. This is a world that assumes you ARE what you DO. That expects you to jump out of bed and tackle each day and each task that moves you toward your goal . . . your purpose. 

Me: "You know why I get out of bed in the morning? Because the f'ing alarm goes off. That's why."

I began going to yoga regularly last Fall. Lately we've been talking about and meditating on the story of Ganesh. Of transformation. Of embracing ourselves as we are. Of sitting with the rough emotions and discomforts of life and finding the lessons within them. Visualizing that less-than-pleasant occurences are sometimes just negative energy moving out and making room for new and positive energies in our lives. 

A couple of weekends ago I hurt my knee during a transition in class. Basically I left my kneecap behind on the mat while I tried to push my legs into the splits. I was trying too hard. Demanding more than what I was ready for. Afterward I experienced sharp pain in my knee whenever I walked down the stairs. Especially when carrying the extra weight of my computer bag. Probably gave myself micro tears in the cartilege behind and to the edge of my kneecap. 

Throughout the next week I had to slow down. Wear a brace. Baby my knee. Dr. Google advised P.R.I.C.E. - protect, rest, ice/anti-inflammatories, compression, elevation. I was forced to slow down. Sit. Think.

At the end of the workday one evening I decided I needed to "sit with" that negative energy. I surfed articles on finding my raison d'etra. Most were awful and further solidified my feelings of inadequacy and lack of purpose. I even took one quiz with nearly 170 questions. The results said I had no purpose and I should really look at restructuring my entire life - home, career, everything. REALLY?! By the time I got home, I was thoroughly depressed. I grumbled and moaned to close friends. I pouted. I went to bed utterly and totally deflated.

Yet somehow when I woke up Friday morning, I felt oddly lighter. Like my brain had resolved a puzzle while I slept. I felt . . . centered.

One of the articles I had skimmed by in my research - barely pausing on - had suggested thinking back upon the one personality you admired as a kid. Who was that one person you wanted to BE? Immediately - without hesitation - the image of Jacques Cousteau popped into my mind. His voice. His iconic red beanie. The explorer. The seeker of discoveries under the sea - animals, cultural artifacts, raw natural beauty. A conservationist. An ambassador. 

But at the time, I was thinking too narrowly. I was focused on how my job aligned with my purpose. Did I miss my mark because I didn't pursue the right career? 

But my 'why' was already there. I had recognized it in Jacques Cousteau all those many years ago. My 'why' wasn't a goal, a specific single purpose, or a destination like the posts at work framed it to be. My 'why' is and has always been the journey, about how you move through life, about perspective.

 

 

My 'why' is woven of four main threads:

  • Curiosity
  • Compassion
  • Quest for Beauty/Creativity
  • Stewardship (efficienty/conservation)

I'm happiest when the path pulls on all of those threads. Exploring and resolving puzzles -- be they legal, artistic, scientific, cultural and evolutionary questions, or nature's many mysteries. Giving of myself in some way. Seeing beauty in the ordinary. Treading more lightly.

Recently I found myself sending little packages to some friends and fellow metalsmiths. I had so much FUN putting in little unexpected goodies. It was like playing Santa. Just the pure joy of giving without any strings or expectations. 

I even passed along some of my personal tools to a jeweler just striking out on his journey. 

They aren't fancy. But I could spare them. And it felt SO wonderful to pay it forward and pass along all the good will that has come my way along this path, too.

Moving through this seems to have broken loose the creativity that has been pent up and bogged down by all the "ugh" of today. I finally started making again . . . 

And I rearranged my studio (Again!) and found new space I didn't know I had in there. The best part? I may even avoid whacking my forehead on the bench pin as frequently as I did before. Wouldn't that be something?!

These are crazy upside-down times. There is a lot to worry about. No, we cannot just avert our eyes. We cannot withdraw into our own lives and ignore the turmoil outside. We all need to be PRESENT. To speak up and stand up for one another and for the causes we passionately believe in. BUT . . . and this is really important . . .

We cannot let the vitriol of the day harden our hearts and steal that precious "why" that lights our paths. Be passionate. Be a force for good. Root your core to the Earth. Steady your stride. And remember to breathe. 

Remember the advice for my knee (which btw is doing great), P.R.I.C.E? It applys here, too. Protect your heart, Rest your spirit, reduce Inflammatory useless argument, Compress (don't spread yourself too thin), and Elevate those all around you. 

And soak up all the smoochies in your life, too. 

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavanthu -

~Namaste~

Heidi

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