I was once a full-on hippie, living from my car, camping my way across this North American continent. Barely 18 and driving myself from the Midwest to Alaska. I rejected family, commitment, and mostly, responsibility. I sought truth, the wild, beauty, and answers to the purpose of this life.
My life today is different. I live in a lovely home, work a professional job, have a husband, children and daily commitments. I have to carve time for adventures into the wild, and usually I bring my children with me.
Yet the truth seeker, the beauty seeker, the wild seeker, she has not left.
So when I recently overheard someone telling a group to “stop seeking the answers of life for as soon as you find the answer, the questions will change” I was shocked.
Isn’t that the very point? Follow with me for a moment. As a child I was obsessed with reading historical literature (the whole living a thousand lives through books). Then I became obsessed with religion and spirituality. That transitioned into a questioning of the status quo and American Dream, which lead me to Alaska and exploring true wilderness (while learning to do so safely). From there I delved into science, which lead me to a rewarding career. The professional life and subsequent financial planning led to questioning my values and purpose in life. Thanks to all the previous questioning (and answering) it was easy to know my/my partner’s values and uproot our lives to better align with those values. Now that we have children, all of those previous cycles of questioning and answering have culminated in the responsibility of raising people who will go out into the world and make their own way (a bonus of the Alaska years is knowing how to safely take them into the wild).
The constantly changing questions in my life have fueled my evolution.
So, what does ring true to me? I no longer reject commitment, responsibility, even tradition. What I have come to believe wholeheartedly is:
The purpose of life is to be grateful in every moment.
And the commitments I used to flee, now I am thankful. Every commitment in my life, shows how my life is interconnected to those I love.
As I wrote that last line, I received a message from a beloved friend. Her eldest is in the hospital with a newly-diagnosed, serious disease. He is three. Her third child is in her womb, past her due date.
My heart races to her, yet she is across the country and I cannot immediately be there. I am trying to get there. Once there, I could help, sure, but I cannot take the challenging roles she must play out. I cannot birth her baby for her, as much as I wish. She has been up at night for weeks taking care of her son, waiting for some cure, diagnosis and she is exhausted. I could sit at her son’s bedside but it is her that he wants and her that needs to be there. In times like this it is so clear how strong we must be (in this instance, as mothers) and how deep our commitments must run.
It is moments like these that the biggest lesson I have learned comes heavily to me.
My life is to love. My life’s work is to act on that love, to be strong for those who need strength, to be present for those who need me.
It’s why the outcome of the mountaintop retreat is for me to give up my career in the next 8 months. I have the answers to the questions that particular career gave me, and my focus has shifted again. My role has changed and being at work, no matter how rewarding at one time, is no longer my focus, nor deepest commitment.