A sense of worthlessness descended on me. I have nothing to call my life’s purpose. It was as if I just realized my entire life has had no meaning and time is running short for me to accomplish anything great in my waning years.
“Well, um,” I sputtered, “I guess I’m sort of retired. I paint furniture sometimes. I visit my elderly mother and I do a lot of yoga. I fix some things at home that need fixing. I even clean my own house.” I failed to mention that I have alphabetized my spices. She would have been impressed.
I clean my own house. That’s it? That’s my sense of purpose? Oh, Lord, help me. I seem like such a ninny. Windex is my life. I couldn’t exist without a high quality vacuum cleaner. I hang my laundry outside on the clothesline in nice weather and I worry that my house smells like cat pee.
Somewhere in the past six decades I forgot to find a purpose. My Franklin Planner is filled with quotes about setting goals and reaching them, about action plans, and strategies for success. I always thought those quotes were meant for other people. I read that football coach Lou Holtz said that if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, then you don’t have enough goals. Most mornings my only goal is to make a good cup of coffee. Is that an impressive goal? I think it’s safe to bet that I won’t win a Nobel Prize in any category. Damn. Not economics or physics? Not even literature? Quick—write a book. Write it about the influence of physics on socioeconomics in developing countries. But it should be allegorical, perhaps a deeply spiritual novel set in a 17th century French village where a volcano is about to erupt and kill everyone. Okay, maybe I can do that over the weekend.
Having a career of substance never interested me. Maybe it was a fear of pantyhose. I thought a woman with a serious career had to wear pantyhose and I wanted none of it. Yes, I worked. For years I worked, but I can honestly say I never had a job that I really cared about. A job is not the same as a career. Some jobs I tolerated because I liked my co-workers, but mostly I went to work every day because I needed a paycheck and health insurance. And yes, I went to school—including college and graduate school—but still I never was driven to accomplish anything big. To me nothing seemed worthy of being labeled my life’s purpose.
I had kids. They are grown now and have kids of their own. I love them like crazy and I did anything and everything I could to be a good mother to them. But that was love, duty, dedication—simply what I was in the base of my soul, not what I considered a career. Was being a mother my purpose? Perhaps, but I never thought to label it that way. I don’t want to Franklin Planner motherhood—it’s in a category way beyond action plans and goals and strategies.
It’s probably much too late to care about finding a real purpose in my life at this point. Truthfully, I still don’t care. I’ll write the book about physics and the French village and the volcano. Then I’ll make a really good cup of coffee. That’s enough.