So, there’s this moment. Maybe sitting in your cubicle. Maybe writing, painting, sewing, scrubbing. You’re humming with a stressful energy. A thought occurs to you. It’s a simple question, but a powerful one. You ask yourself, “What am I doing?”
Really. What am I doing?
I have found that “What am I doing” is one of those basic, yet mind-blowingly profound philosophical questions like, “Who am I? What’s the meaning of life? Does the color orange look the same to everyone?” Or even deeper, “Does chocolate taste the same to you as it does for me?”
The answer to last one is no. It tastes way to better to me than anyone else.
But, seriously – what am I doing?
Sometimes the walk within our purpose that leads us to our dream gets long. Dauntingly long. And boring. There are patches that are like a long stretch of highway that has power lines to nowhere and one sad tree. Birds have nowhere to land so they just walk in the grass with sad gimpy limps. The monotony would rock you to sleep if you weren’t hustling with the frenzied awkwardness of a Japanese Olympic race walker.
Yet, you keep going. Even though it looks like you’re not going anywhere new. Buildings and trees start to look the same. Boring buildings, boring trees, along this really long walk that at the start was supposed to be your big, flashy purpose.
Basically, I just described Kansas. The walk towards fulfilling your dreams looks like Kansas, people. This is what I’m saying.
But I’m also saying, sometimes it’s ok to just stop. Look around. Ask, “What am I doing?”
I’ll one up it and say it might be one of the best things you could ever ask yourself.
That one, simple question forces us to look at our lives plainly and decide if our purpose is still ahead of us and still worth even the most painful, blistery steps – or if, maybe, somehow we’ve lost our way.
A couple weeks ago I had a “What am I doing?” moment. My work, my writing, all of it stopped being nourishing and became neurotic. My ambition and desire to grow, to succeed (whatever that subjective word means), had me working and creating with a slight sense of desperation.
My obsession with disruptive Facebook algorithms, stats, engagement, contracts, traffic and my competitors had me buzzing with a negative energy that lingered with me. It was behind the scenes, like a distant headache. I would notice it when I was quiet, but if I busied myself like I always do, it would slip behind me, quietly yet powerfully pulling my joy from me like a loose thread.
The joy that comes with actively doing what I was born to do was unraveling and if I wasn’t careful, soon it would be gone.
I was exhausted. Burnout burned hard, my friends.
So I stopped. I closed the computer. I shut off my phone (no I didn’t, I’m not that disciplined).
I asked myself honestly, “What am I doing?”
My soul seemed to whisper to me. I’m losing my way.
I forgot why I wanted to focus on humor writing in the first place. I focused on production, not creation. What was supposed to be my soul nourishing service, was transforming into an insatiable ego binge. Fear of failure seduced me to take an off road towards chaos instead of the gentle, peaceful path of my heart – to simply serve and bring joy through story telling.
So I cried. It was ugly. It clogged my nose and washed my face totally clean of all makeup except for a hint of raccoon around my yes. My wails sounded like I was trying to rearrange furniture by myself.
It was awesome.
We want to comfort or feel sorry for people when they cry in our presence. They’re sad and so vulnerable. We want to take the suffering from them. Assuming they’re crying over a tough life experience and not a tragedy, I think we need to toss up our comforting strategies. Instead of softly rubbing their back or whispering “Shhh, there, there,” maybe we should start shouting “Woot!” and giving each other high fives and good game butt taps when one of us gives in to a good, solid meltdown.
“Get it out sister, how long have you been holding that in? A long time, obviously – you’re going on 15 minutes and I no longer know what to do with my hands. I’ll get wine and fancy cheese!”
Crying releases toxins. It grabs us by the shoulders and forces us to get real. It strips away pretense and wishful thinking. It slaps the remote and smart phones out of our hands.
Although I think at one point during my meltdown, I checked a Facebook notification. But I digress …
Crying says, “Things feel shitty. Deal with it so we can freaking move on already.”
I’m all about the law of attraction and positive thinking. It’s my anthem and it’s gotten me through obstacles more treacherous than trying to get through a mob of pre-teens at a Justin Bieber concert.
But we have to get real first. When ignored, sadness and fear will sit in our subconscious like a creeper just waiting for its moment to shine. I assure you, when it finally makes its appearance, it will be dysfunctional and weird, like a dramatic attention seeking status update, a raging outburst, jealous obsessions or dressing someone down behind their back.
Life is too short, too sweet to be stunted by a creeper with issues.
What’s incredible yet deeply annoying is that our purpose and our desires – the way we have been so beautifully made, is so unique to us. Two of us may want to fulfill our dream to open our own bakery, but our paths to get there won’t be the same. This makes comparisons totally useless, except we’re biologically wired to compare ourselves to others so HOLY CRAP WHY IS LIFE SO HARD!?
Sometimes I like to get bitter when I see someone else who “appears” to have had a shorter walk to their goals. As I’m sluffing along with blistered feet (apparently out in back country Kansas?) with no signs even letting me know I’m going the right direction, let alone how many more miles are left – some people just seem to put their Asics on and run right into their dreams like it’s sample day at Whole Foods.
Here’s what I think. Nobody’s walk is easy. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better, but I think that if people really do get to hop on one of those airport moving walk ways towards their dreams, they don’t get the privilege of wearing the calluses, the bruises, the wisdom, the lessons and all of the beautiful disasters that are the gifts that eventually enable us to handle the responsibility of success once we get there.
Not a minute was wasted. My experience informs everything I do and prepares me, even unknowingly, for what I’m going to face in the future. No regrets.
So what am I doing?
I’m following my gut. My gut points towards my desire. Desire points towards my purpose. My purpose points toward my dream. And my gut says to keep moving.
There may be crying, but by God, there won’t be any quitting. As I hustle, when (because there will be a another when, this is life after-all) I stop feeling peaceful and innovative, when I’m no longer overflowing and generous, when I’m no longer magnetic and taking each step with purpose – I will stop. I will ask. What am I doing?
Then maybe I’ll cry. Maybe I’ll eat something awesome because if emotional eating was so terrible, God wouldn’t have made Ben and Jerry’s. Maybe I’ll call my mom about 10 times a day. Then, for the sweet love of French fries, I’ll get back on my long boring road.
Eventually, the scenery will change. It will be beautiful. It will take my breath away – it may even be shocking. I may not feel worthy to get there, but I am. We all are.
It’s coming. Until then, what are you doing?