Thursday, April 02, 2009

Accidentally On Purpose

I'm working on a talk right now. The topic is "Finding Purpose" which (I'm realizing now) is a subject so deep and wide that it's pretty much unfathomable. (I did a Google image search to find a picture to post here, and the stuff was all so sappy and impossibly grandiose that I settled for this t-shirt, figuring that at least it's sort of my life purpose...) But in the midst of all the clouds and stars and silly promises, the quest is leading into some unexpectedly great reading:

First, my publisher sent me a copy of Kristin Armstrong's new book Work In Progress: An Unfinished Woman's Guide to Grace, and I dropped everything I was doing and sat right down to read. Here is the first (but by no means the last) thing I underlined:

"We cannot strive our way into being beautiful. We have to relax into it; we need to breathe."

Could I please get someone to follow me around and remind me of this in 5-7 minute intervals? Kristin is gorgeous and elegant and has been through more than most of us can imagine in terms of relational ups and downs. I'm THRILLED to have her thoughts on moving closer to grace. I think it's part of life's purpose, but it's not something you can just do; you (or at least I) need a guide. This is a good one.

Second is Po Bronson's What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered The Ultimate Question, an unexpected find that jumped off the bookshelf at me as I was browsing through a completely different section of the store. It was misheleved, and I'm grateful to whoever was too lazy to put it back where s/he found it. WSIDWML is a collection of essays about his interviews with people at the beginning/middle/end of some major life transition. Here's my first favorite quote:

"When I started this book, I thought the Question ["What do you do?"] was a scourge on our society, a contagious mental virus transmitted via verbal exchangees. But I'm starting to see that the Question serves a valuable role. The Question is how we hold ourselves accountable to the opportunity we're given.... if you don't like the Question, maybe it's partly because you don't like your answer."

Um, yikes. So harsh, and yet so true. I've spent most of my life HATING the Question, either because my impressive answer ("I'm an attorney") was actually ripping me apart inside, or later, because my pathetic answer ("Um, well, today I took a bath, then petted the dog for awhile, and then spent five hours wondering if and how my life was worth living") wasn't exactly cocktail party material. And yet, I think he's onto something with this idea of accountability. Has me thinking about this whole "opportunity" thing in a new way. Love that!

What do you think of the "What do you do?" question?
(More importantly, are you relaxing/breathing? I hear it helps the pretty!)


tootie said...

I love that book of Po Bronson's. In fact, I gave it as a gift to a friend who was questioning his career choice.

I always try to remind myself that it's more important WHO we are (ie, what kind of person we are) than WHAT (ie, occupation) we do. Right?

Jane said...

Both books sound great! Personally, this question of "what do you want to do?" has been nagging at me for my whole life...and I'm 44. I used to put so much pressure on myself to figure it all out. Something changed when I just let go and listened to what God was trying to convey to me. Beauty and purpose come from the inside. You can spend all the money in the world on the material things but they will not make you GLOW like it does from the INSIDE. I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up, but I'm beginning to know what I don't want to do. I figure that's a start :))

Nancy said...

Love this. Have been thinking about it a great deal in a middle-aged, almost done raising my kids, wondering what I do next kind of way. Was at a great conference in Pittsburgh recently--Jubilee. One of the speakers talked about teens who set up blogs, post two entries and then quit because they're living lives that just aren't interesting enough to blog about. So that's become my new standard--to live a life interesting enough to blog about.

You seem to be meeting the challenge. I, on the other hand, have posted exactly two entries...

Jessie2 said...

I just got out of a 7 year on again off again relationship so both of these are definitely applying to me right now. For the first time in a long time I am relaxing and breathing easy. Easier then I have in a long time!

What do I do? I'm figuring it out day by day lately and loving every minute of finding the parts of me I forgot were there.

Great post today!

Allie said...

Wow, I've never heard that POV on The Question before, and I like it. The question itself doesn't bother me because I love what I'm doing. The question that comes after bothers me a whole lot because it's usually people going "Really? .... But what are you going to DO with that? Be a teacher?" To which I reply, "No, there's nothing I'd hate more."