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!)