When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.
With 993 MILLION results on Google about “The Purpose of Life”, it is a sure thing that we are a world of thinking people who want to live for the reason we were born. When you ask yourself in the midst of a period of unemployment, in a hospital room with a sick child, at the end of a misery-filled relationship, or in reaction to another tragic news report WHY you are here, the answers are varied and rarely clear. You just know that if ‘this’ is all there is, what’s the point? If the purpose of life is not to just reach the end, what is it? If the purpose is to have a joyful journey, as Dyer suggests, why all of these sad events that plague us? (I’ve never learned to dance the Tango, plagued with fear that I couldn’t get the steps) Perhaps it is time to adjust our expectations and rethink our approach to living so that we can learn to maneuver through a world of trials and tribulations enjoying the steps along the way.
In my short fifty-some years, I have experienced a lot of happiness, but I have experienced a lot of sadness and pain, too. I have had moments of extreme despair when I wondered if the world would be a better place without my presence, and I have stuck around to enjoy the journey. Maybe because I’m always thinking and questioning, I have come back to the questions What’s the point? Why can’t I avoid problems like mean people and hurt feelings, dangerous people and the fear imposed, car problems and the bills they bring, leaky toilets and the list of parts to try to replace, and computer crashes that make me long for days of carbon copies? Why can’t life just be happy, like other folks?
The answer I’ve come up with is that my expectations have been misdirected, and I think that’s the truth for most everyone I know. We want the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving picture without the arguments around the table, the puppy running and looking so cute without the accidents on the carpet, the lottery winning ticket without the expense of duds, the perfect marriage without the dirty socks in the floor.
Why do we assume life is supposed to be easy? What if the point is how we learn to live amidst the turmoil, despite the soiled carpet, the disagreements, the losing tickets, the dirty laundry?
When we come into the world, we leave a warm place of comfort and come into a cold, harsh, sterile environment. Welcome to the world and the beginning of the journey. Instead of viewing this as a negative beginning to a lifelong quest for avoiding the pitfalls along the path, perhaps you might appreciate that every path has rocks, ruts and roots that will trip you up, and stop bemoaning that most beautiful views are more than a stroll in the park. Nowhere in my reading have I found that a life of ease is our birthright, so I’ll re-examine life with a new attitude and invite you to do the same.
- Your child, or you if you are the student, left her homework at home. Whatever the consequences are, they are necessary for her to learn that there is more joy in bringing it to school.
- You decide to skip the gas pump because it’s just too cold outside. Maybe you won’t run out of gas, but if you do, it won’t be much fun. The experience will probably keep you from skipping the pump the next time your gas tank is low.
- The thrill of drinking more alcohol than you know you should or taking a pill that you know you shouldn’t might seem like a worthwhile risk, but the pain the next day, or the addiction that lasts a lifetime is not so thrilling. With consequences, though, comes lessons about limits and perhaps an unexpected change of direction for life.
Life just might be a series of struggles, troubles, and predicaments that will exist without our consent or desire, but between adversity and complication there will be bliss, between frustrations and obstacles there are joys. The truth is that we are not born into a perfect world of fun and financial success, we are born into a wonderful world that offers us opportunities to grow or to stay stuck in the mire. It is our choice.
The words of a young man (Stephen Clower) singing at a local Writer’s Night caught my attention as I considered the purpose of life question: “All this time I’ve been someone else when I should have been me.” We might be tempted to try to live someone else’s life, own someone else’s dream, in hopes of avoiding adversity, but when we recognize that our conflicts are there for us to dance with instead of dancing around, we can smile when we learn to navigate in spite of a clumsy partner with two left feet. Tears, sadness, anger, frustration — they will not disappear but can be valued as a part of the process of this thing we call life. Maybe I’ll even learn to Tango!