This has just been one of those weeks where I am out of flow. I can relate to the chickadee stuck in my barn at the moment, fluttering in search of a clear path of exit. It’s not readily visible – he’s flying too high – and can’t clearly see that the straightest route to freedom will be if he flies just a few feet lower towards the light. Only then can he find the freedom in the forest, where his wings can spread. Maybe too, if he’s fortunate, an opportunity may manifest to meet up with other chickadees, where they can all – pardon the obvious idiom – flock together.
I can identify the reasons for not being in flow, aside from the obvious taking of “life in progress” internal inventory that I try to avoid but get hit with on my birthday anyway. It’s like a train speeding down the tracks – a dirty, outdated heavy slogging coal-fueled train, carrying all my existential crises, regrets and paucity of opportunities baggage in my direction, looming large and booming its presence. Somewhere in there comes the additional car carrying a heavy dose of self-pity, just to cement the experience. There is little to be done to avoid it – I could distract myself with a happy hour Cabernet and sharp cheddar cheese with my loving husband, dote on my dogs until they’re fat and spoiled, waste time antagonizing my bipolar Dictator Tweety-supporting brother into the effects of a wrongful immigration policy.
Anything to avoid feeling that paucity of fulfillment of life’s purpose. What was it I was put here anyhow on this earth to do, anyhow? Do any of us really know?
If I could have anything, it would be a sense of fulfillment of purpose in life. I know I’m not the first to struggle with this – there’s good reason for the French phrase, raison d’être. Damn my French heritage, creeping into my life like an artery-clogging buttery croissant.
It makes me wish I were a simple being – not unlike my sweetly dimwitted Main Coon my husband brought into my life, lying here staring at me blankly for hours on end as I write. Is he thinking higher thoughts, or just wondering when I will brush him again?
Having a raison d’être is what brings meaning to our lives, gives us a sense of connection to the human and animal community. It allows us to feel as though we matter – to those who meet us in our passing time here on this earth. And if we matter enough to them, they stay long enough to share.
I believe finding our raison d’être is a primal need.
I think some find their way with it early in life. Others wander and flutter about, not unlike the chickadee stuck this afternoon in my barn. Some of us try out hand at multiple efforts – I know I have — because in a big world such as ours – who can choose just one?
The point to all this free floating American-born wandering chickadee anxiety is simple:
It’s a question to which I’ve been seeking an answer for several years now. My then-husband used to say, Stop contemplating your navel, do you think poor Hispanic people go around thinking about what they’re going to do in life? No, they don’t. They’re running for the bus with their lunch in hand, to their job at the factory, returning home late at night to feed their families.
Ah, yes. That’s why he’s a “then-husband.” He couldn’t understand me, but Abraham Maslow could. After having all one’s needs satisfied – food, shelter, reproduction – self-actualization comes barreling in like the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona.
Having an existential crisis is like seeking out God. The persistent longing runs deep and stubborn, like a wide-flowing river you can never swim your way out of but you know is headed downstream and will eventually spill out into the Pacific Ocean. The nagging just won’t let up, no matter how many of your other needs are met – and certainly, not even as you look around at your friends with children – who feel blissfully fulfilled in life for having done so. They’ve found their purpose – raison d’être — but you, a career-minded animal-loving female, have always felt your happiness lay in taking care of the furry four-leggeds already here on the planet, and you never felt the need to bring in life where there already seemed to be a plethora. And you were never completely satisfied with doing only that – there has to be more in this life, doesn’t there?
Why is it that having a life’s purpose represents an abundance of everlasting peace, prosperity and joy? Is that simply an American-born illusion we’ve all bought into, ushered in on the red carpet of Hollywood or held up in some display of reverence for us all to admire?
Me personally, I’d really like to know. I’d like to know that in this life, what I did mattered – my work and my devotion, my commitments and my sacrifices, my going-out-of-the-way-just-because moments, my forays and my undertakings. Does anyone ever really get to know, except at the end of some romantic comedy or dramatic love story, that what they’ve done in this life really meant something, or is it all left up to guessing? Does anyone else wonder about their raison d’être?