A few thoughts on our changing purposes in life.
I haven’t blogged in forever, and I’m sorry. But today, I remembered why I started writing this blog in the first place—for me. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s just writing down my thoughts and words helps me. And today, I needed some help. We’ll call it “Mother’s Day emotions.”
I’m currently recovering from a Disney hangover. It’s a lot like a regular hangover where you wake up the morning after being completely dehydrated, worn out, and wondering where all your money went. But dang, it was fun. I met my adult children at Walt Disney World for my son’s 21st birthday and my daughter’s 25th birthday. We all live far apart, and he wanted to drink around Epcot for his birthday. I felt honored to be chosen over Vegas and his friends. It was a compliment, and I took it as such. He also is serving in the Air Force, and up until last Friday, I had not seen his blonde head in almost two years.
My daughter, who is as Disney-obsessed as I am, and her husband, who is not Disney-obsessed but an excellent non-complaining type of human, joined as well. He even wore the matching Disney shirts we had made! I like that kid.
We started planning this trip together a year ago, as one does when one is Disney-obsessed. And for the last year, it became my purpose. I lived to plan this trip.
I’d do a little Disney research if I had a bad day. Look for a cool restaurant, watch a Disney Genie video, or figure out what a lightning lane pass is. (Hint: They both cost lots of money.) But it would immediately lift my spirits.
When the kids were little and we lived in Florida, we would frequent the parks. I didn’t have anything back in those days. I was a divorced single mom of two with barely two pennies to rub together. I would count on a decent tax return that showed up conveniently right before their birthdays, so I would take them to Disney when possible. It was much cheaper back then, and we made it work with a Florida resident discount.
And even though we never had much and went through some very light Christmases, they never complained. So this time, I wanted to spoil them as much as possible. That’s what we do as parents. We want to give them the world! And I wanted to provide them with the Disney variety of the world.
And oh, what a week we had. We recreated a bunch of the photos from when they were little. We rode everything we could and walked about ten miles a day. (That’s not an exaggeration.) We initiated my son-in-love with our version of Disney in a trial by fire. He’s a trooper and officially wins the “Husband of the Year” award.
And I did what most moms my age do. I sat back and just took it all in. I absorbed every little moment into my soul. In the middle of the unruly crowds, the heat, the screaming children, and a painful hip that I’m pretty sure will have to be replaced at some point, all I could do was smile. My son caught me a few times and asked what I was smiling about. I’d reply, you, her, all this—motioning to our surroundings. We belly laughed more times than I can count, capturing judgemental stares from others. I didn’t care. I had my family—together!
When my son first left our home and I became an empty nester, I struggled. I still do sometimes. And I think I’m just now learning why. When I was raising my children, it was my sole/soul purpose. And sometimes, it was hard. But, of course, looking back, you realize how wonderful, memorable, and sadly fleeting it is.
A friend once said that when children are little, the “Days are long, but the years are short.” It was a challenge at times when it was 10:00 pm, and you were running around trying to find an open store that sells poster board because your kid didn’t tell you their science project that they put off was due the next day.
No one ever talks about how when you’re older, you will give anything to have one of those silly chaotic days back.
I love how God and his Universe will give you precisely what you need to learn the lesson you need to know at exactly the right moment. For example, a meme popped up on Instagram just before my trip. It said we must find a new purpose when our kids are older. And we must be willing to create a new relationship with our adult children based on our new purpose with them. And then, just like any other relationship, we must work to cultivate and grow that friendship with our children.
That doesn’t mean stop being their parent. On the contrary, they will always need their mom now and again. And I know that.
I’ve learned that many times throughout our lives, our purpose changes.
As with all change, there is loss—even with good change. New things may come into our lives, but change always comes with some sort of loss, and with that comes grief. It doesn’t just apply to parenting. For example, maybe you’ve moved from the house you owned for years, and although the move is positive, you grieve the change.
Sometimes the change isn’t positive at all. I see a shift in purpose for so many of my friends who have lost their spouses. Suddenly that role of wife or husband has evaporated overnight. Their role in life has changed with no choice of their own. I can’t help but think of athletes who have devoted their entire lives to a sport only to find an injury stomping a halt to their dream. A dream that represented their life’s purpose.
A purpose has to exist, and we must allow it to change. It’s up to us to find a new meaning when life calls for it.
I recently read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. This is a challenging and beautiful book detailing his time spent in concentration camps during the Second World War. Frankl was a psychologist by trade when he was forced into the camps. His entire family, including his pregnant wife, perished in the camps.
Boy, did this blog take a depressing turn or what? So I’ll get to the point. During his hellish experience, Frankl learned there was one key to survival for the prisoners, and those who lacked this one thing would likely perish within a matter of days upon losing it. That one thing was a purpose. But a purpose wasn’t gifted to them. It was chosen—regardless of the situation.
I’m finding that life is a series of changing purposes. We go from being a child with aspirations, to a student, to a worker, to a spouse, to a parent, to a grandparent, to being a good human who leaves a good legacy. We may have short-term purposes—running a marathon, paying off our student loans, buying a house, or buying a farm and making it a sanctuary for wayward animals.
We learn to accept with grace that all of life is changing purposes.
However, I’ve learned that our purpose and identity are separate. My purpose may change, but who I am at my core is the same. I can take that core good human, apply myself to any purpose I choose, and devote my time, energy, and attention to it.
I am learning to accept that my purpose has changed. I am learning to celebrate my new purpose instead of longing for the past. And I look forward to future changes, like someday having the chance to be a grandparent. (No pressure, kids.)
Then we can all go to Disney together, and I can pass my Disney obsession on to my grandbabies, as one does. That sounds like a pretty good new purpose. I’ll start saving up now.