Laura Gates explains how falling apart and “failing” at marriage was a gift that shifted her whole concept of purpose.
For most of my life I’ve been plagued by the same questions:
“Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?”
I’ve had my share of boring dead end jobs that just paid the bills, career transitions that left me feeling like I was starting over yet again into something completely new. I managed to keep a lid on my dissatisfaction, despite my growing malaise. I remember writing a personal essay on my thirtieth birthday about how I hated my job, had no kids, no home of my own and felt like a big fat loser.
And then a year later my husband walked out on me.
And I fell apart.
I had what Brené Brown calls a “breakdown to breakthrough.”
Falling apart was the gift that allowed me to surrender. I let go of striving to get somewhere, of trying to make things happen in my life. I’d spent years proving to myself and others that I had the perfect life. Ironically, “failing” at marriage was my salvation.
As I dragged myself out of bed each morning I would sink to the bathroom floor, my cheek pressed against the cold white tile, feeling my life as I knew it disintegrating around me. And in those moments I found myself letting go. And in that letting go I opened up to what life was asking of me, which was less about what I was supposed to DO or who I was married to, or if I was even married at all, and more about who I was here to BE.
And from that place of rock bottom I started to tune in and listen to the voice inside me instead of worrying what everyone else on the outside had to say. I paid attention to my inner desires. And I acted on them. I let the Universe know I was listening, and I believed I was being guided to follow a certain path, even though I wasn’t quite sure what it was.
Your purpose is not a fixed thing—a goal or an objective, something to obtain or achieve. It’s a path. And not just a path but a mystery. Not something you strive to find and then life all falls into place. As you seek to find your purpose, when you surrender to all the signs along the way, life becomes more interesting. You engage with life in a different way. Life becomes a treasure hunt. You may think your purpose is treasure, but it is in the seeking of the treasure that we find our purpose.
As I embarked on life as a journey versus a destination I took more risks. I stepped out of the comfort of my daily life and explored options I’d never considered.
Each leap of faith into the unknown left me breathless and wondering if I would come crashing to the ground. But I knew I was heading in the direction my soul wanted me to take because things improved. I was happier. Life got more interesting. I felt like a co-creator of my life instead of a responder to life’s urgencies.
My purpose has become a daily practice. I sit quietly and ask to be guided. “What is the next step?” “Where do I go now?” “How can I be of the best and highest good in this moment?” And I listen. And I follow.
I may never become famous or end world hunger, but I know I make a difference. I know my life has meaning and purpose. And each day I am open again to what that purpose is, letting go of what it was the day before.
As humans we cling to safety, comfort and security and we fear that “following our purpose” will lead to a life of perilous financial dips and 3 meals a day of Top Ramen Noodles or tuna out of the can. And you know what? It might. To live your life in a purposeful way you may need to make sacrifices and be uncomfortable.
Mary Clarke, profiled in the book Prison Angel, a housewife and mother, at the age of fifty, left her comfortable life in suburban Los Angeles to follow her spiritual calling. She became Mother Antonia, and for her remaining 37 years lived in Tijuana in one of Mexico’s most notorious jails to care for the prisoners. She had no hot water and slept on a prison cot and yet these were the most fulfilling years of her life. You never know where your purpose will lead you when you truly allow it.
As I reflect on my journey since the ending of my first marriage in my early thirties, I’ve learned so many lessons along the way. I’ve traveled my path from being a Wall Street banker to becoming an executive coach to a workshop leader. These roles have defined what I do, but who I am here to BE has evolved as I seek to be more true to myself.
We all have unique gifts and talents to share. We all can have a life of meaning and purpose. As we let go of the idea of who we are and stop clinging to all we have already done, if we can remain open to who we are becoming, more and more is revealed.
I find my work now is to remain open. To tune into my own unique “Sign Language” which continually allows me to better hear and interpret the Universal messages sent to guide me on my path. Often I feel like I am standing in the middle of a dark forest with a really crappy flashlight, only able to see a few feet ahead into the darkness. But that’s OK. A few feet is all I need to get where I need to go. It’s all any of us needs, really.
So go forth, crappy flashlight in hand, and start hacking through the forest. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.