(Quick interjection ... I'm so bummed with the full-time work gig for a number of reasons but one of the big ones is that it totally digs in to my blogging time. If anyone out there is wondering why I don't write as often as I used to - or share more interesting nuggets from our lives - the answer lies in responsibility. Wah! It's so tough being a grown-up!)
Rewind three months ago ... going in to the Corporate Athlete course, Corporate Athlete veterans told me that I was going to write my "old story" and my "new story." And in the span of three days, I would discover my Ultimate Mission in life. I was so excited because more than just about anything, I need an Ultimate Mission. Or at least some clarity around that which I'm striving towards, everyday.
On the first day of class, our instructor told us the story of a professional tennis player who came to the institute several years ago. She was struggling both on and off the courts and was displaying a temper that was not conducive to successfully marketing the game. They sat this professional tennis player down and asked her the simple question, "Why do you play tennis?"
Is it for the awesome outfits?
She thought for just a moment before responding, "To win! I want to be the #1 tennis player in the world." So the instructor got up and drew a picture of a headstone on the blackboard and she wrote the woman's name and beneath it, added, "SHE WAS #1." Then she stood back and said, "Once you're gone, is this how you want to be remembered?"
So the instructor got up and erased her previous drawing and sketched another headstone. In the center she wrote, "SHE HAD NICE THINGS." Then she stood back, again, and said, "Is that better?" The tennis player became indignant. "That's not what I mean at all! You don't understand me!" and she stormed out of the room.
Two days later, she came back. When she did, our instructor said it was as though she had been transformed in to someone else. She was positively confident and radiant as she walked up to the blackboard and drawing a headstone, wrote in the middle, "SHE WAS SUNSHINE."
She then went on to explain that she took some time to think about what her purpose in life was. And after much soul-searching, she determined that her purpose was to be a light for others. She wanted to motivate people and inspire others that if they apply themselves - they, too, can do great things.
According to our instructor, once this tennis player was "aligned" with what became the foundation of her Ultimate Mission, she went on to do amazing things. She became the #1 tennis player in the world, and an advocate for young women.
Immediately after the instructor told us this story, she posed the question to all of us (and which I now pose to you): "What is your Purpose in life?"
In order to answer that larger question, we first had to ask ourselves questions like:
1. What legacy do you want to leave behind?
2. How do you want people to describe you?
3. Who do you want to be?
4. Who/what matters the most to you?
5. What are your deepest values?
6. How would you define success in your life?
7. What makes your life really worth living?
After writing my "old story" those justifications for why I'm not on the right track - namely, I'm too busy! I have too much responsibility! I can't add one more thing to my plate or the whole thing will collapse! I came to realize that I am not fully committed to my core values because I feel so divided with what I'm supposed to be doing. As a result, I put out fires constantly and feel overwhelmed and my mind is scattered and I lack the ability to make decisions.
To be the most loving, supportive, compassionately engaged mother, wife and person that I can be. To possess a strong mind, body and spirit and through a kind and deliberately focused existence, inspire those whose lives I touch with wisdom, courage and humor.
Then I came home and quit my job.
(Just kidding ... I haven't quit my job yet.)
But I got back in to the work routine and chuga-chuga-chuga life keeps passing by and Ultimate Mission? To be blunt: I'm not doing too much with it at the moment. Funny how things so quickly revert back to status-quo with out constant attention and refinement.
This past week, our family took a vacation to Spruce Pine, North Carolina where we went horseback riding through the Appalachian Mountains every day. It was amazing and invigorating and I could literally feel my severely depleted spiritual cup filling back up to the brink.
Our trail guide was a wonderful, wonderful woman. And because I'm nothing if not my mother's daughter and therefore, extremely chatty with strangers .... I asked this woman how she was so fortunate as to work smack dab in the middle of God's Paradise.
Her answer totally surprised and deeply inspired me.
It turns out, she is an investment banker, taking a hiatus to care for her ailing father who lives in a nearby town. Although her first priority is to care for her dad, she felt like she needed to do something for her spirit. So when her grown son told her that a local ranch was looking for trail guides, she landed the job. Horses were her therapy. She'd grown up in North Carolina around them and could actually ride before she could walk. When she was young, she fell in love, married, and had two beautiful boys. But her husband, it would later turn out, was abusive.
Emotionally at first, and then physically.
It didn't begin that way, she told me. He dazzled her and swept her right off her boot-clad feet. What started out as minor criticisms began to escalate until he verbally cut her down and made her feel worthless. And that's when the physical abuse started. When her best friend asked WHY she'd ever fall in love with a man who beat her, she replied, "I didn't. No one would ever fall in love with some one who beats them up .... they know they have to earn your trust first."
She stayed in that horrible situation until she could see that her husband was influencing her little boys who were then only five and seven-years-old. And when she realized that if she didn't summon the courage to GET OUT, she would be allowing her young and impressionable boys to be influenced by their abusive father. She shook her head at the memory. "I couldn't get away to save myself, but I absolutely HAD to get away to save my boys because there was no way I wanted them to grow up thinking it was acceptable to treat a woman that way."
In order to give her boys the best life she could, she felt like she had to move away. She didn't want to settle for working minimum wage jobs and sending her children to a low-ranking school, so she packed up her boys and left for Pennsylvania. She worked up to three jobs at a time, in order to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Eventually, she found her way in to investment banking and really hit her stride. She met another man, a good man, and she fell in love. She remarried. Her little boys grew in to kind men, graduated from high school, attended college and one is recently married and currently serving in the Air Force.
When her dad became sick, she moved back to North Carolina to care for him. And when this job on the ranch came up, she thought she'd try it out for a little while. She says she feels like she needs to pinch herself because she's no longer stuck in the drudgery and bureaucracy of paper pushing. While she's not pulling in the big pay check anymore, she says, "It's not as important to me as it was and life is way too short to not do the things that I really love." Then she added with a wink, "Of course it certainly helps that my husband is still working and allowing me to pursue this crazy dream...."
On day three of our riding, she told me that she'd been written up in magazines and one newspaper followed her story for several months. Although she said that she doesn't like being in the lime light and would prefer not to have the public attention, she feels like her mission in life is to inspire women who are in abusive relationships. She said that once the newspaper article came out, so many of her friends, colleagues and even family, were shocked. They'd had NO idea the situation she had been in and she says that was because she did such a good job of covering it up. Now she feels that if speaking about her own personal experiences helps to change just one person's life - her suffering will not have been in vain.
OK then! Three things!
1. I really love this woman. She and I exchanged addresses and I have every intention of staying in touch and if I can ever convince a group of my girlfriends / cousins / sisters to join me ... I'd love to take her up on the offer of a girls-only weekend camping / horseback riding adventure.
3. I still feel like my Ultimate Mission is accurate, but like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, I need a big dose of courage to bring some of my dreams to fruition.
What makes a king out of a slave? COURAGE!
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? COURAGE!
What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder?
What makes the dawn come up like thunder?
What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the "ape" in apricot?
What have they got that I ain't got?
(But, I do have an awesome blue fishing hat!!)