When I was an angst-ridden teenager I had many soul-searching days of reflection, anger, confusion. I did not like much of the world. All I saw was desperation, poverty, and negativity.
I asked my mother, "Mum, what is the meaning of life?" She sat for a moment and responded, "To raise your kids well."
This was not the answer I had anticipated or hoped for. I wanted a huge and resonating insight like, "the meaning of life is to end poverty and war in the world". I wanted a thunderclap and lightning bolt for a life purpose. I was also a fledgling feminist and the notion of my own mother suggesting that the meaning of life was to procreate and focus on child repeating ruffled my self-righteous feathers. Surely there is more to life than being a mother.
Being a half world away from my family, and a couple of decades older, I see of course the wisdom and gem my mother was offering me. (It must be incredibly frustrating as a parent to have to wait thirty years or more for your children to 'get' what you are telling them.) Humans are awfully slow learners.
You see what my mum was telling me that each of us has a calling. This is not about achievements, like climbing a mountain, or making a million dollars, or finding a chain of successful superstores.
The calling each of us has is to be the best we can be. To live in our greatness every day. For my mum, her greatness is about being a great mum. She approached motherhood with the love of an artist, with the passion of a sculptor, with the vision of any great businessperson. She believed wholeheartedly in the potential of her children and she nurtured this relentlessly (regardless of the tantrums, the ungrateful spoiled teenage years, and the arguments). My mum expressed her quality through her mothering. She taught us that it did not matter what you did for a living, just being great in doing it.
Mum is a great mum. She is also incredibly talented and creative. She nurtured her own greatness in creating a number of businesses, including an antique store, a visual display contracting service, a bed and breakfast inn (check it out at http://www.silverfoxinn.net ) a tea room, bed and bath retail supplies, and numerous renovations of houses. All her projects are done with exactitude, care, and passion. Her 'achievements' are really expressions of her own inner greatness, her own creative talents.
It is not about achieving the tick in the boxes. It is about being your best, each day, in whatever choices you make.
So if you are struggling with your life's purpose or mission, give up the struggle. Focus on your strengths, your passions, and allow yourself to be great. Whether you bake bread, dance, empty rubbish bins, lead a company, or raise your children- be great. Live in your greatness – happy at last in your own real skin.
Happy 59th birthday Mum. Thanks for all the life lessons. I love you.