I have been doing a bit of reading, or well listening, on this topic beyond "The Gifts of Imperfection" to see if I can unravel what exactly everyone means by meaningful work/higher calling/life's purpose/soul's work. These phrases are tossed around a lot by the likes of Oprah, Deepak Chopra, and recently in a telejam (I love that word!) by Martha Beck, Lissa Rankin and Amy Ahlers. called Find Your Calling: Awaken Your Life Purpose, Clarify Your Vision & Do Your Soul's Work which you should be able to access as a recording.
While everyone comes at it a bit differently, the essential message is the same: we all have something within us that we were meant to share or do or create in this lifetime and wasting that gift, denying your purpose will cause extreme distress in your life which can be manifested in a myriad of ways.
We often feel bound by what others and the world in general hold up as the measure for success, or by what society and or families expectations are---which leaves us too exhausted to feel the subtle whispering of our spirit as it tries to nudge us each time we find ourselves drawn to writing or drawing or teaching or advocating on someone else's behalf.
Often, because what moves us may not pay the bills, we relegate it to a dark, dusty corner of our minds---to be taken out and encouraged when everything else is done and quickly tossed aside like a dirty sock when our time is demanded elsewhere. Doubt runs roughshod over our divine spirit --- we are never good enough or special enough or important enough or focusing enough of what is "really important".
In my travels through the Adult Day Treatment Program at the hospital I was lucky enough to meet some wonderful people. E ---quiet, shy 18 year old E who hardly ever makes eye contact---can draw and write and paint, has a black belt and used to teach others! C used to do acrobatic dancing, tap, jazz and could flip in mid-air! L owned her own brokerage business and R played guitar, piano and had a fantastic voice! L owned a farm with chickens, goats, a horse and baby pigs and was raising 5 kids and was under 40! C fostered animals and had opened her home to a dozen or so dogs over the past few years ensuring they each lived healthy, full lives, protected under her roof as part of the family.
Each person I met was wonderfully gifted and I felt like the odd one out. Astounded, they would rally around me and say---but you have 3 university degrees and did your last one as a single mom! None of us saw what we did as special. It was just who we were.
I read a blog post awhile ago and I can't remember the source, where the author talked about how they worked all day and upon arriving home--they were too tired to enjoy their "life". It became a vicious cycle of work----veg on couch---sleep---work.
They already knew what they wanted to do with their free time (blog, meditate, exercise, bake/cook) so someone suggested to them that they try getting up early. And by early I don't mean setting your alarm 10 minutes sooner. I mean 5:30 AM early.
She decided to put her life, before work---figuratively AND literally.
So from 5:30 until 7:30 she had the house to herself. No kids, spouse, friends, telemarketers.
It became possible to do some yoga, write, bake and even get groceries (if you live near a 24 hour grocery store). She went to work energized, relaxed and with a whole back pocket full of things she had already accomplished for the day---including knowing what she was going to make for dinner. By 6 PM when she got home she was tired---but after eating ---she had a couple of hours still before bed to get other things done.
Now I am not suggesting this is the answer for everyone---but if you are so exhausted by 8 that all you can do is veg on the couch--no wonder you don't feel like dancing or singing or knitting or learning how to read Tarot cards.
But in the quiet of the morning hours---just think how much easier it would be to spend even 30 minutes revisiting the things that make your heart sing---or reflecting on times when you felt the most purposeful you ever have---and unraveling where that comes from --and how you can get it back!
The thing I will borrow directly from The Gifts of Imperfection is the quote by theologian Howard Thurman (who I never would have found if it weren't for this chapter!), which states:
Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.