One of the most life changing things I have ever done was to see my life and what I did as having meaning. A purpose. Even when I am uncomfortable. Even when I do not know what to do or what it all means. Even when what I am doing goes against the status quo, or what it is that someone else expects of me.
It wasn’t always like this for me. For many, many years I had no sense of purpose. That meant that I made destructive, trivial and nonsensical things important. Very important. It was all that I had. That meant that things like partying, how I looked, what other people thought of me, and what degree I had were where I put all of my energies. Were what I made my purpose. These things defined me. They said, “This is who I am, and this is why I am here.”
Then I became a mother. Unexpectedly, the experience culminated in what St. John of The Cross called “The Dark Night of the Soul.” A time of total upheaval. A time when everything I believed in and valued got called into question. It was excruciating. And it was disruptive. It felt like I was being torn limb from limb from the inside out. What prompted it? A vow to value the life of my children. A vow to live on purpose for them.
This heartfelt commitment put me on the path of purpose and meaning. One far greater than I had ever known. One that while being done for another, gave me back to myself in a way that I had never experienced before. But not before passing through all of the ways that I had made the wrong things be the most purposeful and meaningful in my life. But in the end, through committing to valuing and protecting the life of my children, I came to do the same for myself. And then, for the world. I would never be where I am today had I not made a firm commitment to show up for them. Relentlessly and tirelessly.
Showing up for another is some of the most powerful personal medicine on the planet. Showing up in this way has nothing to do with being a martyr. It has nothing to do with being co-dependent. It has nothing to do with sacrificing yourself in some distorted way where you ignore your own needs. Or where your over-doing somehow manipulates the other into giving you what you need. What I am talking about here is real, healthy, good old- fashioned sacrifice.. A kind of subjugating yourself to something more than yourself. And it does not have to be big, flashy, visible or institutionalized. As a matter of fact, at its best it shows up as needed. No questions asked.
Showing up for another means just that. It is a “come as you are party.” One where you bring yourself and what you have in the service of another. You don’t need much. Or anything specific. You do not need a degree, and it is not about being perfect. Nor is it about giving to the detriment of yourself. Or to the detriment of the other by doing for them what is best done by them.
Through your devotion to another life, you will find yourself at the center of perhaps the most meaningful purpose you will ever stumble into. It puts me in mind of a wise woman who when I was in the midst of doubting whether or not I had what it took to be the mother of a very difficult baby, said to me “She already knew what kind of a mother she was going to get. This is about you being the mother you are, for you.“
And there it is. When we give ourselves over to something more than ourselves, at some point it takes a big U-turn and heads straight back for us. It’s a boomerang effect where what you receive is the equivalent of what you give. Only, that can’t be the reason why you do it. The powerful, fulfilling, and life-changing boon you will gain access to comes only when your intentions are pure. In other words, done in the service of another. Done in the service of real human needs being recognized, honored and met.
Try it for yourself. Make a commitment to show up for another. Give yourself over to it and watch. Watch how it helps you to get out of your own way. Watch how through the giving, you find yourself over and over again; beyond your self-imposed limitations, beyond your hang-ups, neuroses, failings, and self-preoccupations.
And isn’t this exactly the medicine of the day? One that considers more than our own limited agendas. One that has the power to propel us into the most purpose-filled lives we never could have ever imagined. One that prompts us to show up for another. What could be better? What could be more healing and satisfying than this?