My friend Britt once joked that perhaps her Life Purpose was cheesecake. “What if,” she said, “when I’m in my 70’s, I make a cheesecake that changes someone’s life? And that is actually the reason I was born?”
As we laughed, I enjoyed the notion that what we’ve come here to do may not be as grandiose as we imagine. Somehow, this idea took the pressure off. What if I quietly fulfill my Life Purpose in an instant, without my knowledge, as I serve up late night chocolate chip pancakes to some friends?
Britt, I like the way you think.
But the relief I felt was temporary. I could still feel us both wanting certainty about our calling in life, wanting to know for sure that we were on the right track. Will we ever find and fulfill our mission in life? Deep down, I was still hoping my Greater Purpose meant doing something outstanding someday. That’s how you know your life has had meaning, right? When you’re on The New York Times bestseller list. Or nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But really, what is enough to make me feel satisfied with my life? How will I know when I’ve arrived?
I’ve accomplished all sorts of individual and professional goals. I’ve dedicated time and energy to my personal and spiritual growth. I’ve contributed to the wellbeing of my friends, families, and community.
And still, at times I wonder if I’ve done anything worthwhile with my life . . .
Not knowing why we’re here
The other day at a Conversations on Death & Dying gathering I attended, the facilitator guided the discussion by asking us “Why were you born?” I could feel most people in the group inhale at the same time, as if to get enough oxygen to take in this quintessential question.
Why was I born?
I’ve lived, thus far, what I consider to be a purposeful life. Social issues have motivated me since my youth, and I’ve tended to be focused on one mission or another for most of my life. I have often asked myself the question “what is the purpose of my life?” in order to guide my decisions. Given this, my answer surprised me.
“I don’t know,” I said.
I didn’t mean my life thus far has lacked meaning. Nor did I mean I am currently flailing through life without purpose. I meant what Britt meant about the cheesecake. That perhaps figuring out the reason we’re here isn’t the point. That we can choose to live our lives trusting that even one seemingly insignificant moment may satisfy our Life Purpose and entire existence. I’m willing to accept this.
Then again, what if I don’t know why I was born because every moment is a Cheesecake Moment?
Knowing why we’re here
Days before my life-partner Kate died of cancer at age 42, she also said she “didn’t know.” But it wasn’t about not knowing why she was born. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“I didn’t know,” she said over and over, “I didn’t know.” Tears streamed down her face as she laid on the sofa that had become her bed.
For weeks, I had been reading daily messages to her that people posted on a CaringBridge website we had set up to communicate about her health situation. On the site’s guestbook, friends, family, and sometimes even strangers shared about what Kate meant to them. Some shared sentiments about her presence, her laugh, her hugs, and some said what a wise teacher and joyful role model she had been. Others offered details of times in their lives when Kate said or did one specific thing that changed their lives.
“What didn’t you know?” I asked, looking into her watery eyes.
“I didn’t know,” she said softly, “that I touched so many people. Just by being me.”
The most important part
I squinted at her in disbelief. How could she not know this? She was such a bright light who clearly was adored by so many people. The influence she had on others seemed so obvious.
We cried together at this profound and beautiful truth. I had witnessed what I consider her moment of “self-realization.” Kate’s entire life – every bit of it – now had meaning in the deepest way possible. For decades, she often wondered what her Life Purpose was and if she would ever find it. Since she didn’t have one focus or career path, she thought she may have missed the Purpose Boat altogether.
With the heartfelt words of others pouring in, Kate discovered she HAD lived her purpose, to be who she had been born to be . . . Herself. It had been right under her nose all along, so simple she had almost overlooked it. She could finally let go of any notions that she’d be “incomplete” when she left her body behind.
The morning after Kate died, I sat at the kitchen table writing her obituary. I wrote about her being an organic farmer and tie-dye artist in Vermont, about being a Laughter Yoga teacher, energy healer and painter. I wrote about her beautiful smile, upbeat and playful nature, and huge loving heart. And then Kate’s spirit chimed in: Tell them the most important part.
With her guidance, I added: “Most notably, Kate made a difference in the world by simply being herself.”
I could see her spirit smiling at the words. Not because it was about her, but because this was her message to everyone else. Be who you are. That is enough. That is everything. I felt like she was jumping up and down saying “You’ve all already fulfilled your purpose! Isn’t that amazing?!”
Embodying your life purpose
Over a year after her death, Kate’s spirit communicated with me again about the realization she had just days before she died:
I didn’t truly complete or live my soul purpose until that moment, because while I was being me before that, I hadn’t yet fully embraced that I was enough. Then it all came together. I did it! I embodied myself for the first time. And you know what embodiment is? Unconditional love. For the first time, I didn’t judge myself. I loved ‘what is.’ I loved me as I am.”
So perhaps it won’t be your perfect flaky homemade crust that transforms the world. But perhaps it will be the love baked in to that apple pie. Or the smile with which you offer it. Or the kindness with which you serve it.
While we may, in fact, make a cheesecake someday that touches someone’s life in profound ways, it’s more likely that we have spontaneously made hundreds and thousands of life-changing “cheesecake moments” without even knowing it. This is Kate’s message to us all. Being you is enough. Being you is your birthright. Being you IS your life purpose.
Which means you fulfilled your Life Purpose the moment you were born . . . and that you’ve been living it ever since. Congratulations! Question: Who would be surprised to find out they touched your life in a meaningful way, just by being Who They Are? Consider telling them today! Let’s remind each other that being who we are IS our Life Purpose. You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Question: Who would be surprised to find out they touched your life in a meaningful way, just by being Who They Are? Consider telling them today! Let’s remind each other that being who we are IS our Life Purpose. You can leave a comment by clicking here.