I know a lot of people fantasize about winning the lottery. In the dream, they tell their bosses to take this job and shove it, and they live out the rest of their days free and easy, living large and in charge. The idea of not having to do anything, and being able to decide how to spend our time seems achingly compelling. In fact, we have a whole structure around this possibility--it's called retirement. In a perfect world, for many of us, we get to stop working while we still have some physical and mental capabilities left, and we live out our golden years doing...something. The question, however, is what? I'm still with Butch O'Neal and the Black Dagger Brotherhood, which is ironic, as he is one of my least favorite characters. But he's offered me a lot of food for thought. Which seems to happen a lot—people I don't like being the ones to teach me things I need to learn. But I digress. What's new? Anyhoo, I've talked about how Butch was plucked from his life to become involved with the Brotherhood here. One of the many things I love about JR Ward is that she doesn't take the easy path. Instead of Butch riding into the sunset with the Brotherhood, we see what happens to him, living on the margins of their world. Butch has a place to live, a killer couture wardrobe and close friendships with the Brothers. Sounds just like the won the lottery, right? Except the one thing. Butch doesn't have something to do. An activity that provides purpose for his life. A reason to get up in the morning and greet the day with enthusiasm. And without that, he's lost and miserable.
People think it would be wonderful to have all the free time in the world. What do you do with that time? What do you do when you have no place you have to be in the morning? How do you structure your days so that they are purpose filled, without any external scaffolding? It's a question my husband, as a financial advisor, faces from his clients all the time. It's a question some of my friends are asking themselves. Is there life after work? Is there life before and during work if the work is not meaningful? Where do we find meaning, if not in purpose?
I'm not saying that not having to worry constantly about money isn't great. It most certainly is. But I'm also not saying that having the means to choose how to spend one's time is the walk in the park that those who don't have that luxury think it is. Because it's not, as Butch so clearly shows us. Yes, it's nice to have great clothes and to live in a great place. But even when we have meaningful relationships in our lives, there is still something missing when we lack purpose to fill our time, engaging in activities that express ourselves in some way and go beyond the necessary to the visceral.
We all engage in necessary activities. We bathe. We sleep. We eat. But unless eating also involves cooking, and unless the cooking is an expression of our creative center (which it most definitely is not for me), then we are just doing what we need to do to survive, but not to thrive. And this is true when our activities consist of the actions necessary to fulfill our responsibilities to those we love. I take great satisfaction in feeding my family and supporting them in their endeavors. There is joy in such activity sometimes as well. But these actions don't feed my soul, which needs action of a different sort.
What action is that, you may ask? Great question, and one I've spent considerable time contemplating. What feeds the soul? On my Twitter profile (@truthinfantasy), I have a quote from Walt Whitman that says, "Whatever satisfies the soul is truth." I love this quote. But what does it mean? Where do we find our truths? Unfortunately, no one can answer that question but us. And it's not necessarily an easy question to answer, although some of us are blessed with certainty in their passion, I'm not one of them. I'm a multi-passionate person. I haven't been able to focus down on any one thing that provides purpose in my life. But I haven't stopped looking.
Because there is power in purpose. It is the power that fuels great feats of human achievement and drives us to excellence. Purpose gives us wings to fly and the ability to do things we didn't think ourselves capable of. Without purpose, we tend to be sad sacks of flesh housing blood and bones, without the animation of inspiration. So it is worth looking for, and worth rejoicing when we find it.
I’ll give you a hint about Butch. He finds his purpose in the end. HEA and all of that. Would that it were so easy for the rest of us. Having said that, I must also say that I love JR Ward. She "gets" all of this, and more. She has clearly found her purpose in life and thank God for that, as she brings joy to thousands, if not millions. And I have found some purpose and quite a bit of power in writing about her brilliant books. Good stuff all around. For today, it's enough to thrive.