Purposeful girlfriend

I called my girlfriend tonight as I walked out of work.  I usually never get a hold of her – we keep up with each other by leaving long-winded messages on voicemail.  Buy tonight she answered.  And we laughed. I needed that.

K is my soul-mate girlfriend.  We have known each other since first grade.  We are both highly opinionated and strong-willed.  We both believe in ourselves and stand up for our principles. We both are attorneys who have experienced all of the stress and politics of law firms.  We both believe in supporting organizations that care for the underprivileged.  We both hate the suburbs.  The only difference I can think of is the one we had a while back over who should be the 2008 candidate for President (she was for Hillary and I was for Obama; I should have listened to Kath).

K became a mama a little over a year ago when she adopted her precious baby girl. Now, in addition to talking about the woes of practicing law or the aches and pains of turning 40, we talk about raising kids.  Tonight, we discussed our never-ending search for our purpose in life.  K found herself running to the mall to buy something and then walking around for an hour looking at books promising to provide the meaning of life.  I told her I searched the internet last night for an hour googling “meaning of life” and “life’s purpose.”  Searching, searching, searching.  I don’t think it’s a bad activity but I also think that I could probably realize just as much if I allowed myself to take time to meditate and have some quiet time.  Then again, I would probably be like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love when she goes to the meditation school, sits down to meditate, and can only think about the twenty things she has to do and how she is being bad because she is not “meditating.”

M&M experiencing the joys of sliding!

We got on the conversation of kids.  Aren’t we supposed to feel happy and fulfilled because we have kids?  We are raising these helpless little creatures and showing them an exciting world where they can experience adventure and wonder.  What more can we ask for in life?  Obviously, lots.  Our conversation took me back to an article in 2008 in the Daily Beast.  The article reported studies that found that parents are less happy than non-parents.  More stressed, more depressed. Makes you want to take some birth control ASAP, heh?!  The article opines that maybe it’s because we are having kids at a later age and we look back to our 20s and even 30s and think “I loved having that martini with my girlfriends after work” or “How great was it to wake up on Saturday morning at 10 am, go for a run, and spend the day watching old movies.” None of those activities will see the light of day when babes arrive in the house.  Hell, I’m lucky to be ten minutes into a movie without some form of interruption whether it’s a kid crying or a toddler peeing the bed.

But the article did end with an interesting tidbit.   Although parents reported being less happy, they did find greater purpose in life when having children.  K and I agree that having our babes does push the purpose bar of our life up quite a bit.  There is no doubt that raising kids and experiencing the joys and depth of emotion that kids bring to you is purposeful. But it is not our only purpose.  And there we stand.  Still trying to search for that additional purpose for why we are here.  What more we can do in the second half of our lives to feel that we made the most out of this one, precious life?  It drives us nuts on many a day – we call one another and question “why can’t we just be content in our jobs and with our babies and our husbands and our homes?”  Don’t we “have it all?”  Obviously not.  In the end, as much as we joke that we wish we could just be unaware and unquestioning. I think it is yet another strength that we both carry.  Our ability to always search for more, to always push ourselves to grow, to always ask questions.  To have a girlfriend that I know is questioning right along side of me even if she is 100 miles away, provides a comfort to me that cannot be provided by any other soul.

Lighten Up!

Doing an alright job with these darlings

I had coffee with my girlfriend last week and spent a majority of the get-together lamenting about how I feel like I am not doing enough with my life.  She felt the same way.  We both tore off chunks of our chocolate chip muffin and shoved them in our mouths as if those morsels would satiate us and cease our thinking on this topic any further.  It didn’t work.

It doesn’t work for a lot of women, it seems.  I am around professional women all day (typically attorneys) and I can’t think of one that has felt she is doing everything she should be doing.  One feels like she should stay home more with her kids; another feels that she should express her artistic side more by joining a band; another feels like she should get more involved in her local community; another feels like she should be a first grade room mother for her son.  I always feel like I should be doing more to help the under-privileged. 

Here I am: a woman who worked throughout college and obtained a bachelor’s degree; worked as a Fitness Director; went to law school and obtained a JD; married a wonderful man and had two adorable children; beat out others for a great job with lots of flexibility; is blessed with good lungs for running; lives in an awesome neighborhood; has the most loving and accepting family; sits on the boards of two non-profit organizations; and can still eat a pint of ice cream a night!  What more could I ask for from life?

Obviously, with the way I think, LOTS!

I am part of a large crowd of women.  Should that make me feel better? It doesn’t.  It’s not that I want to stop pursuing ideals and goals that I set for myself, I just want to stop feeling like they should all be completed by 5 pm.  I want to stop beating myself up about not taking Maria to lunch when my colleague tells me about her lunch with her daughter.  I want to pat myself on the back when I take Maria and Mario to a board meeting to let them hear how people who are less privileged than us have to live.  I want to want a lot out of this life; I just want to do it keeping a smile on my face.  As writer Elizabeth Gilbert says “Lighten Up!” 

Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow in the decade to come. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted—by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you—trust me—for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes.

Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop.

Map your own life.