Monday, March 14, 2011

Perfect for your Purpose

Today I stopped by my parent's house on my way to work at the dance studio, and I was talking to my dad about what he'd been up to lately.  He serves as an adult advisor for a peer led spiritual retreat in Little Rock called Search.  When I was in high school, I attended Search and was very involved with the program.  It had a huge impact on my life at the time.  Shortly after I graduated and went to college, my dad got involved on the adult team, and he has been helping out ever since.  There are some truly amazing individuals who are selected to be on the "Search team" that leads the retreat.  To this day, I envy the strength of conviction and purpose that some of these kids have for God.  Maybe I had that, too, when I was in their place.

Anyway, I digress.....this past weekend was the spring Search retreat.  I asked my dad how the weekend went, and he said it went great.  The team did a wonderful job. The "Searchers" (retreat participants) had a great weekend.  Everything went well.  He also told me about a conversation that took place during the weekend that really struck me as important.  One team member was talking about a feeling of inadequacy.  That he could never be all that he was supposed to be or all that God wanted him to be.  He felt constantly humbled and unable to reach his potential.  Another team member responded to him by saying "You are perfect for your purpose."  

You are perfect for your purpose.  Those six words contain so much meaning.  I know, that like this guy, I feel like I'm so much less than I could be.  I read that it is scientifically proven that women are more contemplative than men, and therefore, are more prone to discontent.  Well, I'm pretty sure I help prove that statistic on an almost daily basis.  When I'm driving or at the gym or doing anything that doesn't involve a lot of thought, I find myself constantly examining the state of my life.  And typically I'm examining how it can be better, not how it's already great.  While my happiness project has changed that somewhat and made me a lot more positive and grateful, I still struggle to see the good sometimes.  Especially in myself.  

You are perfect for your purpose.  Ever since my dad told me that story earlier tonight, those words have been running through my head.  However, they are quickly followed by a question: "What is my purpose?"  I think being in that "middle place" between college and a "real job" makes it hard to answer that question.  So many people find purpose in their work.  I find a lot of satisfaction and purpose in teaching dance.  In a broader sense, I think I just find a lot of purpose in teaching.  I felt the same way about student teaching and believe I'll feel that way even more once I find my first teaching job.  For me, being in a classroom really is a perfect fit.  It gives me purpose and satisfaction and happiness, even when it's frustrating and overwhelming.  But I believe we all should have a purpose beyond our daily work, and I think that's what this kid meant when he said we're perfect for our purpose.  Human beings, in general, are a communal species.  We enjoy, for the most part, being a part of a whole or a group.  So maybe our purpose is to enhance or benefit the lives of those around us.  I know that sometimes even the tiniest gesture of kindness--a smile or a knowing look--can have a huge impact on my mood.  In the same way, a rude or biting comment can ruin a whole day.  Nobody is perfect, but it never hurts to strive toward that goal.  I may not know my "perfect purpose," but I know I can be perfect for the purpose of being a positive person, both for myself and for others, if I try really hard.

Friday, March 11, 2011

60% Compatibility, 40% Compromise

I recently read in Cosmopolitan magazine that most people are only 60% compatible with other people, namely, their significant other.  Thanks Cosmo, so much for the concept of soul mates.....

First of all, I would be interested to meet the scientist or statistician who decided that you could quantify compatibility.  I think that's weird.  Second of all, once I got past the fact that this statistic was a pretty pessimistic way of looking at relationships in general, I decided that said weird, pessimistic statistician was probably right.  I'm fully aware that I am NOT a relationship expert.  I am definitely no Dr. Phil (although I have my doubts about his expertise, too).  However, I think I have enough experience to agree that relationships are 60% compatibility and 40% compromise.  

About eight months ago, I ended a long relationship with a guy I had dated since high school.  He was (and still is) an awesome person.  What was great about him was that not only were we dating, but he was also an excellent friend.  I can honestly say that for probably the most impressionable six years of my life, he was my best friend.  However, we may have been 60% compatible, but I was not willing to make some of the compromises that the relationship, ultimately, would have required.  I'm pretty sure relationships begin and end in the 40%.  

Since that breakup, I've had the opportunity to really "date" in the casual sense for the first time.  The thing is, I got to a place where  I didn't want to compromise.  I had a set of standards, and I was banking on the idea that there had to be another human being with that same set of standards.  Maybe there is.  However, I am less and less sure about that, and more and more sure that the compromising is necessary.  Now, I just think you have to find that person for whom you're willing to compromise.  When I say compromise, I don't mean change your core value or beliefs or any of those things that are intrinsic to your character.  For example, I would consider myself very open-minded in many ways, and I have a pretty broad and varied group of friends.  I dated a guy for a little while who was extremely close-minded and, I would venture to say, a tab bit judgmental.  Fun guy.  I liked him; I just could not imagine myself introducing him to my friends.  Deal breaker.  By compromise, what I mean is that, we have to develop a certain level of patience for other people's eccentricities.  Everyone has their hangups and habits, and to make a relationship work, one has to ultimately find the hangups and habits of their significant other endearing.  

Maybe the reason we're only 60% compatible is that nobody's perfect.  I know I'm not.  I'm pretty positive it's going to take a saint to find my sass and and hangups and habits endearing.  For now, I'm pretty optimistic about that person's existence.  Guess we'll just leave it at that.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Lent. The season of sacrifice. Forty days to give something up for God. As a girl who grew up Catholic and attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, the purpose and meaning of Lent has been drilled into me for quite some time now. I kind of viewed it as a "Jesus suffered and now it's your turn" time of year. When I was a kid, I don't think I quite understood exactly what I was doing every Lent when I gave up candy or Cokes, knowing that in forty days I would binge on whatever it was I sacrificed the minute Easter rolled around. Then, as I got older, I started to view Lent as more of a "New Year's Resolution" opportunity. Give up something I know is bad for me and try to keep it up. Hence, I still gave up sweets or Diet Coke. One year I even gave up processed food (a MUCH harder, and more expensive, undertaking than one might imagine).

However, this year I was having a hard time deciding what I wanted to do for Lent. The idea of sacrifice is such a negative one. It denotes pain and suffering and unhappiness. I mean, come on, Jesus' sacrifice involved DYING. But this morning during my daily "browse the Internet for news/check Facebook" time I ran across this quote about sacrifice:

“The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy. The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him.” Mahatma Gandhi

Smart guy, that Gandhi. For some reason, this little snippet gave me so much clarity on the meaning of Lent. Sacrifice is an opportunity to fine tune our lives. It opens up the door for a greater happiness. Jesus suffered and sacrificed a LOT, but then he got to spend eternity in Heaven and save humanity. I'd say that's a pretty awesome "peace and joy" payoff. I am almost positive I will not be saving humanity any time during the next forty days, but I think I can find a little peace and joy myself. When I started reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project in January, I discovered that she, too, saw the value in making sacrifices in the name of greater clarity. Whether it was a sacrifice of time, by adding something to her life, or a sacrifice of a longheld belief, her sacrifices brought her peace and joy. My little "happiness project" resolutions have fallen to the wayside recently, so that is definitely something I'll be picking back up this Lent. I still haven't decided exactly what I'm giving up, but I am happy to say that I now, for maybe the first time, feel like I have more of an understanding of exactly why I'm giving it up. And I would say that's a very positive first step.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Update on the "Give and Take"

In less than 24 hours, I have already found several ways to be a "giver."  I am SUPER excited about this quick progress, and I promised to be a better blogger, hence a new entry MUCH sooner than normal.  Granted, some of these things have started to become habit and routine, but I am thrilled to report that I gave myself all kinds of reasons to be happy this morning.
  • I woke up at 7 am and visited the gym
  • I had coffee with a long, lost friend, who I have missed dearly over the past few months
  • I was nice to the rude person in the Starbucks line behind me 
  • I treated myself to a massage on the spur of the moment.  Spontaneity is not my strong point and making time for frivolous treats like this isn't either, so I was proud of this snap decision 
So there you are.  Four reasons why this day has been fantastic.  The thing is, now I just have to try and keep it up. We'll see how long the giving lasts....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Give and Take

My last post was titled "Patience is a Virtue."  Congratulations to anyone who reads this blog.  You are officially virtuous, seeing as you've had to wait an entire month for a new blog entry.  However, I am promising (once again) that I will be more consistent.  That is finally starting to look like more of a possibility with my life reaching a more even keel and a more normal pace.  By normal, of course, I mean my version of normal, which includes having three jobs.  I believe "normal" to be a sliding scale.  Everybody's is just a little different.  Anyway, in spite of my lack of commitment to the blog, I have made what I think are great strides toward grownup-hood in the past month.

  • I attended a teacher's fair and filled out ten different district applications in hopes of finding my dream teaching position.
  • I got my first interview (YAY!!)
  • I bought cute, yet professional, teacher clothes for teacher's fair and interview mentioned above.  
  • I started waking up at 5:30 AM every single morning to make time for the gym. 
  • And last, and most definitely my favorite, I have started taking time to cook dinner.  From scratch.
I know this may seem like a very small list of very mundane accomplishments, but I was proud of myself.  Mostly because all of these things required me to make time for myself.  Recently, I was talking to a close friend about some people within our group of friends.  We were discussing how relationships are all about the "give and take."  Some people are more naturally givers, while others are takers.  The key to a strong, positive friendship, romantic relationship, or really any relationship is to strike the balance between the give and the take.  After we talked, I started thinking about the "give and take" in terms of my relationship with myself.  I realized that I have been being a "taker."  I was taking away time that I desperately needed for myself and giving to other things and commitments (i.e. work, school, errands, etc.) so that I have rarely, over the past four years, had any time for myself.

So, this very small list of very mundane accomplishments is the beginning of my decision to be more of a giver.  Yes, I will give myself time to go have coffee with a friend I've missed.  Yes, I will give myself time to work out and feel good about myself.  Yes, I will give myself time to improve my spirituality and my intellect by reading and thinking and praying.  I have found that, as an adult, it is SO easy to fill every block of time with an activity, to block out the possibility of having to think about scary things like an unknown future.  But you know what?  I'm going to give myself time for that, too, because I think the unknown is starting to look less and less scary and more and more exciting.