Purpose

I blogged about legacy recently. I came up with what I consider to be the components of a life well lived. A life well lived is a good legacy after all. Here’s what I came up with.

Who are you?
What is your purpose?
What are you doing to achieve that purpose?
What do you stand for?
How did you make people feel?

I touched on the whole “who are you?” question. Now I want to explore purpose. For as long as I can remember I have asked big questions within. While I never outwardly projected as particularly educated, worldly, or intellectual, I always knew that I was capable of deep spirituality and able to ask profound and meaningful questions. Unfortunately, I did it within myself. So as I outwardly led a somewhat meaningless life I was at all times looking for my place in this world. I’ve always believed that everyone has a purpose, well maybe not everyone. Some people seem to occupy space without offering anything that resembles rent. But then it also occurs to me that maybe someone thought that about me! So touche’ I suppose. But I digress.

Finding one’s purpose is the ultimate goal of existence. If you are a believer in any higher power it logically follows that you are here for a reason. It is our obligation to realize the why, learn the how, and then put it to work. The first mistake you can make is to assume that one’s purpose is large in scope. A tiny rock thrown into a lake creates a ripple that grows and grows. One person standing up can start a movement that can topple a regime. One act of kindness could save a life and inspire a movement. And apparently, a shitload of cliches and platitudes can become a blog. Sorry, I had to.

God gives everyone a purpose, it is up to us to find out what it is. I found my purpose around the time I found my identity. When I dropped my hardass image, my Limbaugh-Conservative anger, and the “I’m in control and don’t-care-what-people-think” persona and recognized that it’s ok to be a nice guy with a good heart and open mind I found liberation. Nothing less. All of it occurred due to my story.

“He [God] doesn’t promise our stories will make sense, but He does promise they’ll find their greater purpose if we’re patient.”
Father Stu.

There it is. My story is who I am today. It didn’t make sense to me for a long time. But “why me?” eventually evolved into “why not me?” and the humbling journey into the pit of chronic illness taught me lessons that nothing else could ever have. I have lost almost everything in my life and I found positives in all of it. I will not lie and tell you that I was always upbeat but I always found a way to claw my way back to it. In the process, I became a person that some found inspirational. My story, and the consequent person that I became from it, became my purpose. Now, I use the new attitude of gratitude to help other people. I can only do so because I have finally found peace with who and what I am. To hell with big houses, big bank accounts, and big egos. Here’s to living within my means, seeking just enough, and small gestures to make the world a better place. I have found my purpose.

Legacy

Here’s an intense topic for Tuesday.
Legacy.
What will people say about me when I’m gone is something I think about often. Now, before I continue, it needs to be said that I don’t care how many people show up and how many “likes” the inevitable FB post about my passing may get. I just want to be a fly on the wall and see if five words are used in conversation:
“He was a good guy.”
That’s it, that’s all that I want. It seems that after all of those years of keeping up with the Jones’s, trying to climb the corporate ladder and make obscene amounts of money, and being a high-profile member of the many fraternities and groups that I belong to, it seems that my only goal now is to be a good person.
OK, so where is this going you ask? It is an extension of my earlier conversation on identity. I have come to realize that your identity is not a singular entity. It has many components:
Who are you?
What is your purpose?
What are you doing to achieve that purpose?
What do you stand for?
How did you make people feel?

If you can be consistent with all of these concepts, you will have achieved a legacy to be proud of. You will be remembered well.
Be someone that is remembered for the right reasons.
Be someone that is known for accomplishment, and serving a purpose.
Be remembered as a person that risked something to serve that purpose.
Stand for something so meaningful that you may have died for it.
Be someone who is not only remembered, but someone who will be missed.

As a fly on the wall of my own funeral, if I don’t hear the words, “he was a good guy”, then at least I hope I don’t hear, “he was a useless asshole”. There, I have opened up what may end up being a very big can of worms.
Brace yourselves.

My legacy

I don’t write often about my experience as a parent. I’m surprised at myself because raising my children is one of the few things I feel I was successful. It didn’t always seem that way, I have an awful lot of regrets about the environment they were raised in with all of the fighting and marital hostility. In fact, there was a time that I truly thought that my kids would have no chance at happiness after seeing some of the debacles that took place in my house. I’m not proud and I don’t think my ex is either. I stayed awake many nights lamenting the things said and heard and beat myself up mercilessly for allowing myself to get into it with her constantly in front of the kids. Yet she continued to bait me, like a fat kid with a cupcake, and I fell into it. The fighting was brutal.

For my part, I was quick to apologize to them and tried to explain to them what was happening but it was difficult to do without making myself look innocent, which I certainly wasn’t, and not making their mother the villain. I vowed that I would never ever play the kids against their mother ever, kids are not a pawn. I wish I could say the same for my ex. When I attempted to pack my shit and leave one day, her first reaction was to say, “If you think you’re going to waltz in here and see the kids whenever you want you’re sadly mistaken.”
Yup, I knew it. She was one of those parents.
Then the kids asked me to stay. My oldest daughter clinched it with one sentence. “Dad, you can’t leave, she’ll be so much worse if you aren’t here.” There you have it. So I stayed. For 10 miserable, hostile and sexless fucking years I stayed because of the kids. Many people advised me that it was a mistake but I know I did the right thing. First of all, my happiness is secondary to theirs and always will be. Second, I know it solidified my relationship with my children. They would be strangers to me today if I had left then.

For those ten years things were a little better in that I didn’t allow myself to get sucked into a lot of the arguments. We became barely friendly roommates and merely tolerated each other. I focused all of my attention on rebuilding and strengthening my relationship with my children. I decided that I had to be the adult and I learned to suppress my passions and anger and focus on them. My wife, for her part made sure that she tortured me about my job, my pay, my health and my apparent indifference to her negative bullshit. I only rarely took the bait. I didn’t know what my future held but I was certain all along that Bankruptcy, a foreclosure and a divorce were definitely part of it. The only question was when.

My wife spent money like a drunk sailor with a fistful of Viagra. And she was totally unaccountable for it. She bought elaborate gifts for her best friend, who she was unhealthily attached to (a symptom of her then undiagnosed Borderline Personality disorder) while requesting of our family that we not exchange gifts because we didn’t have the money, effectively alienating my Holiday loving family. She refused to show me her Credit card statements but continuously scrutinized mine and yelled at me in front of the kids. I bought a lot of alcohol, I will admit it, but anyone who has ever met her would easily understand the need for that. Money, and her attitude about it would be the biggest source of fighting and the kids knew all about it. I think it put them in a bad spot, as if they felt guilty. I never wanted that.

My devotion to the kids and my commitment to their turning out as “normal” as possible continued. As they got older they understood what was going on and, without my asking for it, they felt bad for me. I defended her, with difficulty, because I didn’t want to be that guy. What I didn’t realize is that they knew what she was about and they acted more out of fear than love with her. Consequently, I unwittingly became the favorite parent. It wasn’t all too difficult, when they asked her for help or advice her first reaction was usually based upon how it affecter her, not them. She was quick to assign fault and blame and less interested in soothing the pain and finding solutions. While I, on the other hand, tried to offer an ear and a solution without judgment or blame.

While I plan on discussing this dynamic in greater detail in future blogs, I want to jump ahead and tell you that despite the horrible and regrettable example that we once were, they turned out absolutely wonderful. In particular, all four have healthy relationships. I was fearful that our example might tarnish them but it didn’t. I’m also not afraid to tell you that despite my efforts to the contrary, I think I am the favorite parent.

My marriage was contemptuous at best. The only good takeaway I have is my relationship with my children. It negates the anger and bitterness that I felt for so long. And I am happy to report that I have a decent relationship with the ex because I chose to let go of my anger and bitterness. Emotional baggage makes my neck hurt and I couldn’t carry it around anymore. I did it for me, not for her. I’m proud of the sacrifices I made in the interest of winning back my children. They are and will continue to be my crowning achievement. I have four amazing ,good-hearted citizens who make the world a better place. They make me proud every single day. I need not desire or seek a legacy, they have done it for me.