Change, From my Bookshelf, From the News, Uncategorized

Finding Your One True Calling

After Oprah’s lengthy goodbye, I debated whether to watch her last episode.  But since my daughters and I watched all the shows leading up to the finale, we felt committed.

When I saw her standing on her stage for the last time looking glamorous and regal in her soft pink dress with her matching audience, I softened.

Oprah’s speech was beautiful, inspiring, and delivered with her usual poise and personality.  She said, “We are all called.  Everybody has a calling and your real job in life is to figure out what it is and get about the business of doing it.”

What is my calling? I wondered.  Whatever it is, it’s small and weak when it’s in the same room with Oprah and her big old calling.

Oprah and her team of experts have been telling me for years to uncover my passion, discover my dreams, and live my best life.  I’ve taken this advice to heart and read many of Oprah’s recommended self-help books trying to understand my big, hairy purpose in life.

I wrote long, searching journal entries, prayed and pleaded to discover my higher path because surely it was more than the ordinary life I lived every day.  I had skills, talents, gifts that needed opportunities for expression and development, but life kept getting in the way.

Once I wrote a long list of things I wanted to do and then thought, “Maybe after I finish running my daughter’s school newspaper club, planning girls’ camp or schlepping to soccer practice and girl scouts, I’ll have time to discover the life that is waiting for me.”

Then I learned an important lesson.

All the things I think are merely distractions and detours in my life ARE my life.

For years I thought that once I raised my kids, I would get back to my life, get back on track, back to pursuing my mega-mission. My life would be bigger, grander than fixing dinners, going to ballgames, and grocery stores, and shopping for prom dresses. Maybe my big, purposeful life would include a book, an exciting job, or oh, why stop there?  My own show like Oprah!

But the day-to-day demands of my life kept getting in the way of my calling, and pushing me off track.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, I spent months in a chemo-induced stupor, and had plenty of time to wonder about life’s purpose.  Is this really what you want my life to be? I asked God.  Surely he did not intend my life to just be a cancer battle.

All I knew was that, it was my life.

Most of us are not going to discover a grandiose mission that allows us to feed and educate nations or give cars away to brightly colored audiences.  And if we keep looking beyond the mark of where we really are in life, we will miss the real lessons that God is sending our way through the ordinary day-to-day lives he gives us.

I love the idea that a calling is out there just waiting for me to claim it.  I want the spark, the juice and the inner glow that come from doing exactly what I should be doing in my life.  But sometimes I wonder if the idea of one true calling is a myth.

Our callings seem more random than focused.  They seem to grow out of opportunities, relationships, and the occasional risk of trying something new.

Most of us are not changing the entire universe, but we are probably changing a piece of it.  We might not be illuminating the world, but we are likely lighting up a corner here and there.  So with that in mind, consider this last bit of Oprah advice:

“Each one of you has your own platform…Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is. Maybe it’s 20 people. Maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom; your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, and your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies. In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You’re letting your life speak for you. And when you do that, you will receive in direct proportion to how you give in whatever platform you have.

“My great wish for all of you who have allowed me to honor my calling through this show is that you carry whatever you’re supposed to be doing, carry that forward and don’t waste any more time. Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.”

Sometimes the life that is calling us is the one we are living now, and our lofty purpose is right under our nose just waiting for us to recognize and embrace it. Sometimes our callings come in the form of our responsibilities, and we are so busy looking for the more glamorous life that we miss the splendor of the one we’ve got.

Change, From my Bookshelf, Uncategorized

Lessons from Martha Beck

I’m sitting in the waiting room with my daughter waiting for her to be called back for surgery to repair her torn ACL.

 

The room is quiet except for the loud hum of a humidifier and the muttering of a woman across from me who hates to fill out forms, can’t read her husband’s illegible handwriting, doesn’t know why doctors need so much information anyway, and can’t understand why her husband always walks away from problems and can’t have a civil conversation with her.

 

Then I burst out laughing.

 

I can’t help it.  I’m reading a very serious O Magazine article that outlines the 20 most important questions we should be asking ourselves. I am nodding my head, thinking I should share some of these questions with friends who are trying to find their happy place in life.

 

Then I read Question 13: Am I the only one struggling not to {fart} during {yoga}?

 

It just plain cracks me up.

 

I look at the muttering woman across from me and notice a scowl on her face.  My mood is not improving hers. I want to read the question aloud and see if it might make her at least smile.

 

I share the question with my daughter and she joins me in the moment of levity.

 

I’m not confessing anything here but suffice it to say that in a silent, contemplative yoga class that is the bodily function that absolutely must be suppressed.

 

(A little aside here…I’m fighting feelings of guilt as I write this because my mother’s voice lurks in the back of my mind telling me not to use that f-word because it’s ugly.  She prefers the word stinker if the topic has to be addressed at all.  I can just hear her saying, “Well, I don’t see why you need to talk or write about something like that in the first place.”)

 

I’m surprised I’m reading this article because it was written by Martha Beck, and I’ve been bitter toward her since she wrote her book Expecting Adam and dissed her parents, her marriage, and her religion.

 

But in this article, she has listed some good questions.  The point of the yoga question is to substitute your greatest shame or fear and then realize you’re not alone.  Everyone worries about faux pas and once you realize you’re not alone, you take a step toward better mental health, Martha says.

 

So when I laugh at Question 13 I imagine my yoga teacher, flexible Jane, speaking in her calming, meditative voice as she reaches, stretches, and twists her lithe body.  Then I think of her struggling not to relax too deeply into her poses because … well, you know, the inherent risk of a certain type of overexertion.

 

Suddenly there is sweet justice in the world.

 

If I imagine her struggling in her downward facing dog or tipping slightly in her tree pose, there is hope for me.

 

I like the fact that Martha Beck led me to realize that yoga teachers and everybody else for that matter are not as perfect as them might seem.

 

Now I’m on a roll.

 

I think I can even forgive Martha. Maybe she has her own yoga like struggle.  In fact, maybe the complaining lady across from me is just having an off day.  Maybe she’s got her own kind of fill-in-the-blank challenge she’s trying to overcome.

 

Then I realize.

 

I’ve gone too far.

 

Why does everything have to turn into a big life lesson when really it’s just about a little yoga fart?

 

Reel it in, I tell myself.

 

Get some perspective.

 

I reread Question 13 and giggle all over again, and tell myself to lighten up.

 

After all, sometimes we just need a good laugh.  And the idea of a little yoga faux pas is pretty darned funny to me.

 

Namaste.

 

Personal, Uncategorized

I’ve Moved

In my zeal to create a “writer’s platform,” I joined salon.com’s open salon, which provides blogs for writers.

I posted a few essays and shared them with several friends.

My virtual mailbox quickly filled with the most interesting comments, which I loved.

I learned, however, that only salon.com writers can leave comments.

Since I want to share the comments I receive, and develop a relationship with my readers,

I started a new blog here.

I named it “Think. Feel. Write.”

because those three words capture my writing process.

The best way for me to get to the heart

of what I think and feel is to write.

(That’s why I named my open salon blog

http://open.salon.com/blog/laurie_turner

“Writing Through Life.”)

Writing through life is what I do.

And now I’m going to do it here to make it interactive.

When I have an emotional response to something, I write about it.

 And when other people respond to what I write, the dialogue is fascinating.

I’ve posted the essays from my open salon blog here,

and soon I’ll post snippets of a few of the comments I received.

You’ll love the responses, I promise, because you’ll learn something new.

So stay tuned…

Personal, Uncategorized

More Ideas than Time

I admire all the stellar bloggers of the world.

It’s not as easy as it seems.

And it’s not writing that’s the problem.

It’s everything that has to happen before the writing begins!

To preserve my sanity and my good standing with my family,

which has grown increasingly impatient with my blogging questions,

I’m forging ahead.

Forget the format!

I’ll learn as I go.

It’s the words that count, right?

Let the blogging begin.

Family

No Regrets

I grew up during the Feminine Mystique era when Betty Friedan wrote about unhappy housewives who wanted more from life than taking care of husbands, houses and babies.

By the time I graduated from college, I knew that in my future I would “have it all” just like the feminists promised — a balanced life with a fulfilling career and a happy family.

I never pictured myself like my mother–ironing and folding clothes while watching soap operas or spending hours making homemade bread, canning fruit or sewing dresses cut from Butterick patterns.

My generation was different from my mother’s. We knew we could have more.

I went to college determined to become one of the liberated, smart and savvy women of the future. I worked as an intern in the U.S. Senate and became even more convinced of my modern woman destiny.  I spent the next 12 years building a career in Washington, D.C.

Then I married and had a baby.

“Are you going to quit now and be a mom?” someone asked me.

My thoughts were something like, Sit around the house all day washing dishes, wondering whether Nikki and Victor on The Young and the Restless are going to stay together or get another divorce?  Never. Successful career women don’t do that.  They hire nannies and then go to work and do important things.

So after I had my first child, that’s what I did – hired a nanny, went to work, and did important things. I was a press secretary for a U.S. Senator.

One night in January of 1991, I came home late from work, turned on the news and watched the Gulf War unfold on national television. Reporters jammed my phone line.

“What is the senator’s reaction?  Are you going to have a press conference? When can we get an interview? Do you have a statement?”

I immediately called the senator and started planning our response.  Right then, my husband came into the room carrying our six-month-old baby girl, Sara, who had been with the nanny all day.  Sara giggled with delight when she saw me and threw her chubby little arms around my neck.

Covering the phone, I said, “Take her away. This is important!”

I looked at my baby’s disappointed face, and my heart sank.

What am I doing? I thought. Not even a war is more important to me than my child.

Still, I had to go back to work. I left home, drove back to Capitol Hill, talking to one reporter after another on my clunky 1990-style cell phone the entire way.  Even though war was the topic of conversation, in the back of my mind all I could think was that I sent the message to my daughter that my work was more important to me than her.

I spent the night answering phone calls, sending out news releases, and organizing a press conference.  I arrived home to a dark house, climbed the stairs to Sara’s nursery and looked at her sleeping soundly in her crib holding on to her Raggedy Ann doll.  I kissed her soft cheek, brushed back her bright blonde hair, and silently apologized for pushing her away.

Standing there looking at her in the late hours of the night, I knew I had to quit.  My job was not compatible with my new priorities. I loved my job.  I loved how it made me feel – competent, in control, and fulfilled.

It took a couple of years to wean myself from the job. I negotiated a four-day workweek, then a consulting arrangement, and then quit all together.  I had long talks with several friends who questioned whether I was doing the right thing.  Most of them were living the dream of  “having it all.” They were excelling in their careers and successfully managing their families.

I wanted to be like those women, but I knew it wasn’t going to work for me.

I didn’t adjust easily to my new role as a stay-at-home mother. My ego definitely suffered.  The first blow was when I met someone new and she said, “What do you do?” I told her I had just quit to stay home with my daughter.  Without hesitation, she said, “Oh, then what does your husband do?”

Ouch.

That was the first time I’d been dismissed so summarily. Clearly my new life was not worth discussing. Somehow it was more interesting to talk about my husband’s life because mine had suddenly become so mundane, lackluster, and oh, so very 1960s.

It took time to find a new rhythm in my life that centered on more meaningful things than diapers, dishes, and dusting.  I had another daughter, and then enrolled in graduate school to bulk up my answer when people asked, “What do you do?”  It sounded better to say “Oh, I am getting my masters AND taking care of my kids.”

I did things I never imagined myself doing like creating elaborate scrapbooks, planning ridiculously excessive birthday parties, and holiday celebrations, going on countless field trips, and dancing with a group of fourth graders to the Macarena. But I also taught my girls to read, Rollerblade, ride bikes, and swim. Eventually, I was having so much fun that, believe it or not, my time as a stay-at-home mother started speeding by too quickly. My girls grew up in the proverbial blink of an eye.

Now Sara is a senior in college, and Annie, my younger daughter, will start college just days after high school graduation this June. I can’t believe it’s over.  (Believe me, I know how trite that sounds.)

As I approach Mother’s Day 2011, I wonder about the choice I made in January 1991.

Did I do the right thing?  I’ll be an empty nester soon and I have no career to gracefully prop me up. I have no answer for the question, “What do you do?”  So, was it a mistake? Did I lose an unrecoverable part of myself in all those years?

In the end, those seemingly ponderous questions are really just perfunctory because I know the answers without even thinking about them.

I did the right thing.

Funny that I used to think I did it for them.  I quit working thinking it would be best for them if I stayed home. Now I know the truth is I did it for me.

I needed them.

They probably would have been fine with a nanny or in after school day care. Many of my friends chose the working outside the home route and it worked out beautifully for them.

All I know is that for me, on this mother’s day, this year, I will celebrate that I had a choice and that for me, it was the right one.