Let It Burn
by Kristin Armstrong
Art by RF. Alvarez
I always love this issue of Tribeza. I love to see the incredible creative life force we have here in Austin. Over the years, I recall learning about artisans who make furniture by hand, ironworkers, architects and designers, organic farmers, chefs, musicians, winemakers and craft cocktail makers. We have people who make orphanages in India, and people who make communities for the homeless that have more community than most of our communities. Our beloved town magnetizes people who make things, people who make things happen.
Being a creative person myself, I try to live a life of vision. Whether my medium is written words, spoken words, listening intently to another person, food, arranging flowers, doodling in my journal, meditating or painting on a canvas, I ultimately want to be a conduit of loving energy no matter what I happen to be doing.
I am at an interesting place in life. Within me, and surrounding me everywhere, are times of transition. Whether my own, a friend’s or a client’s, I see so many examples of life in flux, identity in shift. Kids leaving the nest, marriages crumbling, love blossoming, time constricting or expanding, hearts clutching at it all. The question I hear the most, whether from an adolescent or a middle-aged human, Is this it? I mean, what am I really supposed to be doing with my life? What’s my purpose?
I wrote a piece in the Huffington Post years ago titled “I Am.” In this essay I wrote about the importance of living an I Am statement rather than just getting a series of jobs. If you can fill in the blank of I am ______ then no one can fire you from who you are, no one owns you, you have a craft, a path, a purpose and a cultivated gift. Think about it. I am an author, a teacher, an engineer, a scientist, a massage therapist, a photographer, an architect, a librarian, a farmer. I still love that idea. What I didn’t recognize as deeply at the time I wrote that was how seasonal this idea really is.
This is why roles and purpose are not the same thing. “I am a wife” only works until you are divorced or a widow. Even “I am a mother,” while it remains as a component of identity —particularly in the heart — is a role that changes and releases over time. Purpose and passion are more aligned than purpose and roles are. Many mothers I know with new or impending empty nests are feeling ruffled feathers. Again, the same questions, Is this it? I mean, what am I really supposed to be doing with my life? What’s my purpose?
We cannot continue to live the same lives across seasons.”
This is a seasonal, seismic shift. We cannot continue to live the same lives across seasons. The day cordoned off by school hours, or the calendar marked by school years, summers and holiday breaks, is not the same day or the same year as when our children are living lives of their own. So women forget. What did my life look like before all this? And why does that even matter, because I am not the same woman anymore? Exactly.
It is right there, in the apex of that transition, that the question of purpose tugs at us the way our kids did when they were little and we were on the phone. “Just a minute, honey, hold on, I’m almost done,” we’d say. Our purpose does the same thing. Tugging. Persistent.
It cannot be our purpose to raise a child. We were never intended to be purposeless in our 40s or 50s with half of life stretching ahead. Seasons of more wisdom, patience, energy, experience, depth and generalized badassness than any seasons so far. So what is this purpose thing? This thing that is big and looming and intimidating and vast?
This purpose thing, unmasked like the monster on “Scooby-Doo,” is really not so scary after all. It is simply the question you have been living all along, with the answer unfolding all around you. As author Mastin Kipp says, your purpose is right where your gifts and your wounds collide. When you think about the things that break your heart (this can be both good and bad, which we learn after some seasons) and the ways you serve when you lose all inhibition and all track of time, it’s riiiiight there. The thing people always tell you you’re good at, because it’s all about the way you make people feel.
Underneath that, and under that, and beneath that, and the layer deeper still, all the way at the core of everything is just one thing. One thing only. Love.
Our purpose, succinctly put, is the specific way we were created to manifest Love in the world right now, today. And every season, with more experience and expansion and wisdom and more wounds, we are able to Velveteen Rabbitize (yes, I did just make that a verb, go with me) and get more Real and Love more fully.
The question of purpose burns within, and it burns with the intent to purify us, not scorch us. Let It Burn, I say.
As creators, the best thing we can make is a difference.