A Challenge from Mary Oliver

 “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

                                                                                             Mary Oliver

That just about says it all. Mary Oliver was a brilliant and wise poet who, unfortunately, no longer graces us with her presence on the planet. Obviously, she did a lot of thinking about the meaning of life. She was a seeker.

In that respect, we’re all seekers. We’re all looking for clues that we’re on the right path…that we’re not wasting the minutes, hours, and years we’ve been given. I don’t think this quest, or as they say, the hero’s journey, hits us until we’re practically at midlife. Earlier then that, we’re probably struggling to make a living, raise a family, or reach a goal that gives us some measure of pleasure and security. 

This Again?

I know I drone on about this, but only because I think it’s the key to happiness. It may be that until midlife, when you can actually see your past in the rear -view mirror, you’re able to see you’ve been on the path all along. If not, there’s always another path beckoning, enticing you to take the newer challenge, to dare to risk it.

In a way, life’s like the board game “Clue”. We get clues along the way, like breadcrumbs, as to what we signed up for, what mission we chose to accept.

Thank You, Mirror

At midlife, a lot of people jump on the idea of a bucket list. Here’s where the realization that time’s running out smacks you in the face. Another reminder is the mirror. Thank you, God, for giving us that scary visual reminder. Otherwise, we’d go blissfully on our lifetime playground unaware of the ticking clock. I think of the intro to 60 minutes. No matter how much you love the show, it’s over when it’s over. Even the old saying, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” alludes to the truth that it will be over.

 Some people are born knowing what they want to be, or what they’re here to do. Some people simply follow their heart, and this is the road that gives them peace.

Like the old song by the Fifth Dimension, they follow the path that makes them feel” so safe, so sane, and so secure.” You don’t even have to know you’re on it. It’s so intuitive.

If this sounds like you, count yourself blessed. You’re among the lucky ones. 

Others try several paths. But, in my opinion, you can’t do this wrong. You’re here for a reason. 

So, as Mary Oliver so brilliantly wrote, “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


Why Are You Here, Anyway?

Here’s a question. Why are you here…on planet Earth?

 Do you know? Is it even a “thing?” Or is it simply a passing fad, like the pet rock?  

Has this question even passed through your mind, and why should it? 

Ok. What Is It?

Many people think it’s a job…a career. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Basically, that may be one of the reasons you’re here. I say one, because I believe you’re here for multiple reasons, with multiple goals or spiritual assignments. As they said on Mission Impossible, “your mission, should you choose to accept it, is…”

That’s the cool thing. You don’t have to accept it. This is called “free will.” Free will gives you power with a capital “P”. You’re in charge. Your acceptance is mainly a matter of whether it coincides or interferes with what you define as what you’re here to do, be, or accomplish.

However, and this is a big however, I believe it’s a setup. I feel, in the depths of my being, that you’ve already agreed to this mission, or you wouldn’t be here. Maybe you’d be lounging on some cloud, but you wouldn’t be on this battlefield. 

Since you’re reading this, I take it you’ve accepted your mission.

You’re a soldier now…a type of Navy Seal on Planet Earth. In other words, you signed up for the ultimate adventure…life.

As a child, you probably didn’t give a thought to esoteric issues like spirituality, religion, or self- examination. There are too many other developmental things occupying your time and demanding your attention.

But at some point, most people begin to wonder what it’s all about, and question their place in this maelstrom. Thomas Moore defined it as “the dark night of the soul”. Peggy Lee warbled, “Is that all there is?”.

This may sound depressing, but it’s actually a good thing, akin to the butterfly breaking through the chrysalis.

There’s no one way that works for everyone. For some, the search for meaning is born through tragedy, misfortune or loss. The book,” When Bad Things Happen To Good People “by Harold Kushner comes to mind.

With others, therapy may crack open the search for one’s life purpose, or at least propel a search for meaning through a trip down memory lane, or a life review.

Never Too Soon To Start

At the tender age of 13, my teacher assigned an autobiography. I still have it. It’s called, “From Pablum To Pizza”. Even at that age, I had zeroed in on the events that made a difference to me, the events that stood out as meaningful. I believe those events were pointers to my life purpose.

 Even meeting people you feel like you’ve known before can make the events of your life seem less random.

Finally, we all have intrinsic gifts and talents. We all have things that excite us and move us to action. These are also pointers to the reason we’re here.

Still, life is basically a mystery, but overall, I think these are worthy issues to ponder.



I’ve been thinking about the purpose of pain…physical pain. Yes, we have emotional pain and psychic pain, but they seem to be more lingering and chronic, while physical pain is acute.

 It gets your attention.

My Pain

Most of my pain, historically, has been in my abdomen and head. I’ve suffered from migraines since I was thirteen. As a teen I had really painful menstrual cramps, and later in life, gallstones stuck in my bile ducts (I don’t wish this on anybody). 

Your Pain

I’m sure you have a similar list of extremely painful maladies. Maybe your pain turns up in a different body part. It doesn’t matter. Pain is pain. 

Pain shouldn’t be a competitive sport. “My pain is worse than your pain,” is a fallacy. It’s a way of dissing the pain of another. It shows an ignorance of the fact that an individual’s pain threshold is unique to him or her.

Watching Netflix or eating a chocolate bar doesn’t soothe it. It’s like the universe whacking you with a 2-by-4. It’s like a voice from within saying, “Sorry to do this to you, but you ignored the previous three warnings I gave you.”

Taking Responsibilty

In some instances, I believe this is true. I know eating dark chocolate will give me a migraine. I know how many glasses of wine I can consume without a hangover. Sometimes, it is the two- by -four speaking when I make dubious choices.

Let’s Ask the Universe

On the other hand, does pain necessarily have to be a punitive retribution from the universe? Maybe there’s a higher purpose. 

I can’t say I have the answer as to what that higher purpose might be. But I believe one exists. God is always intentional, and that intention is positive…at least in my book. My lack of answers doesn’t negate it. 

My Take

But, here’s my take. I think, other than being a warning that something needs attention, I think it’s a call for attention. 

There’s nothing like pain to bring you into the present moment. That’s the purpose of meditation, actually, but my mind tends to wander a lot more while meditating than it does during a migraine. When I have a migraine, I’m focused on the migraine.

So, maybe one of the purposes of pain could be to bring us into the present. If this seems too Machiavellian, and you have another theory, please share. 

I’m listening.

Why You Can Call Yourself Courageous

Yes, You Really Are Courageous!

I’ve read that only the most courageous souls volunteer to come to earth.

If you’re reading this, count yourself among the courageous. 

The Evidence

As a former history teacher, I’m well aware that horrific times have occurred with each generation …the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, and multiple other atrocities you can probably name if you’re a student of history.

Man seems always ready to conquer. There has to be a winner, which means there has to be a loser. Maybe that’s why they call it “the game of life.”

It seems most exploration on the planet is merely a race for autonomy…a need for power and acquisition, determining who can conquer the world first. 

 Is it any surprise that the first act after landing on the moon was to stake the American flag into the moon’s sandy surface? This isn’t a criticism…just an observation.

Our Changing Planet

I used to live on Amelia Island in Florida. This beautiful island has been under 8 flags…Spain, England, France, the Patriots Flag, the Green Cross Flag, the Mexican Revolutionary Flag, the National Flag of the Confederacy, and finally, since 1862, the U.S. Flag. A lot of nations wanted this island. 

When I was a kid, our family had a globe. I used to study it to see where different countries were located. Now, that globe is an anachronism. It’s obsolete. Just look at Europe. Look at Russia. The boundaries have moved and the names have changed. Little stays the same. 

Do We Question our Courage?

So, what makes us so special, so courageous? Maybe we’re not. Maybe this belief is simply a balm for our overall lack of meaning… a band-aid for the soul. Maybe this is what Thoreau meant when he said, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation”. 

Now we’re involved in the race for space. I think this is programmed into our DNA. It’s not a bad thing. I define it as being pro-active. What if we’re hit by an asteroid? What if our earth, for some reason, becomes inhabitable? Having a condo on Mars may someday be as common as a summer home in Aruba. So, this type of exploration makes sense…it’s critical to our survival as a species.

Throughout history there have been challenges. But here’s one of the challenges of this century. We now have the ability to witness worldwide calamities in real time. Social media and the 24-hour news see to it. It takes courage to live in a world where there are no blinders. It reminds me of the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” where they force the guy’s eyes open so he has to watch the film they’re showing. There’s no place to hide.

The Good News

But before you get too depressed, here’s the good news. There’s an antidote, and it’s called purpose. Knowing your purpose is the answer to serenity.

 On a spiritual level, you need to believe you’re here for a reason…at this time…in this place…in this way. 

This is why I love the quote from Richard Bach in his book,” Illusions”, where he says, “Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t”.

Musicals, Anyone?

The Annual Needle Stick

Today I endured the annual “blood- letting” ordered by my doctor. 

In preparation, I consumed “mucha agua”, a giant intake of water to artificially pump up my microscopic veins. 

Although I’ve donated blood throughout the years, I was turned away from one blood bank because my veins were too small…a blood bank reject. I’ve always envied those men, my father being one, who touted gigantic veins almost begging to be punctured.


On the way to the doctor, I heard a song on the radio from the musical “Oliver”. I’ve always loved musicals. One of my parents must have been a Broadway” wanna-be” because Broadway musicals flooded the airways of my childhood home.

The song that captured my attention was “As Long As He Needs Me”.

As I listened to the lyrics, it struck me. This song is about life purpose. Her purpose, at least in her estimation, was taking care of her man. 

Taking care of him gave her life meaning. Maybe it’s even what she lives for…what gets her out of bed in the morning and gives her a feeling of relevance, importance, belonging, and drive. 

Where would she be without this sense of purpose? We can only guess. But if you listen to the song, her voice conveys a high level of conviction. She’s married, maybe literally, to this belief. You get the feeling she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 

She’s a lucky woman, and in that sense we should all be so lucky. We should all have the have a reason to get out of bed, feel excited about our lives and our futures, and above all, feel  relevant.

Even if it takes some digging, discovering your purpose lowers depression and amplifies joy. 


I’ve always loved the song, “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin. I imagine it’s about seeking out your purpose. 

Because most people have a purpose that involves helping others in some way, it’s beneficial on both accounts.

I guess what I’m suggesting is there are many paths leading to your purpose, including the messages from musicals. 

So, which path is calling your name?

Ginsburg and Oakley…Their Common Thread

 Did You Know?

Did you know life purpose is linked to happiness, as well as a lower probability of depression?

 Even though the term is hot right now, the concept has been percolating for as long as humans have walked the planet.

When you’re a 7th grader, your life purpose might be making it to 8th grade. As an adult, it’s usually more far reaching.

An Unlikely Pair

There are so many examples of those living out their purpose, you don’t have far to look to find a role model. In fact, you may be one. In fact, you probably are one!

A lot has been said about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She spent her life promoting many causes, one being women’s rights. Among her many accomplishments was co-founding the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This takes imagination, inspiration, and grit. She may not have called it “life purpose”, but she had it in spades.

Another, somewhat unlikely prospect was Annie Oakley, the hotshot with the pistol prowess. At the age of 8, she started using her skills to hunt for food for her family. She later traveled the country demonstrating her sharpshooting skills and joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. One of her life purposes was advocating for women to learn a male dominated sport, as she had so famously done.

Amazingly, her purpose began before she hit the age of 10. This should encourage young girls to see Oakley as a role model, and seek out their own innate leanings and talents in pursuit of their purpose. 

This morning I read about a book called My Name Is Not Isabella. Just How Big Can A Little Girl Dream? It introduces young girls to role models, such as Sally Ride and Marie Curie. 

Your Relatives and Teachers

I don’t think at the age of 8 I was aware of female role models, other than family members and teachers. Of course, these role models had the biggest influence. They can’t be discounted in my life purpose development. 

Maybe the role models with the most clout are those relatives and teachers who notice and encourage our talents, leanings, and interests. 

Bravo to them…our original life purpose catalysts!

My Kittens Are Life Coaches

The Babies
In recent weeks I adopted two kittens. I can only describe the experience as frenetic energy on steroids, and in several ways, they’re changing my life.
Here’s an example. I usually eat breakfast in bed. It’s the closest thing I can muster to an actual vacay at a real Bed and Breakfast. I wasn’t aware that honey toast was a feline favorite, but my kitten thought this was dessert. I was suddenly fighting the cat for the toast. It was hard to retain ownership. This wasn’t the relaxing breakfast I was accustomed to.  
I needed a Plan B, which meant eating at an actual table in my living room. The cats didn’t have the same advantage from this venue. 
My Lightbulb Moment
Giving up my vacay breakfast seemed like a huge sacrifice at first. But then, I noticed that the view of the trees and greenery from this vantage was scenic! What had I been missing?  All of a sudden, I was seeing my house from an entirely new angle. Instead of watching the morning news, I was looking at nature.
I’ve been bragging to friends about going minimalist, and these cats are forcing me in that direction at record speed. For instance, the other night I was awakened by the sound of something being destroyed in the kitchen. It was midnight, and I was soon cleaning up the pieces of a broken vase.
I didn’t need those artificial flowers anyway, so I threw them in the Goodwill pile.

I suddenly had two little assistants in my minimalist army. 
The Pandemic has pretty much frozen us in time. Although we may long for the good old days when we could leave the house, the truth is we’re stuck in a Groundhog Day simulation of the present. The present is all we have. We may as well make the most of it.
For example, I have a new appreciation for my house. If I didn’t already live here, I think I’d move here. 
I’m truly seeing things from a different angle.
And all this from eating breakfast at my dining room table. 

Childhood Memories

I’m Still Reading

It’s still the Pandemic, and I’m still reading…

In her book, “A Feather on the Breath of God”, Sigrid Nunez gives us a detailed description of her parents, and how she experienced them throughout her childhood. I’m guessing this continues into her adulthood, but I’m only halfway through the book.

 Of particular interest to me is the way she details the small wonders of life…those childhood remembrances that offer more sweetness than spice. It’s those memories, I believe, we can only truly cherish in retrospect.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

As much as people like to compete about who had it worse, maybe traveling through your childhood by letting your senses tell their story will give you a different history.

I remember the kitchen. It was red. I guess red was in vogue. But it felt warm…a sensual kitchen. Coming from that room was another sensual treat…the smell of bacon. 

Yes, I know I can fry my own bacon, but does a meal you’ve prepared for yourself ever taste as good as one prepared for you?

 Another memory is fireflies. Is firefly an anachronism? Do they still exist, or do I seldom (this means never) sit on my front lawn? And why would I? It’s a chemical cesspool. The lawn of my childhood was untreated. It had weeds. I could catch fireflies from the comfort of my own lawn.

We’re All Complicated

It’s been suggested to me that I write a book about my family. That always seemed like a monumental task. 

My memory is that of a child. Every human being is complicated, and as a child, you don’t have the brain development to see events through an accurate lens. In fact, do you ever? Can we ever see ourselves through an accurate lens? I doubt it. 

A Feather on the Breath of God” inspired me. I could take a similar course. Knowing that I’m writing purely from my own limited perception, I could make a stab at it. After all, they are my perceptions. I have the copyright.

The Small Things

I’ve been told that during your life review, it’s the small things that count the most…the small kindnesses, those things we’re quick to throw away…the things we deem inconsequential.

Only they’re not. The smallest things can mean the most. When I write, I want to remember the small things.

Your Life…A Meaningful Design

When I was growing up, I remember watching a TV show called “What’s My Line?”. Several panelists would try to guess what the contestants did for a living.

This is what most people think of when they hear the words “Life Purpose”. In their minds, it’s a job. If you look back at your life, you can almost divide your life into chapters. This is actually one of the things we do in my Life Purpose Coaching program.

 As people look back over their lives, it’s almost like they’ve had several distinct lifetimes in one. This is what makes life interesting. Just about the time you’re entirely bored with your life, another challenge appears.


Sometimes the new chapter, or we could call it Purpose, is not something you see coming. It’s a direction change totally out of the blue. Sometimes you get tiny clues, or fore-shadowing, of what’s to come, but you have to pay attention.


When I was around 6 or 7 years old, I saw a picture of a dock going out into the water. I was mesmerized. I remember staring at it, intrigued. It must have made an impression on me because I never forgot that picture.

Here’s what makes the picture so meaningful. It was one of those things I didn’t see coming. After I graduated from college, I got a job teaching in Florida. Did I apply for a job in Florida…not exactly. I sent my resume to what I thought was Nassau, the island. Where I actually sent it was to Nassau County, in Florida.

 One day as I was crossing a long bridge over a large expanse of the St. John’s River, I saw it. There was the dock I had seen in the picture. This was extremely meaningful to me and was evidence of foreshadowing, or early evidence of things to come. As they say, you can’t make this stuff up!

So, when you’re wondering what your life purpose might be, just know you probably have more than one. Would you bother taking the trip to planet earth with only one life purpose? I’m not saying that can’t happen, but I don’t believe it’s the norm.

A Meaningful Design

I think every major event in your life has purpose. I believe every minor event has purpose. It’s like your life is a jigsaw puzzle with trillions of pieces that fit together. It only begins to make sense when you have enough pieces arranged to form a meaningful design.

Your life is a meaningful design. Nothing is wasted.

A New Purpose

Last week I had to put my cherished cat to sleep. For the past 15 years, part of my purpose was to take care of him, and I believe his was to take care of me.

As I grieve, I’m know I’m on the cusp of finding new purpose, new meaning, or new something!

If you’re finding yourself on the cusp too, let me help you find your new something.

Question: What would you like your new purpose to be?


The Power of Persistence


Who, Me?

Here’s a question. Can you name your worst enemy? Even though a few names may cross your mind, I suggest it’s you.

How many of the 60,000 thoughts you’ll have today will be negative? I’m guessing a high percentage…and I’m not a pessimist. I simply know that our minds have a negative bias.

It’s a survival mechanism. Animals know this. It’s a matter of eat or be eaten.

I won’t go into the physiology of fear, but it plays a hefty role in not only your decision making, but your confidence level, and what you’re willing to try.


If you’ve ever failed at something, and who hasn’t, you might avoid this failed activity forever. Gone…trashed. Off your bucket list…kicked to the curb. But look at it this way… what made you try it in the first place, especially given the fact there are no guarantees?

I’m guessing it’s probably because it was something you wanted to do or achieve, something that interested you, something you were excited about, something you thought would be fun. Now, it’s like a deflated balloon. You’ve left this dream in shreds and shards.

What Next?

So, what to do next, and how many times to try …10,000?

No, that was Edison, and it paid off pretty well for him. But who, today, is that tenacious?

I’ll bet you’d make less than five attempts before you’d throw in the towel. That sounds like something I’d do.

It’s so easy to get discouraged. One failure, or one “No” to your request can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. After all, you still have those humiliating memories of that important test you studied for but failed, or the business plan that didn’t pan out. I wouldn’t blame you for quitting.

Keep the Faith!

But if you’re motivated enough to keep the faith, and throw in a dose of tenacity, your chances of not only success, but happiness multiply. The problem with most of us is we’re perfectionists. We can’t be happy unless we do it perfectly…anything less is seen as failure, and it’s shoved off the bucket list. If someone tells us we can’t, we make them the expert on our lives, and quit.

Many years ago, I played the banjo at an assisted living center. I was nervous about playing until one of the women in the room shouted out, “I don’t want to hear it!”. At that moment my fear morphed into irritation, as I remember thinking, “Well, you’re going to hear it!” I didn’t play it perfectly, but somehow that lady showed me, in a way, how silly it was to care so much about what other people think.

A Lightbulb Moment

After years of not playing, I rediscovered my love for bluegrass. I think Ken Burns’ documentary on country music had something to do with it.

I’d forgotten almost everything I knew and was, again, a total novice.

My goal is to practice every day for at least 5 minutes. I have no excuse not to. And some days I do, and some days I don’t. But the important thing is I haven’t given up.

I’ve learned that loving what you do is more important than how good you are. Bottom line, the more I practice, the better I’ll be.

I’ll never be Flatt and Scruggs but you know what, I’ll be happy, and to me, that’s what counts.