A Word on Wednesday: Purpose

Purpose is word that gets thrown around a lot. Lately, I’ve been struggling with what is my purpose. In a Christian sense, my purpose is to love God and live out his will. I wonder, endlessly, how that translates to the secular world. And, for the purpose of this blog, what the word means and how can I get to the truth of it in word and deed.

I am not so cynical to let the New Year pass, without reflection on goals, resolutions. As I age, many goals have been met. I have made peace with my body; I have faith, health, family, career, and happiness. Yet, I pursue something more, purpose.

We have learned through Maslow’s hierarchy, we begin with physiological needs; we build to safety, love & belonging, and esteem. At the tippy top of the pyramid is self actualization or fulfillment. A triangle of exorbitance to consider.

This is where I turn to purpose.

Purpose, as a noun, is the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc; an intended or desired result, end, aim, goal. Something can be done with purpose, determination; resoluteness. Purpose is the subject at hand, the point of an issue. It is a practical result, effect, or advantage.

In objects, purpose is easy to see. A pizza cutter exists for a singular use, purpose. In people, it is far less straightforward.

An English idiom is “on purpose” translating to by design or intentionally.

The word purpose derives from Middle English purpos from Old French derivative of purposer and a varian of proposer to propose.

Presumable, prior to this time, people didn’t have the luxury to naval gaze about such lofty questions. Maybe it was a simpler time, maybe it was a harder time. Today, though, where I live, purpose is the main void, the thought with which I grapple, the intangible which I seek to define.

In short, purpose is the point. The overall reason for life, for activity, for something other busyness. This year, my goal, my resolution, is to explore purpose with purpose. My aim is to understand if my time spent is purposeful or just pastime.

I backslide to the esteem rung on Maslow’s ladder of needs. Am I doing enough? And what is enough? That word was a self-help buzzword of 2018. Next week, I’ll explore enough and what it means for me for 2019.

A Word on Wednesday: Contentment

Among Sue Monk Kidd’s insights collected in her book, “When the Heart Waits,” is the advice to “court contentment.”

Contentment, a noun, is the state of being contented; satisfied. The thesaurus lists happiness as a synonym, but there is a distinction to be made. Contentment does not require all things be well and beautiful; it speaks of acceptance of what is. 

When Sue Monk Kid suggests we court contentment, I picture quiet reflective time. For me, it is writing in my office painted a faint mauve. The artwork is sparse. An 8 X 11 frames a young girl looking at a full moon in a star-lit sky. A tin sign is plastered with a sassy woman puckered at camera smirking “I don’t mind living in a man’s world, as long as I can be a woman in it.” There is a sepia colored tree with a passage in a font I cannot read. There is a poster of diagrammed sentences from great lines of classic literature. There are maps of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail. It houses a curated collection of books on writing, poetry, and philosophy. It holds the promise and scribble of my works in progress.

Above each of the two desks — one with the computer and the other with just writing tablets — is  blank. I walk in the room and light the desk lamps and burn an incense stick, frankincense. I set music for the mood I wish to create. I bring coffee with me, lukewarm in any mug.

This is my favorite space. It contains pictures of my girlfriends, and pictures of my sons. There is a view of the sidewalk ally adjacent to my backyard, only visible when I choose to stand and look out it.

Here, I feel content. I make time each day to be in this space, to separate myself from the hustle of family life — laundry piles clean and dirty, backpacks with half-eaten lunches and missing assignments, the day job and all that goes with it, the plans, and chores, and busyness. Apart from all of it, here, I breathe.

I cannot spend all day here. I must choose to be content in all areas of my life. I must choose to “court contentment.” In this space, I log a gratitude journal. I keep my calendars. I dream. I create. I prepare.

Here contentment is easy. Taking it with me prompts me to be okay with all of it. My hair that doesn’t cooperate, my body that doesn’t fit into the latest fashions, my children who rely on me and fumble as much as I do, my disappointments, my fears, my ambitions, my failures. My tears.

Contentment is easier in happiness. To court contentment is to find peace, to practice grace. It requires acceptance, patience, and humor. I choose to believe it is in reach, ever fleeting, but accessible with dedicated practice.

 

 

 

Three Words: Mingle, Mirth, & Meaning

Christmas is less than a week away. As we approach the fourth Sunday of advent, as a Christian, I have been reminded to prepare by lighting weekly candles of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. The center candle to be lit to represent the birth of Christ.

As, I recognize religion creates discomfort, conjures up doubts, and is not a source of meaning or solace for all. Some have experiences and justifications to turn away from church teachings altogether.

Regardless, it is nearly impossible to escape the secular Jesus. He is found on lamppost decorations in city’s big and small, outdoor light displays on every evening drive, retail’s enticements for gift giving and decorating, carols on most radio stations, holiday shows ranging from The Rockettes at Rockefeller Center to little Johny’s “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” from a school gym, work place potlucks and secret Santa, reruns of classics such as “A Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Story,” and “Elf.”

This season brings collective time off and gatherings. Maybe there is not a prayer or church service or even a meal around December 25th for you. Yet, my sincere hope is you can mingle, exchange mirth, and find meaning.

Mingle, a verb, to become mixed, blended, or united. To associate or mix in company. To  take part with others; participate.

It is tempting to skip, to cut out early, to lay low. I encourage you to resist the quiet of solitude, though appealing, and say yes to invitations or send out some of your own.

Mirth, in context, is the emotional experience of humor. It is the gaiety or jollity accompanied by laughter. It is simple amusement. When we dare to mingle, we find mirth in those around us.

Meaning, literally, is what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated.

I dare you to find meaning this Christmas season. I suggest you lighten up with some heavy eggnog and find spirit in collective joy. We may not all experience it, but this time of year, we can recognize it all around us — the faces of children, the sound of carolers, the smell of baking, the greeting cards in the mail, the hustle and bustle of list making and checking it off. Christmas doesn’t mean Christ’s birth for everyone, and I’d argue that the Christian truth is not the only reason for the season.

It is a season of love.

Embrace. Rejoice. Cheers.

A Word on Wednesday: Creativity

Question: Is Creativity any thing more than perspective? If all the world can see … what can an artist see differently? What gives someone the right to claim a creative life.

As a writer, I struggle to distinguish what I do.

I want to be a poet, and in so much as I write poems, I am.
I want to be novelist, and in so much as I have written a novel, I am.
But if you were to google my name you would find little evidence of this. But if you were to talk to anyone who has known me for the past twenty years, it would be as obvious as my brown hair.

I also have a day job. So, I am a creative writer and I am a receptionist. This takes the pressure off my work to create monetary value. I do not need to create the audience, only the work. The value of poetry and prose can remain obscure, self indulgent, and perhaps even pointless, though I hope not.

Creativity, to me, is simply bring to the world something that was not there before. Be it a garden, a meal, a joke, or a document precisely put together creates new material in space.

Creativity is somewhat different that artistry. I can be creative, in so much as partaking in the process alone of bringing forth new material. Artistry implies mastery. If I waited for perfection, I’d never find time to create.

 

A Word on Wednesday: Remarkable

“Remarkable” is  somber and reflective; it can really deliver precision if used correctly. Remarkable requires one to pay attention, because often the most remarkable circumstances are the easiest to overlook.

The definitions: “notably or conspicuously unusual; extraordinary” and “worthy of notice or attention.” The definition has not changed much since its French 17th Century roots.

I find happenstances remarkable, because they can be explained away as mere coincidence without divine or universal forces creating the connection.

Take for example, a writer picked up the pen for the first time as a serious pursuit in several months. It felt good and affirming. That same day, very same day. Someone sends a note with a blog post and poem she wrote for consideration of publishing.

The kicker … the piece was written in 2016! TWO years earlier, and it was decided to dust it off on the very same day that the first writer decided to blog with a clearer intention.

The word Stylus (find my original blog post on it here) inspired her post then. I consider this guest post, published two weeks ago, brilliant, thoughtful, inspired, and generous. You should read it here

Few things are really “remarkable,” but that doesn’t stop people from remarking. Maybe this coincidence is not that remarkable to you, but I share it regardless.

My hope is you too will take note on those remarkable coincidences in your life. Is there a nudge from the universe? Is there a cheerleader in your path? Is there a connection to an old friendship? Is there an affirmation of the direction you need to be stepping toward?

Cheers.

A Word on Wednesday: Bread

Walking into a kitchen with freshly baked bread offers one of the most soothing and comforting smells. It subtly invites gentleness and goodness. The aroma calls, “you are welcome here.”

Concretely, “bread” is a noun naming the food made of flour or meal mixed with milk or water, made into a dough or batter, with or without yeast or other leavening agents, and baked.

World Communion Sunday is a celebration observed by several Christian denominations, taking place on the first Sunday of every October that promotes Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation. It focuses on an observance of the Eucharist. Across the world, Christians will gather on Oct. 7, uniting in Christ in fellowship with one another while being connected to an approximate billion partaking in the same ritual. 

However, the idiom “break bread” is indeed very secular as an expression to eat a meal in companionship with others. The fellowship of sharing a meal is common in business, in family, and in community. Working lunches. Team dinners. Birthday parties. Fundraising meals. Soup kitchens.

A meal anchors us. The bread basket is passed, which we accept as a warming ritual of connecting.

Abstractly, “bread” can be shorthand for food or sustenance or even livelihood and, in slang, money. Author Sue Monk Kidd offers this abstraction: “Our stories are the best ‘bread’ we can offer each other.”

Stories can comfort, welcome, and connect us. What can be said to one another to emote that same warm invitation as a lightly-browned loaf?

 

 

Guest Word: Stylus

Thank you to my friend Nissa Enos for writing a fantastic essay and poem about the word “stylus.” Ms. Enos lives with her family in Manitowoc, Wis. She likes science, nature, and art.


These pieces are about aword and about a boat. I hope you enjoy her reflection as much as I do. I tried to write about “Stylus” before. You may read my take here.

About the Word Stylus
By Nissa Enos

A discussion opened up the other day; it centered on the meaning of the word stylus.

You might think that the word stylus only applies to a writing utensil that is used with a computer, however, stylus actually means any tool used for inscribing the written word. Is a quill pen a stylus? Yes. Is a Bic pen a stylus? Yes.

Although typically applied to a tool for writing, stylus can also mean any utensil used for inscribing non-language imprints on a surface. One example would be in sculpture. While the clay is still wet, the sculptor may use a stylus to imprint patterns or other detail on the surface.

In addition to writing and sculpture, there are many other uses of “stylus.” When we listen to vinyl, a diamond-carrying stylus receives signal from the bumps inside the grooves of the record. In geology, the seismograph detects vibrations within Earth and uses a stylus arm and ink to plot those vibrations on a scrolling paper tape. I wonder if you could set up a seismograph in your basement or yard and use it to track nearby road traffic. The occasional passing of a train would be cause for much excitement. A nearby, loud thunder clap shakes above-ground structures quite a bit. How much of that pressure wave translates into Earth vibration? A stylus (attached to, of course, a properly set-up seismograph) could reveal the answer.

The creator is at the handle end, and the viewer takes in what the creator has imprinted.

Oh, and there is one other definition of Stylus. She is a cool sailboat from Manitowoc, Wis. She is dark blue and has a natural wood sail holder. She is often on the Lake but sometimes she comes up the Manitowoc River.

What is the Stylus? The sail is the handle, guided by two creators, the wind and the captain. The hull on the water is the imprinting tip. The Stylus’s line, her word, her story, is the journey she traces over the waves. Who creates the record? Who will read it?

We are too small to read the record, and know what it means completely. Instead, we find ourselves poised at that active vantage point, riding the nib of the pen, watching the line being writ, seeing from water level, but only imagining the view from above, the course being charted, wondering what message we are part of tracing out.

 

 

Stylus
By Nissa Enos
Fast motion, sun on water.
We, not holders of the pen
but viewers,
riders on the nib.
Normally creators
but now
part of the tool.
As we fly on the waves
what is written
the sun can see.
What message we trace
the wind can write.
For once
we don’t hold the pen.
Instead we ride at the nib
on the hull
over the waves.
Seeing but not issuing
the speed of the light,
the choppy water.
Wondering what
from the sun’s vantage point
is the message we write.
Again, thank you Nissa Enos for this prose and verse. These words are a treasure. 

 
 

A Word on Wednesday: Unburdening

There is work to be done, new ideas to be learned, and for that the problems of yesterday and the fears for tomorrow must be put out of the way.

By unburdening, we do now allow burdens to continue. Unburdening sighs out the heavy.

It is freeing to relieve one’s mind or body of a burden. Unburdening can take the form of revealing, confessing, casting off, getting rid of, or disclosing something.

In all instances, unburdening makes room, makes lighter. Unburdening, at its heart, is an active verb.

 

A Word on Wednesday: Humility

Humility is not the same as depreciation.

I wish I had known.

Self-depreciation is the narrative looping to me, from me, in me, all me is that I am no good. Too ugly, too dumb, too mean, too crazy, too lazy, too loud, too on and on unworthy.

Humility is the quality or state of being humble.
Humble not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive.

Depreciating, a verb, diminishing in value over a period of time; synonym, cheapen.

Now I know.

With humbleness, I whisper,
“Self, you are mighty.”

A Word on Wednesday: Enjambment

Poetic liberties allow a scribe license to make the form fit the mood and meaning of a poem. Unlike prose, poetry has room for variation in line length, sentence structure, and punctuation

 

The term enjambment is the running on of a thought from one line, couplet or stanza to the next without a syntactical break. 

It originates from Nineteenth Century French poetry literally meaning a straddling, from enjamber to straddle. 

The opposite of enjambment is end-stopped.