I’ve recently become addicted to Downton Abbey. Yes, I know I’m late to the party. I usually avoid shows like that because I am weak. I am drawn to my couch, popcorn and tv shows, like an alcoholic to vodka, and like the alcoholics say, one is too many and two is not enough.
Approximately four episodes in yesterday, (it might have been five, don’t judge) I had the following thoughts:
- My house would look a lot better if I had servants.
- Every member of Downton Abbey dreads the same thing:
Redundancy. Lack of purpose and meaningful work.
Their concern is not just economic – though it is that. It’s a deeper and perhaps more familiar issue than we care to admit.
Mosely the valet is bubbly at the chance to serve Lord Grantham, then crushed to find Mr. Bates back on scene. Lord Grantham is thrilled at being sent to lead troops on the front lines, then humiliated to find his role was titular only. The women scheme constantly for a husband and a house, so they might have something more to do than dress for dinner.
It’s interesting because despite the social stratification, the human condition runs through every vein in the grand Abbey.
Put another way: We’re built for purpose and lacking one, we cobble and scrap for it; by helping a grown man get dressed or relentlessly meddling in the affairs of the grandchildren.
But as Captain Matthew, the on-again off-again heir to Downton said, it’s all shifting sand. That’s why the characters plot and maneuver all the time. Don’t even get me started on these two.
Misery and self-promotion are rarely far from each other, and I think we’re loath to admit how we often we engage both. It’s not just that we fear the economic ruin of getting sacked, it’s that many of us completely lack identity outside the one provided by our work.
So when the sand shifts, we panic, secretly thinking:
“If I’m not this, who am I?”
Are you miserable in your job, but terrified to leave? Retiring soon? In possession of a “good job” that feels to you like eating a whole sleeve of saltine crackers?
If so, perhaps wrestling the question, “Without this, who am I?” is a useful, if terrifying, first step.
I was forced into answering it myself seven years ago. Standing on the back porch of the historic, if crumbling, farm house Sam and I bought on a windy West Texas ranch. I got everything I said I wanted and discovered it wasn’t enough.
I stood there howling into wind. “What am I doing with my life?”
When you’re that loud about it, I believe someone is bound to answer, and someone did. It still pains me to think of that time, but I don’t even recognize that girl now.
I’ve recently begun a new venture that I hope to roll out next week. It’s a tool really to help you answer three questions:
- Who created me?
- What for?
- And how do I do that?
I’ve learned the hard way, I cannot be the center of my own life. There too many days I wake up depressed or fearful and lack the fuel to drive myself in any other direction. On those days, self-help is, by definition, a mobius strip.
I now have a supremely reliable external power source, a fire burning in me that someone else lit. I believe all of us have that fire, it may just need a little stoking.
If you are lost, feeling useless or done, or like the ladder you’ve been climbing leans against the wrong building altogether, I invite you to subscribe, so you can come along as we grow and figure out together what it means to catch fire.
I promise, I hardly have it all figured out, but I’m hot on the trail and I don’t want to travel alone. As the African proverb says: