What If Our Purpose Is to Enjoy Our Lives?

Are you happy?”

Hearing my dad’s voice on the other end of the phone made me smile. He asks this question often, but I didn’t expect it this time.

It was his birthday, and he asked me if I’m happy. I told him I am, that I’m trying to be; that I’m striving to appreciate this step of the journey as much as I can.

We talked while I was on the beach; silver clouds sailed through the sky and passed across the sun. When it reemerged, the sun cast a golden light over the grey and moody beach. I wore my dark green beanie and my brown corduroy jacket. I love that jacket.

It reminds me of a similar brown corduroy jacket my dad would wear when I was a kid — I remember the smell, the feeling of security. My dad was asking me if I’m okay. He’s helped me through this pain that I’m feeling. The pain is physical, yet it’s a daily battle to keep it that way.

My dad has helped me just by being there, no matter what. He’s shown me to see the good, to make life a game worth playing. We put pressure on ourselves to live up to expectations and become who we think we should be. Or what the world tells us we should be. But are we happy as we stumble along?

Are we enjoying the highs and the lows and what falls in between? We’ve made it. We’re alive. My dad has shown me that getting knocked down is inevitable. It doesn’t mean you have to stay down.

There’s always a reason to get back up, to smile, to laugh. There’s always a reason to open your heart again, because nothing seals a fate like a heart which remains closed.

I sat on the rocky beach with nobody around; a slight chill kept me attentive to the moving clouds and distant horizon; I had my a jacket buttoned to my chin, thinking about my dad’s question.

The Beatles Were Just Four Lads

On the way to the beach, I listened to Let It Be (take 28), by The Beatles. I used to think of The Beatles as more of an idea than four individuals.

The Beatles.

My dad would tell me stories of being a kid growing up in Beatles pandemonium; what it must have been like to feel bigger than the world.

The Beatles were just four lads from Liverpool who loved to make music. Yet their songs are so powerful, Let It Be and Hey Jude being my favorites, it’s almost sacrilege to regard them as anything other than musical geniuses.

Maybe they wanted to be thought of that way. Maybe they didn’t.

Hearing Let It Be (take 28) showed me they’re human. It was cool to hear their banter before playing, their jokes and the way the music ignites out of empty space. This is who The Beatles really were.

As an adult trying to make sense of hurt and joy and finding what we’re really here to do, I see The Beatles, who laugh and pick at the guitar and pound down on the piano, simply as friends with an ardent love for life. Their egos tore them apart, and that is a damn shame.

Maybe their purpose wasn’t to change the world with their music, but to change a single individual’s life. Perhaps it wouldn’t come from their sold-out concerts and political statements, but in their moments of vulnerability. The Beatles were human beings, trying to find their way.

We might lose our way in life, but when we genuinely ask, am I happy, we take the first step on the path back home to who we were and what we lost.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change, or that we can’t live life anew every single day. Change will come, and we must embrace it and continue seeking it. Yet who we are and what has always made us happy, usually the simple things, mustn’t be forgotten as we move forward and leave the familiar behind.

Our branches will crack and they will fall to make room for the budding flowers of the season. But our roots must stay strong, for they will sustain us in the darkest months and the brightest of days.

Don't you know that it's the fool, who plays it cool, by making his world a little colder. —  Hey Jude, The Beatles.
Anthony Bourdain and Happiness

When I was young, I saw Anthony Bourdain in the same way as The Beatles. That’s why kids have heroes. 

Somebody invincible, cool and exciting to emulate; until we learn they’re not perfect, and never could have been. The hero becomes human; in their vulnerability, we realize that there’s profound strength in being human.

I still consider Anthony Bourdain to be one of my greatest inspirations, but the man was hurt, and hurt others along the way. The new movie on Bourdain’s life, Roadrunner, makes it clear. Anthony Bourdain became bigger than life and lost touch with reality.

On his show, when he sincerely asked someone if they were happy, he had this look in his eyes of a boy who for the first time needs to make sense of it all. He may have hoped to receive a glimmer of hope, or maybe just the words, it will all be okay. 

I was a wide-eyed kid who saw The Beatles as immortal. I watched every episode of No Reservations and believed Bourdain had it all. Yet he couldn’t go out to restaurants without feeling suffocated. He couldn’t enjoy his life and everything he’d created — the reason why, nobody will ever know for certain.

Perhaps Bourdain couldn’t see he had people who loved him; the one thing he needed, which we all desperately want, he couldn’t grasp. The world loved him, but maybe nobody never asked if he was happy.

What If Our Purpose Is to Enjoy Our Lives?

The striving, the doing, the needing to be more. What is it really for if we’re not enjoying what we do and who we’re becoming? Our every action feeds into the essence of our soul, like drops of rain into the soil of the earth, nourishing a single experience — life.

Did you enjoy it.

We’re afraid to truly enjoy our lives, even the things which we create. It feels as though we’re not supposed to. It must be more complex than that, right? Can life really be that simple? Enjoy your time on earth?

Are we better than the birds, the dolphins, who glide through sea and sky? Why don’t we allow ourselves the joy of play? Why can’t we look into the stormy sky and allow ourselves to cry, for there’s a beautiful joy in that.

Maybe that’s what we need the most, an exhalation and a cry to return to who we are, who we were, before life got in the way.

Does life get in the way, or is life the way? What if we stop seeing our path as taking us somewhere, and instead just see it as the path, taking us somewhere? Not trying to reach our purpose, but living it.

What if our purpose is to get back up when there’s no reason we should? What if our purpose is to save a stranger, just by saying hello? We can’t possibly know the reason we’re here — let’s make our own reason for living, and play while we can.

On the shore, the waves moved in every direction. The tide’s simultaneous pushing and pulling caused them to break in place along the shore, crashing with nowhere to go. The foam became a pearly white, the ocean, silver under the dark drifting clouds and glistening sun.

Let go, flow with the sea. Stop trying to hold on. Stop trying to be strong.

I think no matter what, when we return to love — for ourselves, for others, for sheer existence — we’ll be okay.

Every season passes. When it does, we’ll remember the good; we deserve to enjoy the beauty in it all, because one day before we go, the thought may come, did I do enough?

My dad wasn’t asking me if I’m doing enough; he wanted to know if I’m happy. I don’t know what to make of that blessing. And I don’t want to lie, I’m trying my best. Yet now I know, I won’t live my life trying to answer the question, did I do enough?

I hope one day, when my eyes contain a final wink of light, I’ll ask myself, did I enjoy my life enough? Did I laugh enough. Did I feel enough. Did I love enough, share, cry, play enough.

We’re already enough, just by being alive. Let’s enjoy this ride while we can.

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