The Meaning of Life

#2 in a Series on Purpose

Purpose: the essential ingredient for a meaningful life. For years, it’s seemed out of reach.

In a sales career spanning a quarter-century, my purpose was straightforward yet unfulfilling: make your numbers, get your bonus. My wallet was full but I struggled with an empty soul.

Life changed radically when I left that job to become my mother’s full-time caregiver five years ago. I spent much of that time wallowing in martyrdom and resentment, my purpose unfathomable.

But purpose, like life, evolves with clarity. And as I’ve learned in sobriety, helping others is a reward in itself. So I launch a support group for daughters caring for aging parents. Channel a long-time passion for writing into a flash blog and caregiving articles. Transform my love of animals into enrichment programs at a local shelter and a petsitting business. And continue to support my husband as he deals with the sudden loss of his only child.

Age grants us wrinkles and wisdom and this I now know: purpose is found when you least seek it.

Dog Days

My life is ruled by dogs. Morning walks. Potty breaks. Belly rubs. Squeaky toys. Moments measured in kibbles.

Leashes and tennis balls are the tools of my trade.

I’m an occasional petsitter, a job I serendipitously stumbled upon after agreeing to watch a friend’s dog during her vacation.

It sounds like the ideal job. Easy money. Playing fetch all day. But when the pet parent worries like a mom on the first day of school and requires hourly texts, or the pup has separation anxiety and won’t eat, or I accidentally set off the house alarm?

These are real-world petsitting problems.

It may not be the most lucrative career, but it gives me time to write. To think. A brief sabbatical from my real job: caring for a mom with Alzheimer’s.

Taking care, in any form, gives my life purpose.

Emotional Rescue

Therapy dogs. They provide support for cancer patients. Disabled individuals. And certainly those with dementia.

Each week, I bring Max, my eight-month-old rescue lab, to visit my mother. She and the residents at her new memory care home love this puppy. He’s just like them. He rambles the halls with restless energy. His attention span is as short as the commercials that play on the activity room’s TV. He lives in the moment like his new friends. Calendars and clocks are meaningless.

He’s the perfect remedy for dementia, bringing joy to those who are often lonely and discontent.

And now, Mom’s caregiving team has a four-legged addition.

The side effect of this prescription is as healing as its benefits: emotional support for the caregiver. Max delights the staff at the care home, too. And he helps me stay positive.