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After celebrating a milestone birthday, Lara Patangan ponders her purpose in life.

I recently had a decade birthday, which brought up a slew of questions ranging from the existential to the inane. Specifically, these questions ranged from "What’s life’s purpose?" to "How old am I in dog years?" I’m not sure why I started thinking about dog years when I’ve always been more of a cat person. Maybe it’s because cats have nine lives and factoring that in would be an extra step in the equation. Yet, it turns out figuring out my exact canine age isn’t any easier.

You see, it’s not simply a matter of multiplying human age times a set amount of dog years as I’ve always heard. It varies based on the size of the dog and the breed. Also, in its first year a dog may age as much as 15 years and in later years only seven to nine. I momentarily thought I solved the quandary when I found an on-line dog calculator. Only, it wouldn’t let me put in an age past 20 human years. To make matters more complicated, it also asked me to a pick a dog breed. There was no way I could decide which dog I identify as—that’s a rabbit hole I’m happy to say I’m not going down.

So once again, my search for answers only led to more questions. Typically, my existential quest focuses on what I should be doing with my life. I’ve sought answers with the same tenacity as a Bluetick Coonhound on a hunt. More often than not, I ended up lost. It’s easy to focus on what we think we should do instead of what God is actually calling us to do. We spend decades acquiring material possessions, status, and prestige. We hold on to these things as if they are what defines this one unique life that is ours. As if they hold the answer to our relevance in this world. Yet, no matter how much we try to complicate, examine, or define our life’s purpose, the answer remains as simple as God’s greatest commandant to love Him and your neighbor above everything else. Life is about the love we give and receive. No special calculators or fancy formulas. Just love.

Somehow it seems like the simpler life’s truths are, the harder they are to follow. Or maybe it’s only a matter of confusing the Hallmark perception of love with the holy one that God commanded. God teaches us that love is boundless and without condition.

God’s example of love looks a lot like surrender of self. Letting go of what we want to give someone else what they need. Letting go of the lies that tell us that our value is tied to what we do or what we own or who we know. Letting go of expectations and idealism that set our relationships up for failure. Letting go of judgment and jealousy. Letting go of our stubborn will and letting in God’s gentle grace. Love is letting go of resentment, anger, and hurt. This emptying allows more room for what matters. This emptying is the hardest and holiest love. And I don’t know of a truer or more significant purpose for any of us.


Click to tweet:
Life is about the love we give and receive. #catholicmom

The real gift, whether it’s your birthday or not, isn’t knowing what we are going to do with our lives but choosing that whatever we do we will do it with love. If only measuring our lives in dog years was as simple.



Copyright 2022 Lara Patangan
Images: Canva