"T he Jews had light and joy, and gladness and honor.” (Megillas Esther 8:16)

Why are people sad? Often, it’s because they’re living without clear-cut direction, which fills them with doubts. The Rema (Toras Ha’oleh) states: “There’s no happiness like the clarification of doubts.”

If one doubts a specific decision, he can pinpoint the cause of his sadness. But in many cases, a person just feels general doubt about the lack of direction in his life.

Ask any believing Jew, “What are you living for?” and he’ll answer that he lives to do the will of Hashem. But most people are so diversified in their attempts to do His will that their souls are spread thin, resulting in doubt and sadness. They have no clear, defined goal to keep them centered on a day-to-day basis.

Rare is the individual who’s managed to define his specific personal goal and is actively pursuing it. But it’s essential to do so to serve Hashem with happiness. (Rav Itamar Shwartz, Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh)

“I’m having a midlife crisis.”

“Again? You’ve had so many already.”

It takes a lot to ruffle up my friend Chassi, so I had to impress upon her the seriousness of the situation.

“This time’s the real thing. Do you know what I did last night?”

Chassi sighed loudly over the phone, “What now?”

“I stayed up all night packaging mishloach manos! Do you know what that means? That means I have enough energy to stay up all night! It means I have headspace to think of a theme for mishlaoch manos and put them together! It means I have time on my hands! How can I live with that?”

Most people are actively busy doing many wonderful things, but they’re not striving for any one specific goal. For example, if a woman’s a housewife, she’s nurturing and nourishing her family with countless acts and accomplishments on a daily basis. Yet this doesn’t necessarily make her happy.

Why? Because she doesn’t see how it all connects. She feels spread out, without any specific goal to strive for. She’d be happy if she’d just realize how all of these acts really connect to one goal. For example, she could focus on the fact that all her achievements are chesed, and then she’d derive happiness from making this her personal goal.

“Listen,” Chassi attempted to calm my blood pressure, “this doesn’t sound so different from your midlife crisis when your baby started sleeping through the night. It also sounds remarkably similar to your crisis when you went through your old kids’ clothes and realized there’s no pink in your life anymore. And it has its same roots as your crisis last August when you carried on that your kids are old enough to buy their own school supplies and don’t need you to shop for them anymore.”

“Exactly.” I leaned against the counter, suddenly drained. “If I’m not Mommy, who am I?”

Every Jew needs to have a specific spiritual goal to work for in life. To one, it may be chesed, to another tefillah, still another emes. The point is to be focused day-to-day on how you can utilize your own potential to actualize your personal goal. To clarify your individual goal, you must identify the innermost point within yourself that speaks to you. To do so, you need deep self-introspection, advice, and tefillah. The results are not immediate. But they’re worth it.

If you can succeed in directing your life to focus on your own unique mission, you will no longer struggle with sadness and doubt.

“What’s the root of mothering?” Chassi was warming up to one of her favorite topics, “It’s giving — chesed. Why are you any less of a giving person if you’ve gotten a solid night’s sleep? And why are you less of an eved Hashem if you didn’t deal with teething or tantrums today?

“I’m going to borrow from the Kotzker,” Chassi improvised: “If you are you, because of what you do, then you’re not you. But if you do, because you are you, then you are you and what you do is you, too.

“So. That’s all I have to say on the matter.”

There was a moment of hushed silence. Chassi has that effect on people.

“Thanks,” I whispered, humbled. “You’re right.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” she said, her voice becoming brisk, “I gotta hang up and go have a crisis because I haven’t even started my own mishloach manos yet.” (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 581)