Hamster Wheels

Image courtesy of James Barker/freedigitalphotos.net

“I wish I was a hamster.”

We were at Petsmart getting some dog food and we had just walked past the aisle with the hamster cages. E saw the little wheels inside those cages and wished he could be a hamster so he could run on one of them.

While I’m sure there is some element of fun to running in place and not going anywhere, I can’t imagine that the fun would last for very long.

How do I know this?

Well, sometimes I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel. I wake up, make breakfast, do the dishes, entertain C, prepare lunch, pick up E from school, eat lunch, entertain both kids, get them ready for a nap, prepare a snack for them, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up, get the kids ready for bed, go to bed … and start the whole process over again the next day. It’s kind of like being in the movie “Groundhog Day“, where the main character wakes up on the same day over and over again. Hmm, there seems to be a trend going on here with small rodents.

Thinking about rodents has made me a little philosophical. I was wondering today, What is the meaning of life? (I might be on the brink of a mid-life crisis, so bear with me!) Is the whole point of life to just run on this hamster wheel and keep it moving? Because sometimes I would like to get off and rest. But if I can’t get off, I would like to at least feel like I’m going somewhere.

The reality though is that the sun rises and sets each day and there isn’t a pause button to press to make it stop. And a lot of what makes up one’s life is the routine and seemingly mundane stuff that happens on a daily basis.

I realized that’s why I like distractions – whether it’s in the form of eating good food, shopping for new clothes, watching my favorite TV show or going on vacations – because they bring some excitement to the ordinary. Distractions make my time running on the hamster wheel more enjoyable. I considered for a brief moment how hedonism could be an attractive philosophy to live by.

But then my sense of reality (and frugality – cause pleasure usually equals big bucks!) woke me up from this daydream. Sure, God wants me to enjoy all the things He’s given me, but hopefully there’s more to life than making myself happy. I spent many years as an only child, so I know all about focusing on myself (there can be too much of a good thing)!

I started thinking that as a parent, I totally want my kids to be happy and to enjoy life. I want them to find pleasure in running on their hamster wheels. But I also want them to look outside themselves and spend their time and energy on what is meaningful and long lasting in life.

So, what is the meaning of life? I finally came to the conclusion that it is to love. To love God and to love our neighbor (other people). To value people over things. To make someone’s day with a smile or listening ear or helping hand. To know you had a positive impact on someone’s life. It doesn’t get better or more meaningful than this!

I may be like a hamster running on my little wheel, feeling stuck in my cage, but I can move my furry feet with purpose. And that purpose, for the time being, is to care for my family the best I can. So, here I go, taking it one day at a time, all with the hope that each step will bring me closer to what I was made for … to love.

Here’s a great song by Mat Kearney, “Closer To Love“.

What do you do to make your time running on the hamster wheel more meaningful?