From yesterday’s post, I want to elaborate on an answer for the question posed in the headline (“What Is Your Purpose?”). The best answer I’ve found on this question that I’ve asked myself for most of my life comes from Eckhart Tolle in his book The Power of Now, in which he writes that your/our/my purpose is to grow and learn. I would add to that the Buddhist philosophy of living in the moment.
Tolle’s answer is profound, but at the time my response was, I KNOW but what am I supposed to do for a JOB? A career? How do I support myself in a meaningful, fulfilling way? What job do I go to every day, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week? How do I spend most of my waking time, and with whom?
I didn’t know where my path was. I just knew I wasn’t on it. I felt like I was already growing and learning—which, by the way, is a huge improvement over how I felt for most of my 20s, which was that my life was stagnating in a toxic cesspool of going nowhere fast. When I look back on it, it feels like I didn’t even really try, but I did try. I tried in all kinds of unhealthy ways because I just could not open my eyes and see the beautiful things that life has to offer.
My days were spent commuting to a job I hated, with people who were perfectly fine but I just couldn’t relate to. It’s taken me a long time to realize that the job itself doesn’t matter so much as my attitude towards it, but that’s easy to say now that I’m working at a much lower stress job with good-hearted people. In my case I left the marketing industry to work in an organic grocery store (while pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition, but that decision didn’t come until a year later). It was so hard to leave such a well-paying job but it’s the second best thing I’ve ever done (besides getting sober).
What is the practical answer for finding purpose? More specifically, how can I be content with my life?
It took me ages to learn that it had to do with this moment. What am I doing right now to find serenity and contentedness? For years that looked like having a glass of wine after work (which was never one glass, by the way). And all I thought about all day long was five o’clock, and how good that drink would feel going down. What a relief. But it was temporary and shallow, unfulfilling for my soul and heart.
You may read or heard about what people say they regret most when they’re on their deathbeds, which is never that they worked more. It’s never, Oh I wish I had spent more time meeting all those deadlines. Probably no one says, I’m glad I drank so much all those years. It’s usually, I wish I’d spent more time having fun, enjoying life, spending time with loved ones.
In my Foundations of Health and Wellness class I learned the importance of making time in the day for play. Yes, play. Whatever that means for you. It could mean dancing in your kitchen while cooking, or in the bathroom while getting ready for your day. Maybe it means finding a game or activity to do with a friend. And I learned the importance of self-care. That means setting aside time each day, even if only for a few minutes, to do something I enjoy, that’s good for me, and for me that is writing this blog, which is a form of therapy for me. I’ve been through hell and back over the past few years, even more so since last August when my mom died, and again when my ex left me a few months later. But worse things have happened. At the time I made a list of those things, which included living in a war-torn country, losing all or part of any function of my body, accidentally killing someone else (or deliberately killing someone else, for that matter), witnessing others suffer… the list goes on. Any of those things could still happen to me; I’m not exempt. I know people who’ve experienced these kinds of things, and some of them cope well with it and others do not. How do you want to live your life?
The events that have happened in my life are just a part of life. Not to dismiss them, because my pain (just as yours) is no less valid than anyone else’s, regardless of the experience. There was a time I felt I should apologize for not having bigger problems but I no longer feel that way. Instead I can acknowledge that life could be worse, but it could be better too, and of course sometimes life is painful, but I can and will persevere. I’m resilient, if nothing else. You are too. You made it this far, didn’t you?
If you’re like me, and you have no idea what you want to do, just do things you enjoy. When I left my marketing job, or maybe just before, I took a painting class. As a kid I liked art, and I was told I was good at it, but as I got older, drinking took precedent over everything in my life, and making money became the only thing I could do otherwise to feel like I had some control over my life, to feel secure with a roof over my head and food in my belly. What I discovered was that if I continued to do those things I enjoyed, I had something to look forward to, and you never know what can come out of a hobby. Just don’t put pressure on yourself to become world-renowned at it (that’s what I do, lol). Do it because you enjoy it, and for no other reason. Otherwise, it won’t be fun. You’ll just be putting pressure on yourself to do Something and be Somebody, when you’re already somebody doing something.
So one answer to finding purpose in life is to make time each day to do something you enjoy, something that requires introspection, or quality time with someone else—not watching television, which takes you away from engaging with others, or with your own heart and soul. (Not that I don’t like TV, my friends. “Orphan Black” is my new obsession that poses fascinating questions I want to discuss later.)
I wanted to make this a short post so I’ll end it here. Finding purpose in life is one of my favorite things to ponder, so more suggestions may come to me (eg, 12-step programs offer a different answer) that I can address later.
Peace and love,