Finding Purpose in Life

Finding Purpose in Life

Early today while stretching at the gym, I was suddenly struck by a feeling of inexplicable loneliness. Strange place to have this sensation surrounded by so many others, but not completely unheard of. I have always felt a tinge of loneliness even amongst good company. As an observer I am still surprised that I experience life from an outsider’s perspective so often, watching events unfold from an arm’s length away. Not quite close enough to be immersed in a tangible way, but close enough to play a role as if an actor in a play. It is in this state of separateness that I do my most intense thinking.  It creates space for an unaffected view, devoid of emotions that are my constant companion. In this state I am standing outside of myself, watching, thinking and interpreting all that comes my way. This disassociation can be strange and in truth, unsettling.  Without all of the usual distractions of participation, I am forced to see things as they really are. One cannot hide from the truth very long; it will always find its way forward.

 

We shall not cease from exploration.

And the end of all our exploring,

Will be to arrive where we started,

And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Elliot

 

Today my mind wandered to things I view as unfulfilled in my life, the “why me” dialogue that many of us are so familiar with. Why did I stay in a damaging relationship for so long, why do I have to deal with this awful disease, why, why, why. After hearing this and gently letting the thoughts go, I was struck with the idea of my life really being a vessel for compassion. Maybe my life is really not about my personal journey at all. Maybe it is about every single person I encounter, who I chose to love, listen and learn from. Maybe a good life can only be measured in the moments of connection, when I am able to bring some comfort to another even if only for an instant. If this should be the case, all of the little details of my life become so trivial. Where I work, what I like to do, etc. Maybe it is these very details in which one can get bogged down and lost, going astray and losing sight of the bigger picture while focusing on the minutia of an obligation or goal. Maybe I am completely off the mark by dwelling on the specifics of my life.

 

I tore myself away

from the safe comfort of certainties

through my love of truth;

and truth rewarded me

—Simone de Beauvoir

 

I understand this may sound foreign to others, but as I see it, this exploration is the most important task that I have. If my life only becomes purposeful in the moments in which I have made an effort to help others, any other use of energy is a distraction from this end. Living by this definition, I may not “feel” my own life experiences in the way others do.  I absolutely feel things and very intensely, but am never more at peace than when I have opened up to another and have created some semblance of connection. My feelings of separateness dissipate and for just a bit I am alive and no longer just an actor in my own life. It may be that because I internalize what others are feeling, my perception of any particular moment is clouded by the others feelings.  At times it is even difficult to discern which emotions are my own given the crossover between myself and another.

 
Reflecting on these thoughts, I came to the conclusion that there are far worst things to be said about a life than aiming to put others at ease.  I may not have the high powered job or the big house on the hill, but I can offer comfort and love to another. Letting go of pathways that lead me away from this end becomes the challenge. It is so easy to be swept up in the “need to succeed” mentality. When all is said and done, all I can do is follow my heart. If there is anything that I know to be true, it is that the heart speaks in mysterious ways. If I choose to listen for this direction, I will find my way forward in due time.

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