A Question for All Eternity: “What is My Life Purpose?”
It’s a timeless, eternal question that has plagued or intrigued humanity since the beginning of time. It is a thought that can be disturbing to me especially when I’m in the throes of extreme pain.
What is the point to all this? Any sort of happiness I gain isn’t worth such torture. As the years go by, many of us with chronic illness sink into a state of depression, because physical pain always affects you on a mental level as well. It is never exclusive.
This question scares me on some days, makes me anxious, confused, angry or sad on others, but mostly I come up blank. Perhaps I get a glimmer of inspiration from time to time, but it never lasts.
Some people pursue their passions with vigour and it keeps them stimulated and going, but chronic pain is heavy. It weighs you down against your will and wishes.
One of my favourite inspirational quotes of all time!
The Circle of Life Purpose
But a strange thought rose within my mind one ordinary day: “I don’t have a purpose in life, and therein lies my purpose”. What does this mean, to me at least?
A life purpose is something of the highest priority in a person’s life. Without one, I am untethered, and I can be fearless. I have nothing to adhere to, nothing to weigh against, nothing to hold me back. Sounds a bit chaotic, doesn’t it? To explain further…
I actually believe other people have purposes to their lives, and because I have none, I can expend my energy on helping them find theirs, which in turn, benefits us all as a society. (If you play RPGs or MUDs, that would be the ultimate support class 😉 )
In the grand scheme of the universe, I am nothing but a speck, a flicker of everchanging emotion, and my pain is but a dot in its fabric.
“Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.”
– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
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Life Purpose Can Come Later, but Regret is Always Too Late
What I need to do, is to simply do. Life purpose can come later, but regret is always too late. (Note that this is just one way of approaching such despair, and some days I do choose to employ the exact opposite philosophy to keep me going!)
What I need to do is to simply keep going, no matter thought, circumstance, or emotion. To show the world the most important life skill – acceptance of what is, and to embody the essence of life itself – survival.
It’s almost like being an amoeba or cell, which doesn’t contemplate itself into confusion. It keeps going, and because of that, the universe exists.
The Elegance of the Human Spirit
If I can keep going and even take it a step further, to thrive despite the arid ground I’ve been planted in, what it does is to reflect the elegance of the human spirit. A display of humanity with purity.
The roots are to survival, as the blossoms are to thriving. If I can keep going, I then, become an instrument for the beauty of life, I become the canvas for the master painter. Because of my lack, I can be filled up with life itself.
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Stop Struggling, and Just Be
What is the point to that? It is that I stop struggling with questions such as ‘what is my life purpose’. Because as someone who lives in constant pain, my ego will never be able to sustain me. The illusion of control or independence will shatter against the rocks like waves that come and go.
I will be in that raw state of fragility more often than not. It takes my flickering pain, and transforms it into a guiding flame. The journey of life is grand and glorious, but the road ahead is narrow, with many pitfalls and deep valleys of despair.
It gives purpose to my pain. Pain has its uses, but in chronic illness, it becomes confused. Looking at it from this perspective, even when my pain has no purpose, there is still purpose to it.
*Note: This article is meant for educational purposes and is based on the author’s personal experiences. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding any new treatment protocols.
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. It’s something I really struggle with too. Society tells us that for our lives to have meaning and purpose we need to climb the career ladder, be constantly on the go, travel – all things chronic illness can limit or prevent us from doing. I used to believe that my health has to improve before I can have a purpose and be of more valuable but you’re so right, we can inspire and help others by sharing our story and showing others they’re not alone.
Society can be so blind to certain things, or trapped within certain thoughts, huh? I think it’s always possible to continue your story and narrative in a way that you want, to a certain extent, always 🙂
I really love this thought, “A purpose is something of the highest priority in a person’s life. Without one, I am untethered, and I can be fearless. I have nothing to adhere to, nothing to weigh against, nothing to hold me back. ” Scary, yet freeing. Each moment allows for discovery of ourselves rather than having it all planned out.
Thanks Katie! A bit of a strange thought, isn’t it? I find that it fuels me more than having a fixed goal or purpose as it feels so liberating, especially from the constructs we form about ourselves, and also the ones placed by society on us all.
“my ego will never be able to sustain me. The illusion of control or independence will shatter against the rocks like waves that come and go.” – The pictures you paint with your words are incredible.
I love how realistic you are and how you’re honest to yourself about what traits you have and how to work so beautifully with that.
Also, I completely feel what you say when you speaking about just being. How many times do we forget that and instead go on chasing, when we can just be.
Another favourite line of this post “What I need to do, is to simply do. Purpose can come later, but regret is always too late.”
Sorry that my thoughts in this reply sound so scattered – I feel that you raise so many important points through your introspection and experiences that I’m going through an “Aha” moment in each line!
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments as always, Shruti. Yes I think we’re all different individuals – I am definitely not as passionate or talented in a wide variety of things as many of you are, but I am okay with this (I think haha!). I only have two loves in life – writing and travelling. And that’s enough for me. Everything else is icing 🙂 And on days when I can’t write or travel, of course it gets me down, but like you mentioned, we need to just do what we need to do, and then see how we can plan our next move from there.
Thanks for reading once again. Sending love! xxx
I’ve definitely struggled with this through the years. I want to have a purpose besides just struggling and surviving, but it’s hard to look beyond that sometimes.
I think with chronic pain, it’s definitely a huge struggle. Pain is so limiting and really chains you up. Chronic pain is almost like brainwashing torture. I hope you manage to find some peace in your day to day living xx
Thank you for this Sheryl, you write so well on a topic that many of us grapple with. I think it can be hard to find purpose if we don’t have traditional life ‘things’ like a full-time office job or vocation, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have purpose. And as you say, there’s a much bigger picture!
Thanks for reading, Claire. This is probably one of my personal favourite posts. It really was a struggle for a long time, because many people harp on about how purpose gives their life meaning. But I think it doesn’t have to be so cut and dry 🙂
Your attitude is so much like mine (and is healthy, I think): realistic yet positive, encouraging, and concerned about others. I want so much to share what has happened to me as a patient with myalgic encephalomyelitis and how patients with similar illnesses can reduce their illness burden. Maybe that’s my purpose, or maybe there’s something bigger for me around the corner. Keep writing!
Hi Darla! Thanks for the comment 🙂 Heh I actually don’t think I’m a very positive person, so I’m actually surprised when people approach me to tell me I’m positive! Perhaps I am in some twisted fashion 😉 You should definitely share your experiences, I think it’s a benefit all around. And as my partner’s dad likes to say to me…you never never know what’s around the corner 😉 Thanks, you too!
I read the first few lines of this post and thought I was not going to like it, but I jumped to conclusions far too quickly. It is a wonderfully written inspiring post. It has arrived at just the right time also. I have only been because I hoped to either leave a legacy through my career or to raise some children but thanks to the Fibro it is not a sensible decision to consider having children, and I have had to give up my career. Reading through your post, it has hit home that by taking away the purpose I can be free to go with my whims within my Fibro limits and perhaps my legacy will be the blog I am creating as I document my journey.
Hi Susan, haha thanks for giving the post and chance, and reading on 😉 I too, appreciate the support you and other readers give me, whenever they leave a feedback! I am glad that it was helpful for you in the end – the general feedback I have so far on this post is a sense of relief. I think often we put too much pressure on ourselves without even quite knowing the reason why. Wishing you all the best with your journey, may it be filled with joy!
So thoughtful and beautifully worded xx Lowen @ livingpositivelywithdisability.com
p.s I love Frankl too! And snap I have just been writing about him 😀 Great minds think alike!
Thanks, lovely 🙂 And you totally should write about it, too. The more perspectives, the merrier! I did write more about his book last year, as well, if you’re interested to read! https://www.achronicvoice.com/2017/04/04/mans-search-meaning-full/
This is exactly what I needed to read at this moment. I have been struggling with purpose and trying to find my purpose, because I felt I had to live with purpose or it would not be living at all. Your article shows me another way to think about purpose. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much for reading, and commenting. Your support encourages me to keep writing, too 🙂 I know exactly how you feel, and it’s why I wrote this post. I guess modern society can be pretty self-absorbed, where everything is just about ‘me, me, me’. But when we take a step back, there’s actually a bigger picture where we can fit in, too 🙂 We all have a purpose in the universe, in the end! Sending hugs x