I just commented by way of Facebook on a blog post about overcoming anxiety with a rather innovative prescription.
They key thesis is that the anxiety one often can feel is due to not being clear about one’s purpose in life.
The cure is to start taking that seriously and search for purpose.
Make the search a purpose in itself until you get wiser as to what you are here on Earth to do.
(Or feel deep down you are here to do – there is not necessarily an absolute answer written in the Heavens!)
Sure, this was the keynote-version of that blog, but the important thing here is that when I had just written the comment, I felt Really Good.
Like I had turned my awareness on to some light source of the soul which coming from Something Pure and Beautiful.
That’s less than the keynote-version, because this feeling is really hard to describe – it’s what discussions about ‘lofty’ concepts like purpose, meaning, etc., makes me feel.
Kind of like in high school when we read Plato and about his Theory of Forms, which – sort of naïve as it was – struck a special chord within me.
It pointed to something Eternal and Beautiful, far beyond this messy world. And that must have appealed to me.
It still does.
But feelings aside, Purpose with a capital ‘P’ is actually something very concrete and practical. It can’t be anything else, if you are to live it.
You can’t just sit and think about it all day long and feel fulfilled. You have to act.
I suspect you agree with me here?
Otherwise you might have to reconsider what really is the meaning of your search for purpose, so to speak, if you are comfortable only with it as an abstraction.
You might also want to think of what you are afraid of … when it comes to acting on your purpose, trying to make it real, and fulfill it.
I have been afraid of a lot of things over the years.
Especially when it came to try to act on what I thought was my purpose at any given moment, which I understood to be:
The Most Important Thing I Could Do With My Life.
I have been afraid to pay the price to be a fiction writer of YA fantasy with deep existential and psychological themes, for example.
For the price, no matter what book you write, is usually to be alone a lot, most certainly to be critiqued and quite often to earn-not-so-much-money as everybody else for a very long time, perhaps all time.
The worst part was when I discovered last year that I wasn’t really cut out to be a fiction writer of that sort. I never finished a book.
I had tried since about 2003 – or even further back, depending on what book we are talking about. I had always stalled at around 200-300 pages in, maybe less. Definitely never near the finish line.
The problem wasn’t necessarily that I had the wrong purpose in mind, which I suppose is something to do with teach others about how to live a good, deep, meaningful, productive and fear-less life, by way of my own experiences.
But the medium was definitely wrong. It wasn’t the fiction book.
I should have seen it coming, but I reeled for some months, after I had realized I simply wasn’t disciplined enough to ‘make it’ as a writer – of that sort.
I was really down about it, and confused.
The Good Feeling I had whenever I did something to try to live my Purpose had become tainted with the reality of failure.
I had spent years trying to act out my Purpose, through – apparently – the wrong bloody medium.
I had done so for all sorts of reasons, some of which I wasn’t sure I even understood fully.
I’ll save those for another post, but suffice to say: This. Was. A. Mega. Letdown.
And I had only myself to blame, for having ploughed on for so long without stopping to face the music and make a sharp turn and try a different direction to my Purpose.
There is always a tension between the ideals for life which makes us Feel Good to think about …
‘Wouldn’t it feel great to be a great musician, writing music that moves thousands … ?’
‘I am so moved by the plight of the people in the poor region of X, I feel I have to go to that country and help them … ‘
‘It would be fantastic to have a business which created and sold Y to the benefit of so many … ‘
… and all the fears, failures and faulty moves that dog our attempts to do just that:
Live a deeper dream.
Not about money or fame or lust … but about, say, Purpose.
So while I am content right now – Feeling Good – to discuss this topic on this blog and others’ … I know it can’t last.
Tomorrow I have to get up again.
I have to go out there and seek jobs.
I have to try to build my business.
I have to navigate difficult people.
I have to navigate the laundry, when I’d rather be doing something else.
And I have try to infuse it all with some passion AND purpose:
Either the things I do.
Or the Big Things I’m looking for while I do the things I HAVE to do, say, to get butter on the bread.
And perhaps somebody in the family will get ill or do something stupid …
… or Donald Trump blows up Latvia …
There are these constant gust and whirls of Messy Winds …
They disturb our passionate writing and contemplation about The Purposeful Life – or some other idealistic topic.
It is be SO difficult to find some Atlas-like ground to stand on.
That would be a place where everything is just as calm as in the dreams about those Forms or Ideals or Purposes that we like to cuddle up with in our minds.
Where is it? Nowhere, I guess.
But still we go on and try to find and live Purpose, among other things that make us Feel Good.
Satisfaction of the Soul.
We have to go on searching for it, trying it out.
Even if those Messy Winds keep blowing at us.
What else is there to do?
I suppose it’s a bit like having children …
This morning we had a scare (I suppose we still have it).
You see, Char cried and was all on the edge this morning because she was deeply worried.
She was worried about having eaten a lot of a rare-done burger last night, red meat – or reddish.
They served it without asking. We didn’t complain, we were in a hurry.
Then she came home, threw half her stomach up and went to bed. And read all sorts of things on the Internet about what kind of infections you can get in the fetus from eating red meat.
Apparently there’s a parasite in it that can make the baby blind, worst case – or brain damaged, another worse case.
Unless of course there’s no parasite. Or the immune system takes care of it.
We look so much forward to having our first child, after having tried for so many years and given up for more than a few years.
But this kind of scare won’t go away. It will come again and again, also after he is born (with or without eyes).
That’s the price.
The perfection of having a child, the joy, the ideal, the Thing About It that Makes You Feel Good … is all caught up with by stark reality.
Not that it’s all bad now.
It’s just … messy.
And you have to make a real effort, sometimes, to enjoy it and keep telling yourself that overall you are blessed.
You are fulfilling something vital in your life, like Purpose, and even if it’s messy, and up and down, and you get lost, and angry, and thrown of course again after having gotten back on course for a while – even despite all of that, you have to keep telling yourself It:
Fear is just a part of life.
Whether you live your Purpose or have children or some other wonderful thing.
Maybe you find they are the same coin – children and Purpose.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you accept that the Fear is there, too, and will always come back in different shapes and sizes.
Whatever makes you tick – that big grand Purpose you are searching for – it can never be Pure Forms, pure goodness in your mind – and especially not in reality.
There is always this shatteringly real Wind-of-Messy-Fears blowing around you.
And it seems to blow harder when you aim higher and try to do something Big with your life, like searching for and realizing a Purpose that will make a lot of difference to many people.
Perhaps that is why it is so easy to get lured back to the safe drone of everyday routine, the secure job, the people you know, the social media buzz, drinks, masturbation, TV, and just coasting.
It’s not a crime. I do it – and sometimes I do it consciously, to get a break:
I have to struggle with myself constantly to try to keep pushing for realizing that Purpose, whatever it is now.
And, related, to preparing to be a dad.
Two pretty Big Things, making me Feel Good. And scared. And messed up.
I have a ritual every evening.
After having done all I can during the day to find work, build business, take care of the necessary, and prepare for the baby, say by shopping some stuff for him – then I try to make a conscious escape. To recharge batteries.
I listen to retrowave music. I read comics. I drink whiskey. I watch something stupid on YouTube. I read about battleships. Something utterly pointless, in more than one sense. But good for the soul. Chicken soup, perhaps.
Sometimes I even enclose myself in that sphere of safety that comes from just taming the written word and writing something ‘brilliant’ on somebody else’s blog, my fantastic opinion about how life, the universe, everything works. And escape before anyone can contradict me.
That’s also relaxation. A way to recharge. A medium-heated chicken soup, perhaps.
But tomorrow I will go out into the wind again.
And I know it’s right.