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Posts Tagged ‘purpose’

So last year was about acceptance – accepting myself as I am and being true to my own self, rather than needing to live up to some external expectations (or my perception of what those external expectations may be).

And this year has built on that theme, but also introduced the idea of what I call ‘stickability’ – the value in just sticking with something, seeing it through, creating a solid foundation and continuing to build on it, rather than running from one thing to the next.

So it’s about the time of year when I start thinking – I wonder what the theme for the next year will be.

I think it is something the year will reveal to me as it goes, but my prediction at this point is this: that next year will continue to build on the themes of acceptance/being true to self, and stickability, and that it’s own theme will be this revolutionary idea – that it is possible to be happy.

I think it will build further upon the perspective I have been gaining on the true meaning of happiness – that it does not lie out there in the future or in the achievement of some specific thing, but that rather it lies inherent in every moment, waiting to be experienced and opened up to.  That the real happiness lies in the doing, not in the have done.  And that it lies simultaneously in both the small moments of life, and also in the committing of yourself to something larger that you truly believe in and can feel proud of.

I feel at a really good place in my life and my self at the moment.  And it sure has been a long, hard road to get here.  But I’m learning, and just over the last few weeks really, I have begun to really open up to and embrace my own self.  The smallest things, that would probably sound silly to anyone else, are to me hugely positive markers of my change in perspective and increasing sense of wellbeing and self acceptance and love of life.

I am accepting that my body needs fuel, and that I am no longer a teenager and don’t have to look like one, and that I may not always be a size 8, and that it’s ok to have a woman’s body, and I am more ok with this than I have ever been.

I have come to a radical new acceptance of my hair and truly learnt what it means to embrace yourself entirely as you are without modification.

I have come to a new peace with all the parts of myself – the part that is excited by emergencies and medicine, the part that feels at home in poetry and literature, the part that loves to party and meet lots of awesome and interesting new people, the part that likes to sit at home on my own with a cup of tea and a good book.  I’ve discovered that all those things can dwell together as a part of me, that I don’t have to choose one or the other but can embrace all aspects of myself.

I feel like my life is finally becoming rooted in a sense of purpose and direction, and that I may finally have stumbled upon something I can believe in and devote myself to.  And also enjoy!!

I have discovered that I’m not perfect and I’m not going to be – but I am good, and maybe that is good enough.  I’ve discovered that I actually like myself and that I’m fine just as I am.

I have discovered that life is actually pretty good.  And that maybe it is actually possible to be happy.

So I’m looking forward to the next year!  And I’m enjoying the end of this one.   In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my glorious weekend in my favourite city and look forward to work on Monday.  Yes, I did say I am looking forward to work.  Life is good 🙂

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Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have learned that to adhere to ‘stickability’, you have to know yourself enough to know what you want to stick at.  I continue to believe that when you find your own unique place in the world, you will automatically be driven to ‘stick’ with it, to keep going even when it’s hard or unpleasant, to commit for better or worse because there is nothing else for you, because what you do is driven by who you are and who you essentially need to be.

I had been thinking about going back to Med School.  I think because my head had been going overtime and I needed an easy answer.  I need to know that my life is worth something, that it has meaning in some way, some purpose.  I think Med School seems like an easy panacea for me – it’s like  a ready-made purpose all wrapped up in social acceptability, so that I wouldn’t have to think anymore, wouldn’t have to keep asking the question – not just who but why am I?!

I came to the conclusion that going back to Med School was rather more running from the question than moving towards the answer.  Flailing about in the unknown, the blank slate of unknown purpose, I gravitated back to that which seemed a nice, neat definition for me, something to make my life make sense.

But Emily’s Quest is about living and loving the questions in the faith, hope and trust that I will somehow live my way into the answer.  And so I am going to embrace the unknown and keep asking the question into the darkness, in the faith that one day I will look around and realise I am living the answer already and always have been.

So in a way I was right about this year being about stickability, but not in the way I thought.  It’s not about sticking to an arbitrary sense of external validation and definition, but rather about sticking true to that little voice in my soul that urges me on and learning to just be with it long enough to really hear what it is saying, not trying to cover it over with easy solutions and quick-fix bandaids.

For some reason, that little voice  – that is not really a voice at all but a sense, a knowning, an urging – has been pulling me for a long time towards Australia, and in particular Sydney.  Don’t ask me why or what I even mean by that – it’s just there.

So, I am finally, finally, finally, just going to have the guts to just bloody do it.  Enough talking, enough thinking, enough questioning of motives.  I am currently in almost exactly the same situation that I have been at least two other times in my life.  I talking exactly the same right down to where I’m working and where I’m living.  There is a pattern repeating in my life and I recognise the place I am at with much familiarity.  And you know what they say about what happens if you ‘always do what you’ve always done…’

So I am making a difference choice this time.  I am (hopefully!) breaking the pattern.  How lucky I am to live in a life where I get to choose again.  The first two times I chose wrong.  So life as brought me back the exact same situation and now I get to choose again.

This time I choose the fear, I choose the excitement, I choose the small voice inside of me that won’t be drowned out, I choose the absolute unknown and the vastness of the world ahead of me, I choose to dance with the questions of life.

I am terrified.  I am excited.  I am alive!

Sydney here I come!

Sydney here I come!

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When you look at nature, you can see purpose in everything.  To the casual observer it may look as if trees and plants do no more than grow, exist and die.  However, a closer look reveals that they provide habitats for countless animals, birds and insects, and the provide oxygen and food for the planet.  Without them we could not survive.  The trees and other plants make a contribution to the planet; they have a purpose

~ Brendan Nicols in Your Soul Purpose

The contrast between the above book passage which I came across recently and my previous post reminds me of the contrast between two of my favourite quotes:

Do something that makes you happy, that makes you love the day. Life is not a series of tests to pass or fail – life is a delight and an adventure.

~ Anon

(I found this in a magazine once when I was a teenager and have kept it ever since)

Contrast this:

I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.

~ Leo Rosten

I have always loved this pair of quotes because they seem to contradict each other and yet they both speak to some fundamental core truth within me.  I guess the phenomenon was summed up best by another great thinker:

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

~ Niels Bohr

Despite all my wannabe existential nihilism that I spout from time to time, I just can’t escape the feeling that there has to be a purpose to all of this.  And,  more to the immediate point, a purpose to me.  I cannot be content to just ‘be’ without purpose.  I have this deep sense that I came here to do something, to serve some function, to acheive some end – even if that end is just my own evolution and growth.  And yet even that doesn’t feel right to me, that I should enter this life and this body solely for my own benefit.  I feel that I am meant for something, that I have something to give – to people, to the world.  I just can’t for the life of me figure out what it is.

I guess what I’m saying is that any time I harp on optimistically about the joyous meaninglessness of life, I’m actually full of shit.  What I’m doing is overcompensating for my utter sense of desperation in the fact that I ultimately can’t shake the belief that life – my life and all life – does have a purpose and my utter frustration at not being able to figure out what the hell it is. 

Do I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy?  Yes.  But ultimately, I think the truest happiness comes from finding your unique purpose and living it with all you’re worth.  You will never be truly happy until you are giving, being and doing what you came here to give, be and do.

Maybe I’ve just realised that opting for upbeat nihilism is really opting for defeat – it is giving up on the quest.

Emily will never give up on the quest. 

One day, one of these rainbows will lead to the pot of gold.  If it’s not this next one then hell – there will always be other rainbows.

Someone else again summed it up perfectly:

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

~ Morrie Schwartz

I’m determined to find my own purpose, my own sense of meaning and my own contribution to make.  For now, I identify strongly with one of my favourite song lyrics:

I’m on my feet, I’m on the floor, I’m good to go
All I need is just to hear a song I know
I wanna always feel like part of this was mine
Wanna fall in love tonight

~ Praise Chorus, performed by Jimmy Eat World

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Ok, so I’m going to answer the big question of life right here right now.  That’s it, search over – you ready?

Although some of us are a little more preoccupied with it than others, I think most people alive have at some point asked themselves the questions:

What is the meaning of life?  Why am I here?  What is my purpose?

I, personally, being a big picture kind of person, can become overwhelmingly frustrated with this eternal existential dilemma.  There has to be some reason for all this!  There must be some grand purpose for which my life was ordained.  Otherwise it just feels so pointless.

But I read something today that was so simple yet fell with such truth into my awareness.  I guess it’s Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation often ends up being the one with the most truth.

Think about nature – birds, trees, mountains, rivers.  What is the purpose of a bird?  It just is.  What is the purpose of grass?  It just is.  Why are there mountains?  They just are.  None of nature needs a reason for existence – it’s all just there and why not?  There is a beauty and kind of wordless sense in its existence just for the sake of its existence.

We humans like to think we are somehow separate from nature, outside of it, something apart.  We’re not.  We are as natural as birds and trees – we are animals and part of the intricate fabric of this crazy, intriguing world.  Cows fart methane and we build cars and factories, lions hunt gazelles and we invent processed cheese.  It is all not just in the world, but of it.

So how absurd then to think that we require any more reason for being than a mouse or a sunflower.  What is that bird’s purpose?  To be a bird.  What is my purpose?  To be.  Maybe we are here simply because we are here.

Edmund Hilary didn’t ask why Mt Everest was there.  It was, and so he climbed it.  When asked why he climbed it, he responded: “Because it was there”.  He could have added: and so was I.  Both he and the mountain were both just there.  They both just existed because they did.  And so Hilary combined their experience of existing into an experience of each other.  He climbed the mountain and the mountain was climbed.  They needed no greater reason than this.

Maybe there is some big grand overarching purpose to this whole thing – life, the planet, the universe.  Maybe we are all the single cells in some big grand plan.  But if each of the cells of your body sat around gazing into their mitochondria asking ‘What’s the point?  What am I here for?’, then your body would probably cease to function.  So each cell has to just trust that it’s there because it’s there and get on with the business of being and doing what it is and does.

Perhaps next time you wonder why am I here, consider that maybe you just are.  What is the purpose of life?  To be alive.  You are because you are, just like the trees and the birds and the stars just are.  Yet, you are aware of your being.  So be, and make all your doing a celebration and exploration of the beingness.

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Think about this:

What is really important in life? The job you do?  Or the people you love?

Or in the words of Morrie Schwartz (and he was dying, man – dying people have this whole other perspective.  I think maybe all our lives would be better if we realised that we are all dying):

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.
~ Morrie Schwartz

Maybe life is more about who we are than what we do.  About who we spend it with and how we share ourselves.

I had a life, elsewhere, that sounded successful and meaningful.  I got good grades and was doing something society reveres as altruistic and significant.  I hated it.

I’m am happier right now – jobless and directionless in my Mum’s lounge in my favourite city with the people I love and who love me – than I have been in a long, long time.  If I could spend my life here, in the city I love with the people I love, it really barely even matters what I do with my day.

Or finally, in the words of one of my favourite pieces of writing:

What if you could be more present and open-hearted with each person you encounter working as a cashier in the corner store, a parking lot attendant or filing clerk than you could if you were striving to do something you think is more important?

How would this change how you want to spend your precious time on this earth?

~ Oriah

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