In the best of times, people are challenged to figure out their higher life purpose, but during uncertain times, the task can become even more difficult. Ever since COVID-19 maneuvered its way into our world, there’s been a huge emotional physical, spiritual and financial shift for everyone. We are out of our routines. We look at our once-full calendars, and realize there’s a blankness we never experienced before. We are living day to day in a cloud of uncertainty. We can’t help but ponder what’s really important in life, and what’s our life purpose.
In recent months, many of us have spent more time alone than usual. Perhaps this has given us time for reflection and contemplation. When faced with a great deal of uncertainty, it’s normal to experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Having never lived through a pandemic, we’re dealing with issues we’ve not considered before. We cannot run from our problems. We are living intimately with them.
I live about ninety miles north of Los Angeles and my children and grandchildren came to visit for a weekend in mid-March. While here, they learned that schools were closed and that we had to quarantine. Rather than heading home, they decided to stay here and enjoy the wonders of beach-side living. Little did they know that they’d still be here four months later. They didn’t want to return to Los Angeles as the Covid-19 cases were mounting.
I’ve been an empty nester for over a decade. I’ve been writing since my children were small, accommodating their schedules, but I haven’t done that in a very long time. My husband and I were used to being on our own schedules. Having my children and grandchildren here day in and day out has really jolted our lives. At the same time, we’ve come to realize that family is and always has been our priority. Unlike many, at least I am not lonely. I also realize this is an emergency situation and temporary problem.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading One of the best books has been Viktor Frankl’s just translated book, Yes to Life, which is now very timely. Frankl said that what helped him survive life in the concentration camp is having a life purpose. He believes this is the key during challenging times. He says that there are three ways people can find life meaning: by doing or creating, by appreciating nature, such as works of art of loving people, and thirdly, adapting and reacting well to unavoidable life situations, such as facing death or pandemics. “Our lives take on meaning through our actions, through loving, and through suffering,” he says.
Like when faced with the perils of war, we have no idea how long this pandemic will last. Initially, we all thought that after a few days or possibly weeks of isolation, we would return to our routines, but the uncertainty persists.
While initially, many viewed quarantine as a welcomed mini-vacation to clean out closets and catch up on paperwork, or a time to regroup, frustrations are mounting as we are a society which is typically on the run. While medical experts are advising us to continue the stay-at-home orders, many of those who are not high-risk have chanced it by going out into public wearing masks, and, as much as possible, maintaining social distancing. Because these times are unprecented, and we are receiving conflicting instructions and reports, people are deciding their own course of action–which is very much dependent upon their worldview and also on their life purpose. Because I am high-risk, and also believe that we are in this together and have to each do our part, I continue to remain in quarantine.
Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. The process of writing is a good way to examine our lives, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The dance we do to discover our bliss and the stories we tell can help us focus on finding a life purpose. We all have life themes, whether it’s writing, caretaking, helping others, or making creative contributions to the world.
A life purpose is what drives you. When you know your life purpose, and act on it, you will feel a sense of flow, as if you are headed in the correct direction and everything seems right. There’s a harmonious feeling. Sometimes we need the quietude of a pandemic to make us realize what our life theme is. However, there are those who often contemplate their life purpose.
“I work daily at keeping a spiritual focus. Today, with the magnitude of problems facing mankind, it is critically important for me to connect to a higher way of thinking, and seek answers to questions of meaning. Connecting with the wonder and awe of our planet causes me to think of the purpose of life — which affects everything I do, including my secular and volunteer work,” says Brenda Stockdale, the director of regional and nationally recognized cancer centers.
Living in the moment helps us get in touch with our own life purpose. According to Bernie Siegel, “When you live in the moment, you stop thinking and worrying and begin to contemplate the world around you. When you do, you begin to see a much more interesting and beautiful world. You become a teacher and wise elder for the young ones, something their younger parents cannot do.”
We are in this together. Being frustrated is part of the human condition. Offer yourself the opportunity to contemplate your life purpose and if possible, try to put it into action. Now is the time!
Diana Raab, PhD, is a memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, and award-winning author of nine books. She’s been published in over 1000 publications. She frequently speaks and teaches on writing for healing and transformation. Her latest book is Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life. Visit: dianaraab.com.