I can see the sun start to set
photo by Will
I have reason to believe the day will end.
What do we mean when we say we have purpose? Some people have one overriding goal and can quickly tell us. Some of them even perform behaviors consistent with their stated view. Those are the lucky few. I think a lot of us have many purposes. I also think our stated purpose is often the result of or influenced by, the purpose police. These are the people or organizations that dictate was is and isn’t a worthy goal. How many likes would it get on social media. The purpose police will vary according to which group you associate with. So it is probably best to find people and groups that are consistent with your real purpose, which may or may not be your stated purpose. I should be a purpose expert because we did a Purpose Driven Life in church a few years back. Truthfully, I don’t remember much about what it said, but here are what my remembered impressions are; good practical advice. Nothing really to disagree with, generally agreed on prescriptions with a good dose of god thrown in. Please don’t think I am being disrespectful I believe it was a good book and with sales in the tens of millions I don’t think my opinion really matters.
I am a big fan of learning the practical side of the Christian religion and I felt like the book used Christian based principles as a guideline. These guidelines were used to help give direction to daily life by focusing on longer term goals. If memory serves me, the Purpose Driven Life was primarily written for people who either were or soon to be in their prime years. My concern is looking at how we view our purpose after our prime years; when we know our health will never be what it once was. Most of us boomers as we are commonly refer to, either are or have retired friends. In short, certain phases of our life that helped define us or at the very least, took up great quantities of time are either over or soon will be. I have had some people provide some well thought out input to help me with this article. They pointed out some of the people who didn’t find success till after sixty. They also pointed out that their faith provided purpose at any age. Success stories are inspiring and show that age is to some degree, in some cases, just a number. Other times the importance of age is exaggerated and becomes a stumbling block to happiness. What to release and what you should hang on to is a delicate balance that is different in each situation. Some people like me are not interested in being really driven for success, I am in more of a stroll in the park phase with the occasional fast walk.
I know what my first goal should be, as my Yoda puts it, “thank god your cancer is better, now you need to recover from the cure”. It’s seems the combo of radiation and chemo can take a toll, at least it did with me. Enough with the cancer crap! I am impatient to leave the experience behind and get back to normal. This seems is a little harder than I thought. Sometimes getting back to normal and recovering from the cure rub up against each other. When I say I want to get back to normal, I mean I want the old confidence and energy back. Anyone that works nights and most people for that matter knows what it is like to be tired when you shouldn’t be, which is accompanied by having difficulty sleeping when you should. This experience was not an infrequent occurrence in my past. The difference now is my confidence that it will be alright is gone because sometimes it isn’t. This brings us to the intersection between purpose and health.
Health can and maybe should be a goal, but how our healthy we are is often out of our control. Often our purpose or if not purpose things that are important to our self image become difficult to maintain as time passes. There is a point and I don’t know where it is; that is the dividing line between being real and letting health define us. To my way of thinking maybe the most important determining factor centers around the feeling of helplessness. Control fosters hope and helplessness breeds despair. For me a successful attempt at fighting off despair consists of the proper mixture of reality and illusions. I think of illusions without the negative connotation normally associated with it. It simple refers to belief in things beyond what can empirically be proven. Norman Vincent would call it the power of positive thinking, In church we call it faith. This has more to do with attitude than purpose. Purpose for me is what are you trying to accomplish and attitude is concerned with your state of mind. If you are a Christian it is either knowing God’s plan for you or knowing what actions you should take until it is revealed. You have to believe your life has meaning before you can discover what your purpose is now. It is quite possible it might be different than in the past or maybe the goals are the same, but priorities have shifted. I often still get dragged down by the purpose police, my purpose just doesn’t measure up. I have neither money nor prestige so I have tried to live up to my long time accountant’s opinion of me. He believes me to be an example of how poor people should be. When I said I want to go back to normal I lied, sure I want a cigarette sometimes, but I don’t want 6o pounds back. I think I was somewhat lost and just maybe I found my purpose, it is not much to speak of, but it fits me. I have laid down the burden of feeling I am unworthy and am trying to be warm instead of cold, open instead of closed and my once sometimes sharp and cutting wit to something more benign and reassuring. When I feel that both Jesus and me are ok with my purpose I find peace and courage to face what lies ahead. I don’t need to save or impress the world. If I help one person that is enough. I may be the Lone Ranger, but I expect some of you know regret over what you have, or just as likely what you haven’t done. This regret can be all consuming. I often wonder how; when I was lucky enough to be born in this country, at this time, I didn’t become a better provider for my family. If I am not careful this can cause me to believe I don’t deserve happiness which blinds me from the good I can do now. I know people who do an amazing job of holding off age in appearance and say more power to them. I know people who are just has vital in their field as they ever were. It does strike me these are usually people who have had the good fortune to enjoy their job and find a sense of meaning from their work. Work is important in and of itself and so is the absence of work. The absence of your old job and sometimes even cancer can provide a great opportunity for happiness and growth. I saw a bumper sticker that said “Retirement suits me just fine” and I believe that is true for many people. In a somewhat perverted, out of time way; I believe purpose becomes more important with age, or at least more frightening without it.
This is written in an effort to help help someone, somewhere, at sometime now or in the future.