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Me, Myself and… Who Am I?

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Take a moment and ask yourself an important heartfelt question: What is my purpose?

There may even be many parts to that question. What links me to community? Who am I now? Where do I belong? What is important to me?

These are all very important questions, and perhaps until now you’ve been someone who knew yourself, or at least thought you did. Now your grief, the loss of your loved one, has zapped your confidence. As you begin the next step on your unexpected journey, you may not be sure who you are, nor what your purpose is or what that purpose could be. It’s not easy to see your evolving identity and purpose through the grief, yet creating or re-creating purpose is a worthy goal. If you are asking yourself questions about what your purpose is, perhaps you are also saying you want to find meaning in your life now.

You may likely be at a fork in the road. One side of the road is full of “what ifs.” What ifs can be paralyzing and halt the forward journey. The other side is the listening side. Listening rather than searching can be a very mindful road to meaning and purpose. You may ask, listening to what? Glad you asked! Listening consists of the moments when you allow yourself to get quiet, and listen to your breath, listen to your heart. Close your eyes and allow yourself to just listen, and be open to the possibilities.

A purpose is not just a big goal to pursue. It’s about your skills and interests, and in the larger sense, your identity. It may be developing new skills and interests. Grieving a major loss may have punctured your interests temporarily. When you think about a purpose, do you feel motivated to discover new interests? Perhaps more toward community and humanity?

In Tolstoy’s children’s story, “The Three Questions,” he wrote that the only purpose is to do good.

But the truth is that purpose doesn’t have to be a lot of big things or even just one thing. It can be small things.

Such as: Feeding a stranger’s parking meter; giving a meal to someone in need; giving a smile to someone who needs one; calling someone you haven’t talked to for a long time; or listening to a friend.

Small acts of kindness serve a huge purpose. What may seem like small acts may not seem like doing enough, yet a small act can be huge to someone else. Doing small acts without judgment can bring a feeling of gratitude at the end of the day, because you smiled at someone and they smiled back out of their own sadness. That confidence that got zapped could now turn into a feeling of empowerment by any one of those acts of kindness.

Have you heard the story of the man who was outside bending down in front of a lamppost as if he’s looking for something. Another man comes up to him and says, “Did you lose something?” He answers, “yes, my keys.” The man asks, “you lost them here?” He says “No, I lost them around the corner in the park.” The man says, “So then why are you looking here?” He says, “Because this is where the light is.”

If you make your purpose to be looking for purpose, you may miss seeing where the light really is… Just around the corner!

Discovering one’s purpose in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to do good with your time.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of a song titled “This is my Now” by Jordin Sparks.

These are the beginning lyrics…

“There was a time I packed my dreams away.
Living in a shell, hiding from myself.

There was a time when I was so afraid.
I thought I’d reached the end.
But that was then.
I am made of more than my yesterdays.

This is my now, and I am breathing in the moment.”

Maybe this is your now to find your purpose with small acts of kindness to help you feel you are more than your yesterdays.

It might be helpful to keep a journal of your acts of kindness and writing about your feelings at the end of the day. Remind yourself that this is a journey with some spontaneous moments of adventure. Even in a pandemic the journey can be an adventure in a mask. Let the people you encounter know you are smiling at them. There is a light that shines with every smile.

By Evelyn Pechter, Psy.D.