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The purposeless life

Posted in Life & Love, and Women's issues

empty vesselsI have been inhabiting a kind of limbo for quite some time now. Yes, the cancer diagnosis contributed to this feeling of suspension, and I realized it would take some time before I could hit the reset button but, if I put my honesty hat on, I will have to admit my life felt purposeless long before the cancer.

Purposeless is too big of a word maybe, directionless more likely – I don’t talk about it much because I could be accused of first world problems: I am not struggling from paycheck to paycheck and, after trimming some expenses, I was able to take the month of January off and deal with all my medical appointments in some peace. Still, I feel purposeless. Or without much direction. Or, better still, with no higher calling driving me. I do a million things a day, I take care of my house, my family, my animals; I cook for money; I volunteer at the hospital; I write the blog and I am not at a loss for filling my time. In fact, I wish I had more free time but, aside from writing, nothing I do makes me feel whole. I just do it. Pleasant enough. Not particularly exciting. Need the paycheck.

To some extent, sofagirl feels the same. And other women in my immediate circle, to different degrees, share in this sense of being slightly lost or not completely satisfied. So. Here we are, women in our 50s, capable women with tons of experience, knowledge, energy and willingness, a bit unsure how to best utilize our gifts. This is what we know:

  • life is short. Now, actually, short-er.
  • why, then, waste it on things, people and activities we don’t care for? (having too much of a sense of responsibility plays a huge part in answering this one).

sofagirl is convinced we share a similar trait, maybe an exquisitely feminine one: we are driven by the need to see things to their completion, steering them towards the best possible outcome, even when it might have been more sensible to not embark at all or to abandon ship before the eye of the storm.

And we get pulled away from what we really wanted to do, even if it is not clear at all what it is we wanted to do in the first place.

As women, we have a tendency to fill our time, because there is never a shortage of tasks, mundane or otherwise, that can be seen to completion. In my case, I feel an urgency “ to do” borne out of habit and, now, of fear that time is dwindling. Better keep on going in case there is not enough time, even if that time gets filled that don’t excite me.

The London tube: an endless source of wisdom
The London tube: an endless source of wisdom

So. Before I restart the engine of my everyday life and accelerate at full speed, I decided I can conveniently hide behind the six weeks of radiation treatment I just started, and pause with purpose: work less, think less but open up more. To the possibility of spending two hours reading a book, for instance, without being saddled with guilt; of sitting on the stoop watching ants carry crumbs back and forth; of baking cakes for no reason (there is an entire hospital staff waiting to be fed and fattened anyway).

I am lucky. Days stretch ahead of me. Not necessarily to be planned and filled. Like an empty vessel, I can wait for the rain to come and fill it. Maybe bringing purpose along.

 

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18 Comments

  1. Hello Claudia – just re-read this post of yours from earlier this year. It resonated so much with me. I was so restless and tired of “guiding” (mainly the responsibility for other peoples enjoyment that it entails) by the end of last year….. so I had lots of plans to do a lot of living, on my own, this year – mainly traveling, camping and exploring around South Africa.
    Well I’ve been sitting at home for 2 months now, with no responsibility, no purpose, and doing very little (I try to get at least 2 things done from my endless “to do” list every week) apart from reading, facebooking, watching movies etc. And it has been absolutely wonderful. I have truly enjoyed being “just still, just at home”.
    As with most women I feel guilty (occasionally) for being so selfish and lazy, but with this time-out, I’m learning for the first time that “living life” doesn’t have to mean achieving stuff, doing new things, meeting new people, or exploring new places.
    I think that If one is consciously being in and enjoying the present it doesn’t matter what it is.
    It won’t last – I’m a gypsy at heart – but, wow, it’s really recharged the batteries, more than I though it ever would.

    April 13, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Hi Sue – I really admire that you took the time out you needed, pretty much guilt free, and enjoyed every moment of it. Many moons ago, when it was still possible to go on vacation without staying connected, I think it was possible to achieve that kind of recharging in a matter of two to three weeks. No phones, no computers, no nothing. I would go away for 3 or 4 weeks and call home once or twice just to reassure my mother I was still alive. I always returned as good as new. Now it is much harder and a bit sad we have to discipline ourselves into not doing. Who would have thought it??

      April 14, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you! But I promise you I am not as grim as I probably sounded here (this comment was literally penned from the sofa).

      February 6, 2016
      |Reply
  2. Are you telling me this guilt I feel when I’m “idle” is never going away? Please insert the expletive of your choice here. And why is it I indeed feel this is more common with women than men? I don’t have children to fuss over, so I shouldn’t have an excuse… Hormones?

    That Tube sign – it’s from my local station, East Finchley 🙂

    February 5, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I think it’s a sense of responsibility that comes with the territory of being a woman. Or maybe a driven one. It will never go away but maybe you will learn to tame it!
      And what are the chances I would uncover a sign from your tube station???

      February 6, 2016
      |Reply
  3. Only two hours reading? You should give yourself entire mornings or afternoons 😉
    Also, I feel like every work place needs at least one person who “bakes for no reason”. So many Monday mornings or stressful weeks could be made better by baked goods!

    January 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I will try. Although it might be stretching my busy bee attitude too far. It could be a great lesson to force me to be still for that long!

      January 30, 2016
      |Reply
  4. My favorite quote:
    Life is short. If there ever was a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.

    January 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I second that.

      January 30, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Traipsing up and down tube stations, sometimes I wish I could meet the amazing employees who work there. And care enough to put up those signs, amid construction and interruptions notices.

      January 30, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      🙂

      January 30, 2016
      |Reply
  5. winston moreton
    winston moreton

    Mmmm. More beat up than up beat. Do a Ferrante – write a novello

    January 28, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Gee! I didn’t mean to sound gloomy…I am not. Just in a re-evaluating mood. And yes, if I had half her talent, I would pull a Ferrante. Suppose I could to it just for myself and not with any thoughts of grandeur in mind.

      January 29, 2016
      |Reply
  6. Ellie Toffolo
    Ellie Toffolo

    Dearest Claudia and Sue Today I met my nextdoor neighbour, a 25 mile-a-day cyclist, and he said to me “What’s this bullshit about you live only once?? You only die once. You live every single day.”

    January 28, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Absolutely agree. Just want to make sure they are all lived in the best manner I can (definitely not biking 25 miles a day…I have this thing about bikes’ seats hiking up my vagina after mile 2- really unpleasant and definitely designed by a man).

      January 29, 2016
      |Reply

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