Thoughts on Worry and Purpose

As 2013 was winding down, I found myself more and more contemplating the state of worry I seem to usually find myself in. If I strung together all the minutes I spent worrying, how many days have I lost? I suspect the answer is in weeks, if not months. And what has this time spent on worry done for me? Yes, I realize the answer.

I don’t know exactly why I’m such a worrier, but I’ve been one for as long as I can remember. Years ago, a good friend recommended the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff. He recognized the amount of energy I was wasting getting caught up in stressing over things that either didn’t matter or might never happen.

In just the past few weeks, I’ve begun repeating a mantra to myself to counter all the worry: You have a place to live. You have food to eat. You have family to love. Everything is OK. I’m finding that repeating these things to myself helps calm me during those times when I feel my belly begin to burn and my heart begin to pound. Remembering that I’m secure in the things that truly matter helps me let go of the rest. Every little thing really will be alright.

A great deal of my worry lately centers around what I’m thinking of more and more as my life’s work. I’ve referred to this variously as my new career, my new job path, etc., but it’s so much more than just a job I’m worried about. It’s more a way of life. I am 45 years old, and I want to finally begin living my life exactly the way I want to live it.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s always lived this way, you probably don’t get what I mean. Why would anyone choose to not live exactly the way she wants? I do think that people who’ve never considered living any other way are truly lucky, because I think they’re in the minority. I think that most of us have compromised in one way or another, at some point in our lives, on how we lead our lives in order either to satisfy the desires of someone important to us or to avoid imagined condemnation or to quell the fear of revealing ourselves to the world–and quite possibly all of the above. This has been me, the “pleaser,” one who constantly twists and bends herself to fit.

In the past several years, I’ve accomplished many things I set out to do, yet there has been this nagging feeling deep within that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, so to speak. What’s [not so] funny about this is that what I’ve been looking for has been within me all along; the key to a satisfactory life, I believe now, is living in a way that suits your purpose, your purpose being those things that drive you, those things you keep returning to year after year, no matter how far off track your life goes.

As 2014 began, I rolled around ideas of how to pinpoint my purpose in a way that would empower me to live up to it every single day. At first, I thought about purpose in the sense, again, of career goals, but when I imagined my days, I thought about all my waking hours, the personal and the professional. I remembered the sense of peace I’ve felt while on recent long vacations with my family, during which my days are balanced with reading, writing, playing, and discovering.

I also thought a lot about what has driven me, not only in the past year or even decade, but throughout the course of my life, and realized in doing so that purpose goes deeper than how I might like to earn a living. It’s about being true to myself in every action I take throughout all the days of my life. I’d thought about balance tremendously over the past few years, but always in terms of professional vs. private life and never in terms of a continuous spectrum of behavior that I could employ consistently in every facet of my life. I feel, honestly, like a light bulb has finally turned on for me.

My friend Deanna Shrodes talks about composing a purpose statement for one’s life in her e-book Juggle. Following her prompts, I came up with this:

The purpose of my life is to use my gifts of creative expression to build strong family connections; to advocate for adoptees and for family preservation; and to continuously expand upon and share my knowledge about the world in which I live.

It’s my first attempt, so it’s likely to be tweaked as the year progresses. Nevertheless, it’s a guiding statement I can refer to each morning to set my mind at ease about what’s waiting to be accomplished in the coming day. It’s a statement that encompasses the personal and professional aspects of my life in a way that emphasizes how these things are intertwined for me. I’ve been going about balance all wrong by trying to keep up walls. I feel now that the only way I’ll be able to live in balance is if I knock all the walls down, if I simply be. Wish me luck!

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Worry and Purpose

  1. Karen – I am a worrier, stress about everything, go from zero to full panic. It is hereditary, I do come by it naturally – I also am a firm believer in the impact of the mother’s stress while we were in the womb and the relationship to the babe. I think I am the product of both. If you are interested in that let me know – not that it fixes it but it’s interesting.

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    1. That’s an interesting theory. Forces me to also consider how my own stress during pregnancies with my children may have affected them, too. None of us is without stress, that’s for sure, but I do find merit in the idea that high levels of stress may affect our children while they are in utero. Stress has manifested as a physical ailment for me in the past. Thanks for your comment! Something to think about…

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