Living Your Purpose

One of the things I’ve been really struggling with over the past couple of years of this sexual violence at the hands of a friend, a colleague, and a lover, is feeling a sense of purpose in my life. I’m 43 years old. I don’t have any children. I’m not religious, so I don’t have a community through church. I’m a moderately successful writer, depending on how you define “success.”

I also have an amazing husband and family.

When I turned 40, I hit the stereotypical mid-life crisis, I suppose. I wasn’t nearly as “successful” as I had hoped to be, as I had worked so hard to be. With the level of investment, monetary and energetically, I had put into my own self-growth, my career, and my education, I “should’ve” been much further along by the time I hit 40.

I felt like my life had no purpose. No matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough.

It wasn’t enough that I had produced and directed two political documentaries, one of which premiere in Paris. It wasn’t enough that I had written and published an award-winning novel (and have subsequently written and published eight more titles). It’s not enough. They’re not successful enough. They don’t sell enough. I don’t have enough readers. I don’t make enough money.

At the same time, my children…which were my dogs, started to die as they were all nearing 15 and 16 years old. I lost all three in the span of two years. During this very vulnerable and scary time, when a lot of the demons that have haunted me throughout my life reared their ugly heads again–compounding this feeling that life had no meaning whatsoever, someone I trusted completely, my best friend at the time, used that vulnerability to get in very deep, sexually exploit and assault me, and then discard me. The Writer ignored my repetitive “NOs,” manipulated me into a sexual position I had repeatedly tried to avoid without hurting his feelings–as he was my best friend, and then decided he couldn’t handle the situation afterward, abandoning me and the friendship I had sacrificed my honor to protect. I felt I was partly at fault, although I see now that wasn’t the case.

Our friendship and our writing pacts helped give me that sense of purpose I was so desperately craving. When he hurt me in the way that he did, he ripped that away again. Similarly with a colleague about 7 months afterward, The Musician also ignored my hours of repetitive “NOs,” throwing in a chorus of what a gentleman he was and how he would never do what The Writer had done, coercing me into a similar situation despite my constant protestations. Again, when his needs had been met, albeit through coercion, and he realized he couldn’t “handle” it, he discarded me as well. This time when I was alone in a foreign country.

Both these betrayals set me up for The Rapist and the greatest betrayal of my life.

So, I’ve really struggled with this idea of feeling a sense of purpose. I truly feel I don’t have one. When those I trust and who swear they care for me exploit me and toss me aside so callously, it compounds my feelings of worthlessness and lack of purpose. I write for hours, spending months writing and editing a book, only to sell a handful of copies. The royalties from those sales doesn’t even equal the price for the print run, the cover artist, and the editor, let alone leave any profit to live on.

I feel my life and my work is pointless. Utterly and completely meaningless.

Although I have fans breathing down my neck for a sequel to Avalon Revisited and The Zombies of Mesmer, and I appreciate their interest and support for my work. In fact, often that’s what keeps me going. Still, I know I would sell about 100 copies if I’m really, really lucky. Three months of work and not a dime goes to me or to buy food or to pay living expenses (let alone pay for mochas!).

So, I feel like I have no purpose.

It’s been a recurring theme in my current therapy, this lack of purpose. Struggling for a sense of meaning, any sign that my entire existence isn’t a waste of time and space. Knowing that if I only had the courage I could end all of this. Although I’m no longer suicidal like I was in the months following the rapes, I still struggle with this existential dilemma.

These days, I’m actually enjoying life most of the time, and that’s because I’m living my purpose much more often than I’m wondering about whether or not I have purpose. That’s another of the many gifts my therapist gave me

Living my purpose.

He brought that up one day, and I was so in awe of him, as I often am, because he’s so articulate and skilled in his work. He says things with such clarity that they touch my soul and I truly understand. He asked me if when I was working in my garden or playing with my dog or writing a story if I worried about my purpose. I said no because I was distracted.

He asked, “Perhaps because in those moments you’re living your purpose.”

Again, he’s right.

When I get a pathetic royalty statement from my agent and see, again, how few books sold. When I look at my CreateSpace or Kindle sales, or lack thereof. When I see the piles of books in storage, month after month. When I see our dwindling bank account…I hear the voice of my parentss and of society, the voice that says unless I’m making money, I’m worthless. Unless I’m “successful,” my existence is pointless.

Then I paint. Then I write. Then I reach for my husband’s hand. Then I create beauty in the garden or I compose a blog post revealing truth. I watch Buster run around the hillside, jowls flapping up and down, up and down. He sits next to me and together we watch the sunset over the lake. Then I share Chocolate Chip Waffles with my husband on Sunday morning. Then I sit in Starbucks enjoying a frothy mocha while working on a plot for my next short story…

Then my life has meaning. Then I’m living my purpose.

Edgar Allen Poe, a writer to whom I’ve been compared more than once, died penniless, a drug addict and a drunk. Hemingway blew his head off. Wolfe drown herself.

However I end, I don’t write for you. I write for me. I write to fill the hours until I die, not to make money. Not to sell books. Not to increase my fan base. I write because when I do, I’m living my purpose.

My guess is that some fans will hate the sequel of Avalon Revisited. That’s okay, for the whole 100 copies that will sell. I didn’t write it for them. It was cathartic for me. It was healing for me. It was what I needed to say. It might or might not be picked up by a publisher, and it really doesn’t matter. My purpose isn’t based on my bank account or my Book Scan numbers. I don’t write for them. I don’t write for the readers. I don’t write for my agent or a potential publisher. (I must keep repeating this blog post after blog post, and even in my sleep, so that I believe it. I was socialized to please others. It’s a difficult training to break.)

For you, find what you not only enjoy doing, but something where you feel a sense of peace and contentment. Then, you’re living your purpose. Whether you’re making money or not is pretty irrelevant. We put far too much importance on money. It’s easy for me to say that, I admit, because I have a husband who makes the bulk of the money. Far from wealthy, we have food and shelter and clothes and I get to have Starbucks’ mochas. We get to moderately travel. We live pretty simply, so we don’t need much income, but of course we need income. Everyone does. Fortunately for me, his income comes from living his purpose. His self-worth and esteem are based in his work, and that works well for us both. He’s a skilled contractor, and he’s paid decently for it. He’s a great writer, like me, and we’ve had some success traveling to promote the books and other art we create. We rent out a room via AirBnB and get to meet some cool people. Those things together bring in enough income to pay the minimal bills and still give us time to write and garden and be together.

Live your purpose.

I write because it fills the hours, because I’m improving my craft for me, because I’m creating beauty and revealing truth. I don’t write to get published. Although it’s way cool when I get that validation and support, and I love to hear from readers, all that is icing on a delicious cake.

While I write or garden or paint or give advice to readers, I’m living my purpose, which is to create beauty and reveal truth.

What’s your purpose?

~ by omgrey on May 22, 2013.

5 Responses to “Living Your Purpose”

  1. Hi Olivia,
    I am in a very similar place. Same age too. I found these two books, both written by James Hollis, especially useful :
    -The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife
    -Creating a Life: Finding your Individual Path

    You most certainly ARE living your purpose. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

    • Oh, my, Kauri. Thank you so much for your kind and touching comment! I’m so sorry to read you’re going through something similar, but I’m pleased you find my blog useful. xo

      Thank you for the book recommendations! I’ll look them up straight away.

      Peace to you.

  2. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Please yourself. Be transparent. Be.

    Your journey is yours as you know. As I know mine is.

    Enough. Sad that so many struggle with it.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. G-d, that is beautifully written.

    And i find myself rarely “good enough” either — your accomplishments seem so impressive to me — but i can see how you can feel they’re ne ver good enough, as i judge myself the same way. No matter how many battles i win, no matter how much sex i’ve had, no matter how many people say they admire me, it’s never enough for me to judge myself successful, even at those things alone. I look at my loneliness, my physical illnesses, my fears, my struggling to survive and thrive under patriarchal rule — and see failure.

    When you mention existentialism i think of Sysiphus, pushing that rock up the mountain — and the conclusion of: we must imagine Sysiphus happy. I cant quite remember the explanation of that conclusion — i’m thinking it must be the same as the one you refer to: he is living his purpose.

    And yes, we are taught that the definition of happiness and success is financial. And as women, we are also brainwashed that success = marriage as well. (But with the advent of the past 20 yrs or so, we’re also supposed to “have a career” to be considered successful — so we’re supposed to still be sex objects, servile to men, have no rights when it comes to sexual assault or control over our bodies — and then get up and go to work the next day with a smile — and be good at it!) Every once in a while when a stranger says, “So what do you do?” I reply that i watch a lot of TV, sleep a lot, etc. But most of the time i give them the answer they want to hear, and define what i “do” as my employment — but i hate doing that. What i want to say is, “On top of all the shit that women have to deal with in life, you think i should ‘do’ something else???” No woman should have to “do” anything, we should be too busy just surviving and fighting our revolution and our oh-so-loving government should be financially supporting us.

  4. Your description of the sexual abuse is perfectly written. SO common — it’s actually happening to me now, with the least likely person i would suspect (isnt that how it always is?) — my auto mechanic. So now we cant even get our cars repaired by someone we consider reliable and economical — without a relationship developing that leads to the “come-on and the discard” syndrome. It’s fucking ubiquitous.

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