Finding purpose in dark times

As we head into the winter with Covid cases surging all around us, many of us are experiencing some of same emotions we did back in March when this virus first hit and lockdown came upon us – emptiness, isolation and anxiety. When the summer came, we could bask in the sun, go on hikes, and be with friends outdoors. There was a sense of relief and optimism that things were getting better. But now with fewer daylight hours, we are looking at the prospect of being indoors for a while without any outlets for recreation, socialization and exercise. As a friend recently put it, “There is nothing to look forward to.”

If this is the first time, you are feeling this, consider yourself lucky. Indeed there are many among us who have walked this road before, and it usually happens after the loss of a beloved, or the end of an era in one’s life. There is a “before” and “after”, and the “after” feels very much like this – like a long dark winter. Days blur into each other, there seems little to be hopeful for or look forward to, and getting through each days feels tedious, if not downright impossible.

What can we do then?

I believe we can look to our President elect, Joe Biden, who has been through losses that most of us can’t even fathom for inspiration. When asked how he coped with the deaths of his wife, daughter, and more recently his 45 year old son, how he summoned the strength to keep going, he said “You’ve got to find purpose.” To me, this accurately sums up everything I have learned from my personal and professional experiences about rising up from the lowest lows of life.

Purpose. It can mean different things to different people, depending on where you are in your life. For some it might mean finding a job even if it is not necessary to work. For others, it might mean focussing on the special needs of family members. Or if you are fortunate to have both, something that injects a sense of meaningful intention and behavior in your life. It doesn’t have to be an award winning achievement. It can be a simple reason to be excited about the next day. It could be donating your time or skills to a good cause. Or achieving a health target. Or becoming more involved in the administration of your homeowners association, place of worship, or child’s school. At the senior center where I worked, I saw older adults show up each morning with the intention of joining a class or teaching a class or meeting their friends.

I highly recommend the following articles to get started with finding your purpose, whether you are wondering how to get through this strange time, or have been grappling with feelings of emptiness and hopelessness for a while:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_your_purpose_in_life

https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-for-finding-your-purpose-in-life-4164689

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