A Sense of Purpose

Has COVID-19 had an impact on your sense of purpose?  In her March 15, 2021, article A Reason To Get Out Of Bed, Barbara Karnes discusses this issue in terms of how purpose impacts end-of-life.

  A Reason To Get Out Of Bed – BK Books

Barbara reports that when she awoke the other morning, she began to think:  Why not just stay in bed all day? Why do I NEED to get out of bed? What do I NEED to do?  It was then that she realized that because of COVID, her sense of purpose had vastly diminished.  Something that Barbara already knew, something she had learned through her profession, was that having purpose is needed to move forward into living. 

This, too, is my experience.  When the time came that my mother-in-law could no longer live alone and the choice was made for her to move into our home, she was in very poor condition due to advanced COPD, falls and fractures, as well as a number of other serious disorders.  We didn’t expect her to live much beyond two more years. 

What we hadn’t considered was the strong sense of purpose that still burned within her.  She got up each morning insisting to get dressed first thing.  She set goals—one of which we helped her meet—which was to see her last grandchild graduate from college. (This meant procuring a special oxygen system to enable her to flying to Colorado for graduation.) 

The woman not only had goals, she verbalized them vociferously. 

“My goal is to live to one hundred.” “It’s all in your attitude.” “I don’t want to miss anything. “I just keep plodding along.”

What to Do about Mama? pp. 30-31

In my book, “What to Do about Mama?”  others reported similar stories about the longevity of seniors living life with a purpose. 

I recall an assessment I administered with a woman well over ninety. She said that her son was a widower and remarked that I reminded her of her deceased daughter-in-law. Later in the assessment, she asked me, “Are you married?” Afterward, when I was walking to my car, I burst out laughing when it suddenly dawned on me that she was exploring my status of availability for her son. I think it was important for her to know he was taken care of before she was ready to depart this earth.

And here is another reason one senior is motivated, just like the Energizer Bunny, to keep going and going and going . . . Her mother hadn’t “planned” to live past eighty-five. But once Patricia’s siblings began to compile a family history, she expressed the desire to see the work completed. It gave her satisfaction that her children, who hadn’t always gotten along, were cooperating on the project.

Peter told us that because the Germans had shot at him with “88s” during the war, it was his goal to live to be eighty-eight years old. He and one other man in his platoon had been the only two that were not wounded or killed by the German artillery.

What to Do about Mama? pp. 227, 306

In her article: Barbara Karnes concludes that “The year of 2020 changed everyone’s sense of purpose, made everyone question their reason for getting out of bed each morning.  The pandemic did end a way of life we were living. It stopped our routines, our habits of daily living and forced us to reexamine how we are living our lives, what is important to us, how do we just survive.” 

So true.  I find that I am filling my days with “busy-ness”—various projects, some that I like, some not so much so.  Why? 

Unlike some people, such as the healthcare workers who are pushing their purpose to the limits, there are others who have been stopped in their tracks—forced to shelter, to disconnect, to stop what we were doing.  We ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” But as Barbara Karnes suggests, maybe it would be preferable to rethink our question and ask, “What can I do while this is happening.”   In that way, we may be able to better-establish our sense of purpose and our reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

Don’t ask: Why am I doing this?
Do ask: What can I do when this is happening?