Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Learning to live in the present -- part two

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

I liked your answer about finding one's purpose in life [from your April 4 column], but what you said about it being something to hang onto when life is overwhelming is the problem. I have nothing to hang onto in those situations -- which are too frequent. I have absolutely not found a job/career that works well for me, at which I am good and which I also enjoy. I am not a parent, I am no one's best friend or spouse, I don't have a truly meaningful hobby or volunteer work. So, when life becomes difficult, I go to a dark place -- why the hell am I even here?

Yes, I am in therapy and on meds, but those only go so far.

-- How? (Cont'd.)

Internal motivations are the most reliable, but even they can falter -- and it is good to have reliable reasons to keep moving. Career, as you say, or kids, loved ones, hobbies.

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But framing this as a "life purpose" issue may have set the stakes higher than is helpful to you, though. There are days I get out of bed only -- only -- because I really want coffee.

And there are afternoons where I push to finish something only because it feels better not to leave stuff for tomorrow.

These are tiny pleasures. Connecting one to another to another across a day might not feel grandly productive, but the constellation it creates is pleasant enough to behold.

When you're uncertain what you can count on, it helps to start with these smaller things instead of reaching for validations that depend on others. Finding a rewarding job/career, for example, typically involves getting hired/educated/paid; a marriage or best friendship is 50 percent in someone else's hands.


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