The Search for Purpose


When things hit me in groups of three, I believe the universe is speaking to me. Sometimes I’m too thick or stubborn to take action, but I always take notice. Today the topic of purpose is hitting me from all angles. This is most likely because a troubling memory has recently resurfaced and I can’t seem to shake it, a memory of an argument with my (now) ex-husband (who was trying so hard to inspire me but the effort was lost on me due to the season I was in) confronted me with the question, “What is your purpose?”

That simple question really pissed me off. Who the hell was he to ask my purpose? I retreated into an internal diatribe about all the things I did for him yet there he was questioning my “purpose!” Oh the indignance, the anger, the self-righteousness that coursed through my veins like electricity on a high-voltage powerline. That was about five years ago – and the emotion is still raw. Why? Simple really, I didn’t have an answer and I knew that was very bad. This conversation has been on my mind for about a week, popping into my head without invitation at odd moments.

Somehow I had forgotten who I was. I’d lost my passion for nerdy jokes, unicorns, glitter, mermaids, reading books, cooking, loving others. I had devolved into a robot that lived as I believed I was “supposed to.” I poured all of my energy into a job that paid well but sucked the very soul out of me. I existed minute to minute … nothing more, existing is not the same as living. Somehow I found myself waking up every morning doing things I didn’t like, sleeping next to a man who no longer liked me (I didn’t like me, how could he), going to a job I literally hated, and acting out through all kinds of self-destructive behaviors. My courage, my purpose, and my self-esteem had all vanished. That conversation with my ex-husband pissed me off because it called into focus the main problem in my life. Sadly I wasn’t ready to do anything about it, I was a real-life zombie who went through the motions of life filled with resentment and outright animosity, I lived this way for years, and it got much worse before it got better.

As I spiraled downward I forgot about that conversation, or more accurately repressed it. It’s so much easier to wallow and cast blame than to take action and make changes. Besides, how was I going to find a purpose, “all the good ones were taken!” I can laugh at myself now but I really thought that for a long time. It’s what someone talking to a child would call “stinkin-thinkin” and what professional psychologists refer to as cognitive distortions.

This morning as I watched Dave Hollis on “The Morning Show That no one is Talking About”(put a link in there – start today). His discussion of the importance of developing daily habits included having a purpose — I never thought of purpose as a habit, but I liked the thought. He quoted Frederich Nietzsche of all people who said “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” As I was listening to Dave I was scrolling my to-read list and Apple served up a book on purpose (If I like it I’ll recommend it to you). Merriam Webster defines purpose rather blandly:

The definition is deceptively simple and doesn’t truly convey the power of purpose. Purpose is the “Why” of life. What are you trying to achieve and more importantly why. If you want to run a marathon because your friend Jane did, you probably are not going to stay committed to the training (because that shit is hard), If you want to build a business because you don’t want to work for someone else – that reason may not be strong enough to motivate you through the thigh-high swamp muck you’re going to have to traverse to succeed. That’s exactly what I’d been doing. I wasn’t at a loss for goals, but I had no purpose, I was checking boxes not leading my own journey.

I thrive on helping people. I’m not one for the spotlight but I’m very talented at putting the spotlight on others and helping them shine. When I look back on my career I’ve spent most of my life convincing executives to invest in technology that will help them make more money. And I’m good at it, but if I truly loved this work I’d be exceptional, I’m just good. I follow the playbook, I check the boxes, I do the things but I’m not as inspired as I wish I was.

There was one era in my career where a lowly individual contributor, a cog in the wheel changed the face of marketing for a multi-national company by turning customers into heroes. When asked to talk about a time in my career I loved, that always comes to mind. I was on fire I’d tapped into something I didn’t realize was within me. Sadly budgets changed, priorities shifted and while the project continued on, I had to take on other work, my passion wilted like a hydrangea in August sunshine.

Fast-forward a few years to another company and another industry. I was at a very conservative industry trade-show where participants wandered the floor in toe-crushing dress shoes confined in uniforms (suits) that stifled identity. Two men wearing jeans and sporting what was obviously prison ink walked up to me and said hello. If this encounter had taken place on a dimly lit street after 9:00 p.m. I would have been terrified, in this setting I was intrigued. Who were they, why were they here, and why were they talking to me??? Turns out they were representing “Homeboy Industries” a non-profit that helps people transition from gang-life to being law-abiding citizens. They needed help with a job training program. I listened. They didn’t just have a need, they had a “why” that struck my heart. Suddenly I found myself working my phone to get them what they needed, I had a purpose and I wasn’t willing to take no for an answer. I was en fuego! (pretty sure this is a grammatically incorrect use of Spanish to convey “on fire” but it’s fun to say). I got them what they needed and it felt great, so great that other people noticed. But guess what, just like before something new and less inspiring became a priority and I lost my fire, I wandered back into the swamp, and I stayed there for years. During this time I wasn’t helping anyone, least of all myself.

I’m 9 months sober right now, and I’m a firm believer in the power of Alcoholics Anonymous. One of the main principles is the notion of helping others once you are strong enough in your recovery. For me, the past nine months have been a period of very deep, focused, self-reflection. I now, realize that I am at my personal best when I’m inspiring and helping others. That is my purpose, especially those who I think haven’t gotten a fair shake.

Great news ya’ll I have a purpose! Bad news, it doesn’t pay the bills so I still work in a job that isn’t my passion but, I have goals now that are built on that purpose. And the idea that all the good purposes are taken — Bah! So here’s my purpose I want to help women capture their self-esteem, embrace their power and be their best selves.

I won the genetic lottery. First of all, I was born in the United States of America a country where there are disadvantages to being a career-minded woman but I don’t have to worry about being stoned to death because of my ambition. Second, I was raised in a text-book family where my parents loved each other and my sister and I. Third, my parents did their absolute best to encourage me growing up. Fourth, I was able to get an education, and more so very very very much more.

And yet I fell apart because I didn’t have a purpose, because I let some really mixed up notions of who I was “supposed” to be obfusicate who I was. If I struggled that means someone out there is also struggling and maybe I can throw them a life jacket and help them to shore. So that is my purpose.

Writing for Me

I don’t know how many times I’ve been told to process emotions by either writing a letter to the person I’m upset with (but never sending it) or to write a letter to myself. I’ve taken this advice many times and it’s helped. Today I was missing my abuser (which is common for victims of domestic violence). Actually, I wasn’t missing him, I was missing the person I imagined him to be.

I did not want to feel this way, even though I intellectually recognize that I’m mourning the loss of a fantasy as opposed to a real person or real relationship, I’m still mourning. To cope, I decided to write him a letter about how sad I am that he wasn’t the person I believed him to be. Instead, I stumbled upon a letter I wrote myself about 18 months ago and it changed my thinking. First, the letter is a reminder that for TWO FUCKING YEARS(!) I’ve been trying to force-fit a square peg into a round hole, trying to find love where it was never going to be. Second, it reminded me that I have a longstanding pattern of selling myself short. And third, it reminded me I want and deserve more.

I’m sharing this letter because somebody out there needs to write one to themself, but they are hesitating. Maybe they don’t believe it is useful or are uncertain where to start. It works, and just start.

July, 2018

Dear Me,

I’m looking at your photo. The one you took before you really tied one on at Applebees or wherever you were while you were texting HIM [my abuser].

You need to bring that woman back. You are worth it. Actually no, not exactly her.

That girl is full of hope, she has bright beautiful eyes and a 100-watt smile. If it wasn’t your face you’d be awed by her beauty.

You have a heart that is filled with love for others. People are damn lucky to have you in their life. They need to earn that spot. Just because you have a lot of love and caring to give doesn’t mean you have to throw it at the first person to walk by. You’ve done that three times now. How has that worked out for you?

You are feeling guilty for texting a guy right now because He is in jail? How guilty do you think he feels about your car, your credit score, your life that he destroyed.

That girl is beautiful. Her body and soul deserve to be treated like the amazing gifts they are. That means you treat yourself well and demand it of others.

Let a man give chase, let him pay for things. It’s OK. If you are in it for real you aren’t taking advantage.

Be happy, don’t waste your life behind the computer. You’ve spent the last three days doing nothing on your iPad. How is that possible?

Cultivate confidence. People would die to look like you do, make people laugh like you do and earn as you do, so why do you doubt yourself? Stop that shit. If someone makes you sad, get them the fuck out.

Respect yourself enough to demand that other people do. Even if you end up alone you won’t end up beaten up and alone, missing an eye and alone, raped and alone, destitute and alone.

Demand someone that can take you out. You know yourself you know it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be something.

Quit paying for other people.

Be Capable, Caring, Compassionate, Competent. you already are just don’t stop. You are enough, nobody will complete you. You are complete.

An Abuser is in Jail, Why Aren’t I Rejoicing?

I went to court hoping to hear that my abuser was in jail because he was arrested for public intoxication and that triggered a probation violation. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened, he’s picked up a new domestic violence charge.

I’m having a very difficult time understanding how I feel right now. Logic says I should be impassive, but I’m not. I’ve moved away from the county where this occurred, which means I had a one-hour drive to court after writing my last post. I called my mom during this drive and was surprised when I burst into tears because I was afraid he had abused another woman. Had I aggressively prosecuted him, had I called the police every time he hurt me, he would have been in jail (most likely state prison) and unable to hurt anyone else. My misguided tender heart (let’s be real, it’s full-on co-dependence) attempted to help and comfort him without regard to my safety or the safety of others. I’m angry with myself.

Arriving at court I was also surprised at all the physical symptoms of anxiety I was experiencing, In fact writing this is producing them all over again. I experienced tightness in my chest, my feet were bouncing, my stomach was fluttering … and I was edgy.

Domestic Violence Court is a S-L-O-W process. It took two hours for him to be called and my tension continued to build. He had a fresh haircut and was clean-shaven, but other than that he looked pretty weak, a state that in the past would have made me feel the need to help or protect him. On Wednesday it just disgusted me, I recognized it as the manipulation of an abuser.

He’s been in and out of treatment for two years with better access to mental health care than I have, I’ve done more than I should have to help him feel safe and loved, to provide stability. Truth be told, I focused on him, more than myself. There are people that would give anything for the opportunities he was given to better himself but he is choosing to play the system and continue to abuse himself and women.

My anxiety skyrocketed as the prosecutor read the police account of his latest domestic violence crime. It was almost exactly the same thing he did to me the first time. He was drunk, they fought verbally, he tried to get control of her phone and grabbed at her. She hid in her room and called the police telling them she thought he was looking for a knife. Leopards don’t change their spots.

I updated the criminal restraining order and spoke in court. Again, I was surprised to find myself bawling as told the court that I wanted him to stay in jail. That he’s a predator and I told them of his records in other states.

I’m sad that it ended this way. That I’m still getting hurt and that another woman was abused.

Yesterday, I sold the keyboard he treasured (that he conned me into paying for under the premise it was a short-term loan). Today I’m going to his revocation hearing where they will decide his sentence. I want the judge to be looking at me and my tears when he decides. As for what he feels. That’s his journey, not mine. I’m learning I cannot control his desire to get better, or if he’ll put the work in. I am only in charge of my own life. Tough words for a recovering co-dependent.

If you are being abused, please get support!. The Domestic Violence Hotline or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24 hours a day.

Pro-tip, use an incognito browser when you research help options.

Should–The Enemy of Peace

I’m trying to process a complex emotional situation at the moment, and true to form I’m making it harder than necessary by focusing on how I think I “should” feel. “Should” is the enemy of peace. “Should” is the quintessential set up for disappointment by creating expectations that are based on personal opinions shaped from experience. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t take “should” into account. Reality simply is. Today’s reality is that I’m headed to court to find out why my ex-boyfriend is in jail.

I know how I’d think one of my friends should feel if they were in my situation, but my reality is different. I loved a man who suffers from alcoholism. To me he’s almost three people; the dangerous, violent, angry, and insecure person who shows up when he’s drinking, the highly sensitive artist I met who struggles, and the person I believe he is. I’m in love with the fantasy man I’ve created, the potential I think he has. Unfortunately, that means I’m in love with a fairytale, a Prince Charming I’ve invented, I love a person I think he should be, not who he is.

I haven’t seen him in nearly two months, that’s when after two years, I finally accepted that he’s a pathological liar that will always leave me holding the bag. He was always telling me how he was going to contribute to the household, that he was getting a promotion, that he’d pay me back. I’m not stupid, part of me always knew he was making empty promises. The other part of me wanted him to be telling the truth so I held out hope, which in this case was a bad thing.

I’ve thought a lot about why I did that, why did I hold out hope when there wasn’t a shred of evidence he’d deliver, in fact, there was a longstanding history indicating he wouldn’t. The capacity for denial of fact to placate the heart is amazing. As the song lyric goes, call me Cleopatra because I’m the queen of de-nial.

For years I brayed like a donkey that if a man ever laid his hands on me, I’d kill him in his sleep. I meant it. Yet when this man beat me on four separate occasions, I made excuses. He didn’t mean to, his father was a bad role model, his mom hated him, on and on. I called the police twice and he spent a few months in jail. During this time, I visited him, I put money on his account, and I sent him things to make his sentence (for beating me) more comfortable. It’s hard for me to believe I did this, but I did.

He spent a very tumultuous year in and out of rehab, again with my support. During this year I got sober, I lost my dog of 13 years, and my father had several health emergencies resulting in him requiring 24-hour care. Rather than provide support, he created more stress for me. In this time I began to realize that I could not make him recover. On one occasion, we were out running errands and he chose to drink and I left him in a parking lot. A week later he was arrested for public intoxication breaking his probation and leading to another month in jail during which I did not visit, call or send anything. That was very hard my heart hurt knowing he was in there alone, scared and without support.

He got out, and for about 9 months I tried to be supportive even though I knew he was still in the same place. His actions showed it. The spring, summer, and fall were marked with lies and disappointment. I didn’t want to give up. Eventually, I realized I had no choice and told him no more. That was early December of 2019. I told him to get a year of sobriety and consistent employment, then we’d talk.

In the two months since I’ve separated myself from him, he chose to quit his job because it was messing with his sleep (or he was fired and told me a cover story). I hadn’t heard from him in about three weeks and my fear of him being dead kicked in so I started looking in jails and the arrest reports to see if I could find him and I did. He was arrested in another county and then sent to the county we previously lived in (I moved in an effort to rebuild).

In the week since learning he’s in jail again, I’ve had a hard time sleeping. I take no pleasure in him being in jail, it breaks my heart. I’ve done everything I can think of to help him become stable, but he is not ready. I have accepted that he may never be ready. I’ve managed to ignore my instinct to visit him, comfort him, send him letters, or provide money for his commissary account. I tried that and he didn’t change at all. Being involved with him puts my insecurity into overdrive and creates a constant state of anxiety for me. Not to be melodramatic, but it puts my life in danger.

Yet I feel like I “should” be nice, I “should” help him. If I was in his shoes, I’d want someone to comfort me. The thing is I’m not in his shoes. When my family and friends, and A.A. came to my aid to help me out of the hole I was in; I made changes. I didn’t just stop drinking, I worked on myself to be more confident, to have boundaries, to get out of my head and be of service. I’m not in the same place I was a year ago which is why I’m not in his shoes.

Rather than accept help and make changes he’s functioned on hubris, insisting he knows best. He’s still lying to himself (and the rest of the world), drinking to avoid feeling the disappointment of how he’s living and hurting those around him. I have compassion, I know he’s unhappy, but I know I cannot help him, he has to help himself.

So why am I going to court today? I want to know what he did. I fear that he hurt another woman, if he did, I’m going to feel partially responsible. He has a history of domestic abuse, he was even arrested for being violent with his ill, 70-year old father. When he hurt me, rather than aggressively prosecute him, I protected him. Had I worked to ensure he was fully prosecuted he would have ended up in state prison for a couple of years. Instead I “helped” him. Did I put another kind-hearted woman at risk?

I’ll find out in a couple of hours.