Many times people come to see me after they’ve experienced something bad like a trauma, an illness, a divorce, a breakup, or a job change. I’m calling these things the “bad things”. These bad things not only rock our world, they change our worldview. We thought life was going to take one path, things were basically in control, and then the car veered off and flipped over in the ditch. We thought this life was basically doable, and then things went so far out of control we began to wonder if it’s actually something we can survive. Maybe we thought the world was good and benevolent, but now we aren’t quite sure.

What can possibly be the purpose for these bad things? And does there really have to be a purpose behind them?

I just got very ill with pneumonia and ended up in the intensive care unit of the hospital. I was so sick that there were several days that I couldn’t do anything but just concentrate on breathing. I couldn’t look at my phone, read a book, or watch anything on TV. I sat with my hands on my knees and focused on staying alive, breathing in, breathing out, stay focused, concentrate. I seriously wondered if I was going to live. My mind was in overdrive, overthinking everything just like people do when they are traumatized. I debated on when was the right time to go to the hospital. I overthought things like “How can I get into the car to get to the hospital?” and “What if I go to the hospital and they do some invasive procedure that is too torturous to bear” or “What if I end up with a huge hospital bill?” or “What if there are more germs at the hospital then at home and I get more sick?” or “What if the staff aren’t trained and they mess something up?”

(All of these outcomes were more desirable than me staying at home and dying which was close to happening so you can see how ridiculous overthinking is.)

My point is this was not a fun time. Over and over I thought, “How could it be this bad? Who would make it so that we can suffer this much? Can it be a benevolent God that would do this?” So I started bargaining. “If I survive this pneumonia, I am going to finally do something that I’ve always wanted to do”. I knew if I got better I would be so relieved and elated that my life would take on new meaning just by the contrast of not feeling on the edge of demise, but now that I was faced with possibly no longer being here, it became very real that it’s time to either do it or forget it.  

At one point, my mom became sick as well while she was helping me and I thought we were both going to die. I saw images of those cemeteries that have a whole bunch of graves of people who died at the same time during a plague? This difficult to treat pneumonia was going to be the thing to do us both in and it was terrifying! Luckily, she didn’t get pneumonia, only a cold, and I was able to be treated once I got into the hospital.

So maybe these bad things are there because they are clearing you out to make room for something new. The universe pushes you up against a wall and says, “Hey, are you paying attention?” Maybe they are your rock bottom moment to help you finally grab the higher rung and pull yourself up because you realize there actually is a finite amount of time. What would you do if you almost lost your life and were given another chance? What is it that’s so important to you that doing that thing breathes life into you, gives you a focus and a purpose for being here and creates a sense of resolution and meaning? Do you know?

I’m not sure I know. I am have been brainstorming since I got well which has been for the past week. I saw a story about a girl who is 23-years-old and she built an orphanage in Nepal from her savings and donations. She is now the mother to dozens of orphans. This really felt like being on your purpose to me. But it doesn’t have to be so dramatic. My ideas were more like doing more focused writing on a specific theme or creating a volunteer group to help people who are sick or the elderly who can’t get out do run errands or other people in need. Maybe you have things you’ve wanted to do or really needed to do but have put off because you thought it would be too hard.

So my next entry is going to be purpose-driven activities to help spark some ideas around this topic. They always say if you are depressed, serve others. It gets your mind off yourself. Makes sense to me.  🙂