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I recently started meeting with a new counselor, in part to work on the central problem of feeling like I have nothing meaningful to look forward to/plan for and no sense of purpose in my life. When she asked during our first session what I hoped to accomplish, I said that I would appreciate help figuring out how to find purpose or to set aside the feeling that I need one.

So, here we are.

Between now and next Monday morning, I'm supposed to brainstorm -- with the understanding that nothing is off the table, no constraints related to time or money or energy or limitations caused by health matter -- anything and everything I can imagine that might give my life meaning or purpose.

I am trying very hard to be open to this process and give the exercise a chance. 

So far, though, I have three items to put on this list, none of which is remotely realistic.

  1. Helping with my (thus far entirely theoretical) grandchildren.
  2. Raising service dogs.
  3. Teaching Sunday school at the church I no longer belong to.

I know it's not fair to ask you all to suggest items for my list, but would anyone like to share what your list would look like if you had a similar assignment?

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I hope the new counselor works. You know that I can relate to your situation. That assignment feels to me like, if you knew what would give you purpose, you could go and do it already and didn't need counseling. (As an aside, I actually found that the suffering from having no purpose subsided  when I got a handle on my depression; I don't feel closer to having purpose, but it no longer causes me such anguish)

Things that brought me a sensation of purpose at times (aside from parenting):
Teaching and helping students
Writing
Establishing a poetry event series in my community
Being helpful

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13 minutes ago, regentrude said:

That assignment feels to me like, if you knew what would give you purpose, you could go and do it already and didn't need counseling.

I said more or less that to her at least twice today. She asked me what would give my life purpose and also, as I recall, how I could regain my focus on being productive at work. 

In both cases, I gave her that basic answer. I explained that I really do want to get out of this funk and that I pride myself on being a good patient and everything, and so I am going to give this a genuine try, but those questions mostly just make me feel more frustrated and helpless.

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Affirming others that I come into contact with (doesn’t even have to be an aquaintance, total strangers need to hear that they’re a good mom, have a great fashion sense, or have lovely eyes) seriously, this can change someone’s day. My dd was a waitress and she remembered the people who were kind and affirming. It would change her day.

Sharing beauty through photos on social media. 
 

being helpful wherever I happen to be.

texting others that I’m praying for them or I love them.

There’s a quote I love by Fred Rogers that I reflect on when I feel like I have no purpose. 
"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person."

 

and it reminds me that I don’t have to know how I’ve touched people to make a difference in their lives.

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1 minute ago, happysmileylady said:

What used to give your life purpose that doesn't anymore?  List that.

How would that be helpful for this exercise? Jenny can't magically make her kids be little again so she can homeschool. And dwelling on the fact that this thing will be no more won't help her mental health either.

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I think it's easier to start with general and work down.

What do I feel like my purpose should be?
-To help

_To love

-To have a skill

 

What/whom do I want to help?

Who should be within my circle of love?

What skills would I like to possess?

 

I don't do well with open-endedness.  I need to define and narrow the scope to manageable goals.  From there I can add in what skills I have/am doing that give me purpose, who I already do demonstrate love to, and what I am helping, and then move out.  (FWIW, one of those things I'm focused on helping is me.  Developing me and being a person all by myself and not an appendage)

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If I were drawing up this list, it would include religious things that I'll leave off. But after those, it would be something like this (which I recognize is totally far out there):

1. Assist with sustainable clean water projects in parts of the world that need it.

2. Destroy the North Korean regime (the suffering in NK keeps me up at night).

3. Find ways to facilitate people from opposite political spectrums in the US to meaningfully communicate and compromise. 

4. Work on the climate crisis.

The common thread in these is that I'm motivated to reduce human suffering. That is a meaningful purpose to me. 

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20 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

What used to give your life purpose that doesn't anymore?  List that.

Regentrude (who has been following my struggle and been incredible generous and patient with me) beat me to it. The central problem I am having is that I feel like my purpose has been fulfilled and I'm now just basically filling up my days to pass the time.

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15 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

What used to give your life purpose that doesn't anymore?  List that.

 

12 minutes ago, regentrude said:

How would that be helpful for this exercise? Jenny can't magically make her kids be little again so she can homeschool. And dwelling on the fact that this thing will be no more won't help her mental health either.

I would think about what gave my life purpose the way happysmileylady suggested and see if I could recreate some of that purpose in a different way. It worked for me, but may not work for everyone.

For example, I enjoyed homeschooling my 3 kids, teaching and encouraging  them, being a sounding board, watching them grow up. As they finished homeschooling in upper middle school, I became a substitute teacher and have subbed at the same school for 6 years, teaching and encouraging Special Ed and elementary students. 

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Gardening.

Being a knowledgeable/informed person.

In the past I have been interested in learning about other cultures and had an interesting interest in possibly paying that forward with teaching ESL to adult women, or hosting exchange students, or being part of a lunch program to sponsor adult graduate students living away from their families.

 

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Not the only way to approach the question, but do you ever feel jealous when you see other people doing or being anything in particular? 

That little kernel of a feeling could be connected with a larger desire, motivation or purpose for you. 

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1 hour ago, Jenny in Florida said:

I recently started meeting with a new counselor, in part to work on the central problem of feeling like I have nothing meaningful to look forward to/plan for and no sense of purpose in my life. When she asked during our first session what I hoped to accomplish, I said that I would appreciate help figuring out how to find purpose or to set aside the feeling that I need one.

So, here we are.

Between now and next Monday morning, I'm supposed to brainstorm -- with the understanding that nothing is off the table, no constraints related to time or money or energy or limitations caused by health matter -- anything and everything I can imagine that might give my life meaning or purpose.

I am trying very hard to be open to this process and give the exercise a chance. 

So far, though, I have three items to put on this list, none of which is remotely realistic.

  1. Helping with my (thus far entirely theoretical) grandchildren.
  2. Raising service dogs.
  3. Teaching Sunday school at the church I no longer belong to.

I know it's not fair to ask you all to suggest items for my list, but would anyone like to share what your list would look like if you had a similar assignment?


I would interpret the assignment not as what specific things could you do (because, as you say, if you knew that you’d already be doing it) but in the bigger, more general sense.  What feels like a sense of purpose to you?  Do you want to reduce suffering? Create beauty?  Accumulate wealth?  Advance human knowledge?  

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- Begin volunteering at a charity that actively lifts up people in poverty.

- Pursue advocacy for people who are oppressed or disadvantaged in systemic ways.

- Help individuals who are new to parenthood or otherwise struggling with daily life.

- Give out *solicited* and *sound* advice on the internet that might increase the health and happiness of people in the world.

- Find ways to help with climate change or other environmental concerns (or at least stop harming things as much or as frequently).

- Be 'outdoorsy' and enjoy the pleasures of a more active lifestyle.

- Be a lifelong learner (from enjoying interesting youtube videos and podcasts to full-on back-to-school empty-nester, or anything in between).

- Be a bookworm: get back into reading easy fiction for pleasure.

- Find more authentic ways to express my values with my finances.

- Be a world traveler (when it becomes safe to do so) and plan future trips.

- Teach people stuff. (I have an adjunct role at a Bible College, but I could do more or different teaching. Maybe tutoring.)

- Be a good friend: especially the 'good friend in times of trouble' type of friend.

- Enrich my spiritual life, giving it the importance in my time management that it has in my actual values.

- Take control of my space (stop living like mess is inevitable, declutter, and beautify where possible).

Edited by bolt.
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I think I would also like tutoring.  
 

I have very little interest in travel, but I know two people who really get a lot out of it.  Both in the planning stages (which last a year and include research!) and the trip itself.  

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What gave you purpose in the past seems to focus on children.  What could you do to continue helping children? 

I did not have a dependable family structure when I grew up. I would have deeply loved to have an adult to depend on: teacher, counselor, girl scout leader, anyone that took an active interest in me. 

What about writing homeschool material? 

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To the OP:  I just got asked this same thing and found it difficult to answer.  Some of my difficulty is that I compare myself with others, who seem to have their act and purpose together more than I do.  My path is going to involve STAWP THAT.  

FWIW, I have never been able to answer the questions like "What are your 5 year goals? 3 year goals?"  Those questions tend to focus on what I will be doing.  I have a much closer affinity to what I will BE, what kind of person.  So my responses come up like "Have the friends I have now, in even better relationship."  "Have a satisfactory and close relationship with my family members."  "Be connected in (name that valuable community)." 

These are aspirational, but on a daily basis, they tell me what I need to be doing so that these things are true. Write to Mom.  Call Nancy.  Clean the house so it's ready for guests.

 

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Does it help to think about what parts of raising and homeschooling your kids that you found most fulfilling and then think of how those can be put to use elsewhere?  I know that I have some things that I will be glad to be done with and other things that I will miss, and I'm looking to see how I can do the parts that I'll miss as a volunteer.  Another thought that may or may not be helpful...does it help to see that you've accomplished something or do you find relationship-based things to be more rewarding?  Obviously those 2 aren't entirely separate, but, for instance, people who volunteer to help do fix-it projects like landscaping or painting or being the set-up/clean-up crew might be looking for something different than people who choose to tutor or mentor or foster children.  I'm not there yet, but I know that I'll have many years with a spouse who will work long hours and travel for work so I've been giving thought to my next phase.  

And, on a related note...one thing that frustrates me now is that so many kid-related jobs seem to expect parents to fill those roles - coaching, scout leader, Sunday school teacher, etc.  My parents talk about different adults in the community who found their niche and did it for a long time, and I think there's still a need for that.  My mom remembers going camping with boy scouts when she was tiny - her dad had 2 girls but helped with scouts for many years because he liked camping and fishing.  A local ball coach used to get a group of boys at age 5-6 and coach them until they outgrew the rec leage, and then he'd pick up a new group.  At the Boys and Girls club that I volunteer at, most of the paid workers are college students but the kids love the grandparent-age worker.  

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I would also have an impossible time with this kind of 'homework.'  Can you list the things you do now that help you get out of bed in the morning - especially if these make you feel a little better and more 'alive.' Are there things that give you some joy during the day, or that give you a sense of peace? 

It may not be the 'purpose' you're looking for, but it may help you explore things that provide some meaning/enjoyment in your life right now.

 

For me, I would list simple things that give me 'purpose' or happiness:

- Staying fit by canoeing, walking, biking and playing tennis

- Maintaining friendships especially by walking and paddling with friends when possible

- Working to help with expenses (it's a great job, but at the moment it doesn't give me a sense of purpose or joy)

- Enjoying nature (birds at the feeder, garden, while exercising, taking photos)

- Walking the dog, spending time with dh and the dc

 

 

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Quit work.

Travel ( Japan, NZ, Scotland)

Buy books whenever I want 

Time machine to go undo the past 

A family that is utterly stereotypical in a good direction - loving, close, lots of grandkids, being a loved matriarch.

My own yoga studio and private teacher.

Suddenly and quickly coming up with a scientific or other concept that will have limited but enduring impact in a field of practice, and it gets named after me 🙂

Men to dangle from my little finger.

OK. It got silly. I never understand these 'without constraint' experiments, because the constraints are immoveable. 

I don't know. I do experience moments of connection and meaning around birds and trees. 

But I'm dealing with the same 'have outlived my bio purpose' malaise. 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

What used to give your life purpose that doesn't anymore?  List that.

I’m pretty sure it was homeschooling.

this seems to be a common thing post homeschooling / maybe in a part because homeschooling is such a big amazing purpose to have.

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

How would that be helpful for this exercise? Jenny can't magically make her kids be little again so she can homeschool. And dwelling on the fact that this thing will be no more won't help her mental health either.

For me, and I'm speaking in hypotheticals because right now I'm in the opposite phase where I feel like I'm drowning because too many people need too many things from me too many times a day, I think it might be helpful to clarify whether this is a feeling that comes from the fact that the things that gave her life meaning are no longer available to her, or whether there's been an internal change that leads to her no longer finding satisfaction in purpose in things that used to bring her meaning.  To me, those are two really different things, and probably would lead to two different solutions.  

Also, if you see patterns, like activities involving children appearing over and over again, it might lead to ideas like tutoring low income kids, or volunteering as a honorary grandma for someone's kids, or something. 

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I’m wondering if sense of purpose is tied closely to values? Maybe that is so obvious and I’m just a dork. 🤣 Are they just two ways of expressing the same thing? Or different in some way?

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Just now, Lawana said:

I’m wondering if sense of purpose is tied closely to values? Maybe that is so obvious and I’m just a dork. 🤣 Are they just two ways of expressing the same thing? Or different in some way?

Not Jenny, but for me it's nothing to do with values. 

For me, it's the question of why I am getting up each day, over and over?

On an individual level, what is the purpose behind continuing to live? Is it just because we are wound up at birth and must keep going till the mechanism stops?

Ultimately, I don't think there is a purpose - I've perpetuated the species, which is the one intrinsic meaning to life - everything else is filling in time. 

But Jenny.may have a slightly more optimistic pov..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I do wonder how much these feelings intersect with the other thread we had about delayed child bearing.  Ok not just delayed child bearing but also only having a couple of children or three.  In big families mum basically goes from one last baby to grandkids to help with.  That has its obvious drawbacks but there isn’t the massive gap.

For me it’s likely something with helping disadvantaged kids with educational stuff on some level.  But on another level I don’t think that will ever quite take the place of helping and having a relationship with my own children.  It’s quite a different role.

One other thought if you can overlook the Christian aspects is that you might find it worthwhile to read mere motherhood or some of Cindy Rollins newsletters etc.  She does a bit of dealing with the transitioning away from homeschooling and what next thinking.  Obviously she does have the big family with grandkids thing going on.

I have a feeling there’s some thoughts around this in “gift from the sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh if you haven’t read it.  I’m not sure if that will help or not.

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24 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

OK. It got silly. I never understand these 'without constraint' experiments, because the constraints are immoveable. 

But sometimes, the things we believe are constraints aren't nearly as constraining as we think they are. 

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18 minutes ago, wintermom said:

I would also have an impossible time with this kind of 'homework.'  Can you list the things you do now that help you get out of bed in the morning - especially if these make you feel a little better and more 'alive.' Are there things that give you some joy during the day, or that give you a sense of peace? 

It may not be the 'purpose' you're looking for, but it may help you explore things that provide some meaning/enjoyment in your life right now.

Well, one of the things I'm trying to deal with is that most days I have no joy or sense of peace.

I get out of bed because the dog needs to go outside and/or because I have to use the bathroom. I stay out of bed because my body won't let me sleep any more, either because I literally cannot sleep or because lying down for any longer will be physically painful. I go through the motions of my day -- feeding myself and sometimes my husband, doing laundry and dishes, accomplishing enough work at my paid job to remain employed -- because I am expected to do so and can't think of anything better to do. Sometimes, I appreciate the scenery while I'm out walking or the feeling of the breeze, but I walk even when I don't feel like it and do my exercises because I don't want my body to deteriorate any more or any faster than it already has. 

I've been trying for two years to "wait and see" and "stay open to possibilities" and "explore," but I'm still pretty much stuck here.

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30 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

Quit work.

Travel ( Japan, NZ, Scotland)

Buy books whenever I want 

Time machine to go undo the past 

A family that is utterly stereotypical in a good direction - loving, close, lots of grandkids, being a loved matriarch.

My own yoga studio and private teacher.

Suddenly and quickly coming up with a scientific or other concept that will have limited but enduring impact in a field of practice, and it gets named after me 🙂

Men to dangle from my little finger.

OK. It got silly. I never understand these 'without constraint' experiments, because the constraints are immoveable. 

I don't know. I do experience moments of connection and meaning around birds and trees. 

But I'm dealing with the same 'have outlived my bio purpose' malaise. 

I do a lot of work with high school students with IDD who are trying to figure out their next step after graduation.  We start with just talking about dreams, because there's truth in dreams even if the dreams don't come literally true.  Often times, we start with dreams that are clearly impossible. My blind student is not going to become the lifeguard at the top of the waterslide, even if he loves the water slide.  My student who is a huge Beatles fan is not going to sell T-shirts at the Beatles reunion tour because John and George are dead.  But that doesn't mean that we can't use those dreams as a jumping off point to build a life that includes a position of respect (people listen to lifeguards!) and the sun on your face, or music, or whatever. 

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I think that the purpose of this sort of exercise is to dream impossibly big, identify the really meaningful bits, and pare down to make possible in real life.  A way to identify what will help provide meaning in your life, without the barrier of how.

For example:

Dream:  Buy up a huge chunk of forest and run it as a nature preserve, with public access and education programs (impossible!)

Theme: nature preservation and public education

Real life version:  Part time job (paid or volunteer) at local environmental organization.

Or 

Dream: run a free hospital in an impoverished nation that provides excellent free care to those in need (impossible)

Theme: helping people access affordable healthcare

Real life version: part time job at local public hospital or free clinic, or finding a way to use existing skills to assist a program like this.

 

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3 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

I do a lot of work with high school students with IDD who are trying to figure out their next step after graduation.  We start with just talking about dreams, because there's truth in dreams even if the dreams don't come literally true.  Often times, we start with dreams that are clearly impossible. My blind student is not going to become the lifeguard at the top of the waterslide, even if he loves the water slide.  My student who is a huge Beatles fan is not going to sell T-shirts at the Beatles reunion tour because John and George are dead.  But that doesn't mean that we can't use those dreams as a jumping off point to build a life that includes a position of respect (people listen to lifeguards!) and the sun on your face, or music, or whatever. 

Said it better than I did!

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3 hours ago, Jenny in Florida said:

So far, though, I have three items to put on this list, none of which is remotely realistic.

  1. Helping with my (thus far entirely theoretical) grandchildren.
  2. Raising service dogs.
  3. Teaching Sunday school at the church I no longer belong to.

To me this list is a list of things that will just force you to get up every morning. Which it seems you are forced to get up every morning as is. I would think of items with more of a long term goal. Think hobby but give it a goal. 

Me it would be:

  1. Learn Copperplate Calligraphy. - I have a vision in my head of how good I want it to be. 
  2. Learn to be a pastry chef. 
  3. Be able to play a Sergei Rachmaninoff piece on the piano proficiently.

The last time I felt stuck in a rut and was just waking up everyday to do my duty bound things, I attempted number 3. I was not successful, but it held me over until I got to a better place and didn't need this. 

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14 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

I do a lot of work with high school students with IDD who are trying to figure out their next step after graduation.  We start with just talking about dreams, because there's truth in dreams even if the dreams don't come literally true.  Often times, we start with dreams that are clearly impossible. My blind student is not going to become the lifeguard at the top of the waterslide, even if he loves the water slide.  My student who is a huge Beatles fan is not going to sell T-shirts at the Beatles reunion tour because John and George are dead.  But that doesn't mean that we can't use those dreams as a jumping off point to build a life that includes a position of respect (people listen to lifeguards!) and the sun on your face, or music, or whatever. 

Oh, for kids at the beginning of life, it makes sense. Mid-life? Not so sure. Existential crises just need to be worked through, I think, not solved, as such. 

For me, it's about replaceability. No-one could be a mother to.my kids quite like me. People could do my job, but not replace me, kwim?

In every other sphere of life,  ultimately replaceable. Another person could do my job equally well. 

So then it's quite bizarre to be living as a replaceable unit. 

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56 minutes ago, Lawana said:

I’m wondering if sense of purpose is tied closely to values? Maybe that is so obvious and I’m just a dork. 🤣 Are they just two ways of expressing the same thing? Or different in some way?

Like for Melissa, these have nothing to do with each other for me.
What is the point of living? The answer to that is your purpose. You can have values, yet feel life is futile and pointless.

 

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12 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

Oh, for kids at the beginning of life, it makes sense. Mid-life? Not so sure. Existential crises just need to be worked through, I think, not solved, as such. 
For me, it's about replaceability. No-one could be a mother to.my kids quite like me. People could do my job, but not replace me, kwim?In every other sphere of life,  ultimately replaceable. Another person could do my job equally well. So then it's quite bizarre to be living as a replaceable unit. 

QFT. So much this. I have at times expressed the feeling in these same words.

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26 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

 

So then it's quite bizarre to be living as a replaceable unit. 

See, I guess that's a good example of how everyone is different. 

I know I'm 100% replaceable.  There are other great special ed teachers.  There are many wonderful parents.  A lot of the things I do, like driving my kids around and fixing dinners, could be done by thousands of others. 

But I also know, both from work and from my experience parenting a kid who went without parents and suffered enormously because of it, that there are not enough good special ed teachers, or decent parents in teh world.  .  While I'm confident that my boss will replace me when my job ends in a week and a half 😢  , and that if I died my SIL would probably out perform me, I can still find value in the fact that I can add to this world by being one more good teacher, or decent mom. 

 

ETA:  I do know that if I died tomorrow, even though my SIL would be an amazing mom to my kids, it would still be very hard for them.  So, in that sense, I'm not replaceable.  They're too used to me and my foibles. 

Edited by BaseballandHockey
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3 hours ago, regentrude said:

How would that be helpful for this exercise? Jenny can't magically make her kids be little again so she can homeschool. And dwelling on the fact that this thing will be no more won't help her mental health either.

Maybe going back further can yield some clues. High school hopes. College dreams. Was the lifelong dream to be a homeschool mom and nothing else? 

Maybe even reminiscing back to childhood. Did young Jenny dream of being a princess? An astronaut? Cartoon artist? 
 

What might you have done after college if you didn't get married and have kids? 
 

Were you deliriously happy at all times while homeschooling? Be honest with yourself. 
 

As a thought excercise, this might yield some helpful clues. Not to literally become an astronaut, but perhaps there is an unrealized underlying yearning for adventure. Or creativity in the case of the cartoon artist. Maybe philanthropy in the case of the princess, depending on the "if I was a princess, I would..." that little Jenny possibly dreamed about.

I think that doing an thought excercise "without constraints" should probably be done without constraints.

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3 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

Has the feeling shifted for you over time? 

Yes. When I was seriously depressed, the sense of purposelessness and replaceability weighed on me and caused me suffering. I spent a lot of time soul searching, doing exercises like Jenny describes, trying to come up with dreams and scenarios in hopes that this shakes something lose.
Now that I am feeling better (insane amounts of physical activity plus sunshine), I still don't have a sense of purpose and I still am replaceable, but it no longer bothers me. I don't think of it at all and just go about living. (Too much introspection can be unhelpful; I discovered that journaling was really bad for me.)

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8 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

Sometimes. But as life goes on, they tend to harden. Doors do close. 

Yes, true. Like, there won't be anymore babies for me because I'm nearly 49. Highly, highly unlikely.  

When I was younger, I wanted to be an archeologist. It's unlikely I will become one, because of age, money, general "life" stuff. I *could* do it, but there's a price I'd have to pay to make all that happen, and it's too steep at this stage of my life. So no, I won't ever be an archeologist.  It's a different mindset, though. It's now a conscious choice to not become an archeologist rather than "I missed my chance and life has done me wrong", which is what I was prone to think before. 

The point of these exercises is to sort out what is really unlikely/impossible to happen because of circumstance and what things we have convinced ourselves are "impossible". 

Like, the op said that raising service dogs was not realistic. Why isn't it?  Why is teaching Sunday school not realistic?  The only thing on the list where she has zero control is the arrival of grandchildren.  

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If it were me, I think I would be thinking about creative pursuits.  Making something beautiful or meaningful or persuasive that is unique would give a sense of purpose and individual satisfaction.  You have strong convictions arrived at thoughtfully, and expressing those with joy on your own behalf and maybe for others to consider would be a very strong thing to do.

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8 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

Yes, true. Like, there won't be anymore babies for me because I'm nearly 49. Highly, highly unlikely.  

When I was younger, I wanted to be an archeologist. It's unlikely I will become one, because of age, money, general "life" stuff. I *could* do it, but there's a price I'd have to pay to make all that happen, and it's too steep at this stage of my life. So no, I won't ever be an archeologist.  It's a different mindset, though. It's now a conscious choice to not become an archeologist rather than "I missed my chance and life has done me wrong", which is what I was prone to think before. 

The point of these exercises is to sort out what is really unlikely/impossible to happen because of circumstance and what things we have convinced ourselves are "impossible". 

Like, the op said that raising service dogs was not realistic. Why isn't it?  Why is teaching Sunday school not realistic?  The only thing on the list where she has zero control is the arrival of grandchildren.  

I would quite like to be a tree. Hard biological boundary there 🙂 I could plant trees, only I'm banned from gardening ( soil/lungs). 

Allergies are one reason dogs may not be possible. Objections of other household members. Need to earn a living meaning not enough time. 

Sunday School - currently not attached to a church, no good fit spiritually or ethically in area. 

I think some of us at good at seeing restraints, and some of us are good at working around them, and probably the two skill sets work well together 

 

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14 minutes ago, fraidycat said:

Maybe going back further can yield some clues. High school hopes. College dreams. Was the lifelong dream to be a homeschool mom and nothing else? 

Maybe even reminiscing back to childhood. Did young Jenny dream of being a princess? An astronaut? Cartoon artist? 
 

What might you have done after college if you didn't get married and have kids? 
 

Were you deliriously happy at all times while homeschooling? Be honest with yourself. 
 

As a thought excercise, this might yield some helpful clues. Not to literally become an astronaut, but perhaps there is an unrealized underlying yearning for adventure. Or creativity in the case of the cartoon artist. Maybe philanthropy in the case of the princess, depending on the "if I was a princess, I would..." that little Jenny possibly dreamed about.

I think that doing an thought excercise "without constraints" should probably be done without constraints.

I was thinking about this yesterday!

I wanted to be a ballerina. 

I have no idea how to operationalize that at 50 🙂

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Would it maybe help with the collective sense of "replaceability" to move towards intrinsic motivation rather than external motivation? Like, you are replaceable to your boss -- sure. To your communities -- maybe. To your family -- with great grief, maybe eventually... But how can you be replaceable to yourself?

Like I get that if you were 'not there' then you wouldn't be there to notice that you were not there... but, as long as you are here, why not do some things for you? I'm thinking of things that focus on you, because there currently is a you who deserves enrichment, peace, belonging, scope, growth, personality, interests, etc. All of those things belong to you and stay with you -- they don't serve anyone but you, and they don't need to. You don't need to be a giver with an absent centre... it's fun to be rich and complex on the inside.

When you were offering homeschooling to other people, it was to build them up: as selves. To offer them what? The scaffolding so that they can eventually be reasonably useful to the people around them? Or were you offering the rich things that help them grow themselves, for their own sake, because they are worthy and you see them that way? Do you believe that the things that added to who they are on the inside are just intrinsically good things to offer them? Maybe because it's good for them to be rich and complex on the inside, and they deserve that?

If you can put yourself on the same footing as you put other people, you can find meaning in becoming your best self -- regardless of whether other people find you uniquely irreplaceable in their lives.

When you look at others you can probably tell, "That's an enriching and/or productive use of their time." What if you applied that same standard to yourself?

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1 minute ago, Melissa Louise said:

Allergies are one reason dogs may not be possible. Objections of other household members. Need to earn a living meaning not enough time. 

Sunday School - currently not attached to a church, no good fit spiritually or ethically in area. 

I think some of us at good at seeing restraints, and some of us are good at working around them, and probably the two skill sets work well together 

 

Right, but then that's where the decision making has to come in.  If being attached to a church is a condition of teaching Sunday school, then you have to find a church you click with.  What does it take to make that happen?  If teaching means driving further to find a church, is that an acceptable cost to pay to add purpose to one's life?  

 

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2 minutes ago, bolt. said:

Would it maybe help with the collective sense of "replaceability" to move towards intrinsic motivation rather than external motivation? Like, you are replaceable to your boss -- sure. To your communities -- maybe. To your family -- with great grief, maybe eventually... But how can you be replaceable to yourself?

Like I get that if you were 'not there' then you wouldn't be there to notice that you were not there... but, as long as you are here, why not do some things for you? I'm thinking of things that focus on you, because there currently is a you who deserves enrichment, peace, belonging, scope, growth, personality, interests, etc. All of those things belong to you and stay with you -- they don't serve anyone but you, and they don't need to. You don't need to be a giver with an absent centre... it's fun to be rich and complex on the inside.

When you were offering homeschooling to other people, it was to build them up: as selves. To offer them what? The scaffolding so that they can eventually be reasonably useful to the people around them? Or were you offering the rich things that help them grow themselves, for their own sake, because they are worthy and you see them that way? Do you believe that the things that added to who they are on the inside are just intrinsically good things to offer them? Maybe because it's good for them to be rich and complex on the inside, and they deserve that?

If you can put yourself on the same footing as you put other people, you can find meaning in becoming your best self -- regardless of whether other people find you uniquely irreplaceable in their lives.

When you look at others you can probably tell, "That's an enriching and/or productive use of their time." What if you applied that same standard to yourself?

Ha, are you my therapist?! You're right, of course. 

Jenny, I wonder if the sibling split is part of what underlies these feelings. I know that other traumas underlie mine. 

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2 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

Right, but then that's where the decision making has to come in.  If being attached to a church is a condition of teaching Sunday school, then you have to find a church you click with.  What does it take to make that happen?  If teaching means driving further to find a church, is that an acceptable cost to pay to add purpose to one's life?  

 

I think that problem solving is very rarely the core issue. Because if it was - well, I know Jenny and Regentrude are good at problem solving. 

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18 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

I was thinking about this yesterday!

I wanted to be a ballerina. 

I have no idea how to operationalize that at 50 🙂

That's what I'm saying. What would being a ballerina "do" for you?

Was it the dancing? Being on stage? The music? Traveling with the troupe? The flexibility? You might still be able to get the "benefits" of being a ballerina without actually being one if you can figure out what part of being a ballerina looked or sounded "fun".

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