Holidays Can Be Reminders Of The Purpose Of Life

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Holidays can serve as reminders of the purpose of life. Don't spend all of the time in shopping and packaging gifts and eating out. Utilize some of the time reflecting on such questions as, "Why am I here?" and "How much have I accomplished for the purpose of being here?"

How many of us are even close to figuring out why we are here? The question does not have an easy answer. It can take a lifetime to figure it out. We tend to run away from such questions because they make us uncomfortable, even depressed.

A reader of my column tells me that holidays fill her with sadness that just won't go away. She often tries to figure out if the sadness is from the blows life has dealt her or if it is a sadness that surfaces from underlying depression. Holidays remind her of her own struggles in life and loss of loved ones. She says, "I never had an easy life. Death has been a big part of my life. I know there are some who had worse than me. But, that doesn't help me." She often travels to distant places to get away from everyone.

The fact is that life has not been entirely a sordid journey for her. She raised three beautiful children who are now responsible and loving adults, by her own admission. Raising three beautiful and responsible children may fulfill the purpose of life for some person. It's for each individual to define the purpose of his or her life.

For this person, holidays are times of great personal angst. She can't help but be reminded by the holiday season that being on this planet in an aching and ailing body is nothing but "serving my time!"

The reader goes on to say, "I don't know why we go through all the heartache that this world gives us. I am only here because I believe if you cheat life you have to come back down again until you get it right! I am a strong-minded person, but I just keep on questioning myself, "What's life really all about?"

I suggested to her that holidays could also be reminders of the beautiful children she brought into this world and raised into loving and responsible adults. She said it is difficult to think of all that when one emotionally and physically hurt all the time. One has to respect her position.

Barring a few exceptions, we all experience a fair mix of joyous and saddening events. But, we have an inbuilt bias in what we focus on and choose to remember. Make it a habit to make a note of all mornings that begin with warmth and sunshine just as of the cold, cloudy and foggy ones.

In a support group of patients with disabling illnesses, one says to his fellow patients, "I was a very young person when I was introduced to the idea that there was always somebody worse off than me. I can't use that excuse anymore. Please would somebody just tell me what, in particular I should be thankful for?"

Someone in the same support group responds, "Oh, there is so much. I took my dog to the park today. The sun was out and it was warm. I rejoiced in the beauty of God's wonders. I am thankful for the health I have and for my husband's recovery. I am thankful for my husband's love for me. I am thankful for having food to eat and a place to sleep. Just the simple things…"

Another person in the group, a widower, talks about being "all alone" because none of his children were able to visit him on Thanksgiving. Someone in the group, who happens to be "in the same boat, says, "It will be a good Thanksgiving for me even if I am 'all alone' for I will help serve dinner at the Salvation Army and be in good company. Actually, I am never all alone!"

People who are determined to not feel "all alone" will never feel alone. And, they will likely make few bad choices. They won't just find a warm body at all cost because of their fear of being alone. People with a positive attitude, optimism and high self-esteem don't ever get desperate. They make good decisions and they do find good company. They don't act out of a fear of loneliness. They think about how they could comfort another who might be lonely and needing help.

In 1621, after a hard and devastating year in the New World, the Pilgrims' fall harvest was plentiful. There were corn, fruits, vegetables, meat and fish; enough food to consume and put away for the winter. Then they built roofs over their heads in the wilderness and hearths to keep warm for the long winter ahead. The Pilgrims had beaten the odds!

What is the purpose of life? That we do the best we can with the hand dealt to us. Show more compassion than we were born with. Love others more than we are loved. Help others more than we wish to be helped.

Perhaps, that's what "life is really all about."

Return to Holiday Coping
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Copyright 2004, Mind Publications 
Posted December 2004


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