Why Having A Purpose In Life Is Bullshit

I talked to my friend for an hour and a half yesterday. She's a year or so post-cancer treatment and is wondering why the hell she was saddled with really yucky one, which required her to lose her a body part and her hair.

*Spoiler alert: Only one of these came back.

Meanwhile, my dearest friend is actually crying by the river (she's a bit Joni Mitchell but let her be) and wondering why she hasn't got some grand purpose, now that she has been dragged back from the edge of death's public toilet bowl.

After we spoke, I thought about her a lot, because I luff her and she's one of my favourite people in the world, and with her permission, this is what I texted her.


1) Purpose is bullshit. What if I told you that your purpose right now is to be here. That’s it. All you have to do is show the fuck up. If you want to paint, paint. If you want to write, write. Bake bread? Do it. No wonder so many people feel like failures. Being told they have to have a "purpose" makes them feel like they haven't hit their KPI's for life and should just shove their head in the oven and be done with it. Put bread in the oven, not your head!™

2) Strive instead for a curiosity driven life. One where you try things, share them with the world or noone. There are no rules. The next thing you do, is to breathe. You have my permission, if you need it, to stop seeking and just be. Take the dance class. Go to the Galapagos Islands. Eat the snail. Learn the language. Join the choir. Pick up the racket. 

3) Not everyone's purpose is their job. Actually, very few people's purpose in life is their job. We put too much pressure on our career to be everything and more. It's actual fuckery, and is causing more and more depression in the world, because people feel shithouse their job isn't making them want to get up and punch the air with their "awesomely, awesome life!".

4) What about pursuing a creative life instead? Why not pursue this as your purpose and your job is just to support that. If you think of your work as just funding your creativity or curiosity, life is somewhat more palatable. Write the poem, or the book, or throw the clay down, or do up the car, or pick up the paintbrush! This is enough of a reason for being on the planet. We need your creative stuff so we don't have to feel so shit about the other stuff.

5)  What I read from your voice when we spoke was the issue of worthiness. Why get cancer, survive, and then have nothing at the end of it all? What was it all for? It was for me. Your husband. The kids. Your family.  Your friends. Your presence in our life is enough of a purpose. That shows us your worth. That isn’t to say that those who die from cancer weren’t worthy enough to stay, they were all worthy but you survived and survival was your purpose for a long time. That's enough.

6) But I am asking you to understand this. 

  • There is no such thing as fair.
  • You are being stronger by being vulnerable and saying you don't know what is next than you are by pretending you have it all sorted. Noone really has it all sorted in their head.
  • Your creativity is a tool for you to express yourself and what you feel. Try everything.
  • Your relationships and the love you give and receive is your true purpose. It's everyone's purpose.

When my father died, the love was enormous. It was like a huge ball of flowers that became alight and then floated off into the ether, showering us with scintilla’s of light and joy and the extreme knowing that this was the meaning of everything.

Shore up the banks of your life with love baby, and the rest will follow.

Say yes to kisses and hugs, and hand-picked bunches of flowers.

Say yes to patting the neighbour's cat on your short walk up the street as you try and get your strength back.

Say yes to cups of tea and watching TV shows about stupid shit that will not make you smarter but will stop you thinking for a while.

Say yes to sunsets and clean sheets and hot showers and love.

Love is truly everything. And you are rich in it. Wealthy.

You're a fucking rockstar, you're just in rehab right now.



Blood(y) Cancer Memory


I spent Sunday with my brother,  who I cared for during his fight with a bitch of a blood cancer.  I spent nearly every day for 5 months in the hospital, sometimes going back and forth several times a day (usually when I forgot something he needed desperately like medication or the iPad). Those long months of waiting and watching and hoping, all the while becoming fluent in a language of white cells and neutrophils and more. Sadly I've seen two of my friends become fluent in this language more recently. Cancer is a bitch.

But my brother is a miracle man, and I was saddened to see Olivia Newton-John had cancer again. Her hospital and doctors saved my brother's life and my sanity. When a doctor cries at the news of remission, you know you're in the right place. When you give them your favorite champagne when you leave, you know they're worth it! (Dr's Genevieve and Joel, I'm talking about you both!)

The worst thing about cancer is death. The second worst thing is being so helpless while your loved one is undergoing treatment. If you could do a round or two for them just to ease the worst of it, you would.

But strangely I sometimes miss those long days at the hospital. Not for the stress or the pain or the loud MET calls and smell of cauliflower coming from the kitchen, but I miss the time with my brother. I was his primary carer, and I gave up everything to be that for him, and be with him. It's not for everyone but I have never been afraid of the dark waters in life.

Those days of talking quietly about patients down the hall, or sitting in the corner and writing while he slept. Sitting with him for chemo session and running down to the cafe for a chicken and avocado focaccia (his craving during treatment). Making sure I got there in time for doctor's rounds, where sometimes the resident would hide behind the curtain with Fred to catch up on the cricket score.

When he was finally in remission, and out of hospital he lived with us for two years to recover from the brutal treatment. His body was skeletal and battered, his soul shattered. Slow days and slow healing ensued. I work from home and I watched his recovery. Our days had a rhythm.  Coffee, brain training for both of us, because his brain was like swiss cheese from the medication and I'm just dumb. Then I would work and he would potter, or sleep. Sleep is nature's healer and he needed a lot.

It was a slow, slow process but now he's better. Working in his dream job that we talked about before his diagnosis. Living by the water, which as a little crab, he needs.

On Sunday we ate breakfast at a cute cafe, and drank coffee, read the papers, and talked about nothing.  It was so perfectly ordinary. When I left, we hugged. Those long hugs say more than any words. "I'm glad you're here," our souls say.

I have known extraordinary but I am grateful for ordinary. It is a privilege not given to everyone.

Sending love and light to anyone who has a beloved who has battled with, or is battling a blood cancer.  Donate here if you want to help find a cure.