Monday, December 21, 2020

The Importance of Purpose

 Since my post a week ago, I've been pondering something I think might contribute to mental, emotional and creative "fraying": whether or not one senses that what one is doing, how one is being in the world, has purpose.

It's not just that having something that gets us out of bed in the morning can bring us happiness; it's also good for our mental health.  

For happiness, Nancy Kirk-Gettridge writes that having a sense of purpose (why one exists) needs to be combined with a set of values, an ability to realize act according to those values to achieve an objective (realize one's purpose) and finally, the confidence -- strong enough self-worth -- to go forward in action.     According to some research, a sense of purpose, the pursuit of happiness through purpose, and a human's social nature can be seen even at a physiological level.  Without a sense of purpose, humans become "...vulnerable to boredom, anxiety and depression", wrote Dr. Steve Taylor several years ago in Psychology Today

Achieving "happiness", according to some, is based on having one's needs satisfied; this can be a very short-lived sensation indeed!  For "happiness" to be long-lived -- to become what I'd call joy -- there needs to be something more, and that 'something' is meaning or purpose.  That's the power of purpose.

When COVID-19 hit, many of us in Western culture (and likely elsewhere too!) lost our footing.  Many lost their employment, which for some was the main -- or perhaps the sole -- driver of meaning in their lives.  Some were forced into retirement, because they became ill or because whatever they were working at would never be the same once all this was over.  In a culture highly motivated by personal satisfaction via consumption, many of us began to question the value of this approach to life...and how to manage our lives differently.

I come from a long line of practical people.  People who, bless 'em, enjoyed music and a bit of art, but never encouraged creativity that didn't have a utilitarian nature.  A long line of farmers, gardeners, makers through sewing, knitting and quilting.  I trained as a nurse, and later moved into the business and financial world to make my living; my "work" in textiles was both utilitarian and a bit of a hobby.

Even though it's been almost a decade since I began to think of myself as an artist, I've never thought I could make a living at it.  It wasn't a hobby; it wasn't how I was spending my "retirement" -- something that captures one's thoughts and imagination for almost every waking hour of every day isn't either of those things.  

"Broken Bricks" - for charity
But...when the major art events in which I was participating this year got cancelled, and the inventory had nowhere to go during the uncertainty of the pandemic and the ensuing lock-down(s)...I turned to utilitarian works: quilts for gifts and charity.  If they couldn't be given away right away, that wasn't a problem; they'd find a home eventually because they were items that were useful.  

And with a lock-down in March has come a bit of a "Baby Boom" in December and January!  Friends and relatives are becoming grand-parents or great-aunts -- some for the first time!  Nothing says "HOPE" like new life -- and so I've been busy knitting and quilting.

Cousins from across the country called yesterday.  They're expecting their eighth grand-baby in February -- a cause for celebration.  We talked about what I could make, now that "Grandma" has taken up quilting; we agreed that a baby born in February in Quebec should have a hat and socks, and so s/he shall.

When I told them of all the baby socks etc. I've been making, "Grandma" commented, "Gosh, you're busy!"  I explained to her that it kept me going, filled the long days and provided a purpose -- a reason to use up my generous stash of fabric and yarn.  

Yes, I'm making art again, here and there; I've been taking workshops online and playing with samples and new techniques.  I've even managed to sell a few pieces that I've posted online, and I've participated in a local Christmas Market -- also online.  

Don't get me wrong; I love to make art.  I love the challenge it gives me, as I am a Very Left-Brained Person.  And yes, I believe that there is a purpose for art in everyone's life -- whether it's visual art, performance (music, song, dance, theatre) or the written word.  It fulfills a need deep within me and, I suspect, in most if not all of us.

Baby quilt under construction

But there is a tension in my life when it comes to my making -- a vibration between the world of art for art's self, and the world of art that meets a need beyond the cerebral, the visual, or the auditory.  Not all that is utilitarian is art-ful, but in finding my feet again in these challenging times, I've discovered that -- in this 'right now' -- when I make something functional in a way that's also appealing to the eye, my sense of purpose is heightened.  

Although I may be fraying, knowing this keeps me from falling apart at the seams.

Mending a Broken-hearted World
-- a work in progress

Linking this to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday and with WIP Wednesday over on The Needle and Thread Network.   I wish you all, Gentle Readers, a glimpse of the light and hope entering our world.  Blessings for Christmas to those who celebrate, and to all, wishes for wholeness, purpose and joy in the year to come.


HollyM said...

This is an interesting and thoughtful read. I’ve been feeling similar lately, doing lots of thinking along similar lines but never really put a name to what I was searching for. It gives me some pondering to do.

Kate said...

I attended a Zoom Christmas gathering last night. I was, of course, knitting. I was asked what I was knitting and showed the mask extender I had on my needles. Boring, and utilitarian.
I think my next project should be something entirely for my soul. Not useful, just beautiful.

Jennifer said...

Many similarities in your frayed feelings and my own of late. I've been feeling absolutely broken … without purpose … totally depressed. Perhaps you remember me from a few years back - Jennifer Cooper. I knicknamed you ObiWanKenobe. I too have considered myself a creative … quilter, cloth dyer, former SDA and SAQA member, but needed to pivot focus for the past several years to help my elderly parents.

I'm sorry to learn of what you've been feeling … grief never seems to end, does it? … even when we think we may have it more managed … unexpected triggers occur.

If you're comfortable, I'd love to correspond privately with you. From some of your blog's included resources it looks as though you've done considerable research and reading. I could learn much from you … would like to glean from what you've already learned. If you're ok with that?

Unsure if Alberta will be allowing your family to visit during Christmas … BC is having us all hunker down. If you have any time to share, I'd love to hear from you. If not, just give me a quick but kindly no, not at this time … I'll totally understand.

Thanks for continuing to write your. blog … you truly have much to share, and not just with the fabric and stitches ...

Pam @ Quilting Fun said...

I love making utilitarian quilts, mostly baby quilts actually with a few adult quilts sprinkled in. I love to think of them being used. Almost like giving a virtual hug!

elle said...

Purpose is vital. Whatever I do has to be pleasing so I totally agree! Good thoughts!