Monday, June 10, 2013

Purpose: Do You Have One?

“The Purpose of life, is a life of purpose”
                                   Robert Bryne

     I have travelled through my life looking for a cause, a reason, a purpose. I wanted to feel like I had contributed, given of myself, aided in the sculpting of humanity. My sister, a child of the 60’s, was always in the grand mix of things; protesting the Vietnam war, listening to “radical” thinkers like Cesar Chavez, and the dreaded (at least in my household) Reyes Tijarena.  She played the musical soundtrack from “Hair” on our stereo, and when the song “Masturbation” echoed through our living room, my mother came undone, stuttering and sputtering and sweeping me, the baby of the family, from the room.

      I was on the cusp of it all. There, but not quite there. But I got it. Being an activist, fighting for a cause…having a purpose was what I wanted.

     When I was in the hospital, many years later, I had a lot of time to think—lying in a bed 24/7 provides that kind of opportunity. Figuring out what had happened to me, why it happened, and to what purpose captivated me. I knew that finding the reason—the purpose— for my illness and subsequent disability was paramount to not only my physical healing, but more specifically, my spiritual healing.

     After getting out of the hospital, I began my quest for purpose. I started a support group for amputees. I worked on and helped pass legislation in the state of Colorado, which requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for prosthetic limbs. I talked to business owners about better access for people with disabilities. I did peer visits with people who were surviving limb loss. But, I had yet to find my purpose.

     Two years into my recovery, I found my purpose…well some of it anyway. My husband, Michael, was diagnosed with cancer. After his twenty month battle with this invisible monster, and after giving everything he had to try to beat it, the cancer took his life. I was left with a new identity— a triple amputee single mom of two small boys. Had I found my purpose? Was raising my children, by myself in a disabled body my purpose? Well, maybe in part.

     What I have come to find about myself is pretty simple. I was born with purpose; just like everyone else in this world. How I define and develop that purpose is totally up to me. Do life experiences help to hone the definition?  Of course they do. But the development is strictly up to me. I have always wanted my life to count, to make a statement, and be remembered. Do I do that by finding a purpose, a cause, something to sculpt?

     I don’t know if I will ever discover my purpose en total, but I am hopeful that it will be revealed to me at the end, as the Divine clears up all the other mysteries of my life—it shouldn’t take long, I’m not that complicated.

     I have found, however, that even having some purpose (whatever that may be) to hold onto—when my life twists and turns and leads me into the sewer instead of the garden— keeps me focused and moving forward. Without it, I would be lost wandering through foul smelling waste. And as I continue in search of my garden, I will focus on the part of my purpose I know. I will continue to raise my children to become fine young men. I will continue to speak out for those who believe they have no voice, to work effortlessly for those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized, and who have no home.

     Everyone has a purpose, but Survivors realize it. It may not be clearly defined, but having a clear definition is not what it’s all about.  Finding purpose—even in its incompleteness, or without a clear cut definition—provides many opportunities to figure out where your garden lies. Taking others along with you to your garden could very well be your purpose.

I agree with Bryne. In order to find purpose for your life, you must (first) live your life with purpose.


  1. Wonderfully written and heartfelt!
    Warmly, Vickie

  2. Cindy,
    You do, in deed, have a great purpose: caring, feeling, sharing with and helping others. Thank you.

    I'm a a BK amputee--have been just about my entire life. Something recently happened that profoundly changed the quality of my life, and I find myself on a mission to "pay it forward." An affordable, comfy, life-like waterproof leg was just invented last year and now I'm enjoying water activities as I never could before.

    It does, in deed, get better for amputees. If you're interested in my story or sharing news of a truly waterproof, inexpensive water leg, just let me know. I'd love to chat with you about ideas on how I can spread the word. This is the best quality-of-life investment I've made in a long while (ever?), and I can't keep it a secret.

    Thanks for sharing your stories with us.