Friday, May 8, 2020

“Finding Purpose” by Ann Imrie-Howlett


A friend of mine is starting up a new business – yes, in the middle of a pandemic. She’s passionate about the new path her life is taking and I’m jealous!  She’s full of enthusiasm and I’m lost. Why is it in this period of endless time she can find motivation and I cannot? Why am I struggling with so much uncertainty? When will life return to normal? Do I want life to return to normal? My brain is filled with fog.

I am a creature of habit and my daily routines anchored me. Now I feel lost and confused, not at all clear about what to do. I can’t busy myself with the distraction of productivity. The shoulds, the wants and the needs that used to fill my life have disappeared. And I can’t get in gear.

I watch motivational videos and remained unmotivated – though I’ve tried!  Evidence of my forced motivational fits of closet-cleaning and garage-organization lie strewn around – beginnings with no endings.

At least, I still have the remnants of my entrepreneurial business, which gives me some purpose and structure. If I have a client, I can get out of the pajama-bottom mindset and show up as the professional I claim to be. 

I coach distracted minds. Indeed, I’m an expert in a world of distracted minds, yet my own confused and frightened mind races everywhere. Am I a fake trying to help others?

I coach others to settle into the calm of structure, routine and planning. Yet I flounder. I don’t know what I am supposed to do with all of this free never-ending time. Those sharp teeth of the inner judger bite into my confidence.  

My mother-in-law used to tell me I could organize the army, and she was right! I had a tightly organized life of activity, commitments and accomplishments. Now I can hardly identify one day from the next.  I used to have an endless list of to-dos, if only I had the time to do them! Now I have an infinity of time and can’t remember a single thing on the list.

Surely there is a place in the middle where I’d have time to appreciate a slower more mindful life yet have a feeling of productivity and value. Is that what I miss? Has endless available time drained me of worth? Does our worth come from the valuable products of our energy?

I want to find something between the nothingness of now and the crazed busyness of before. I want to spend time listening with my heart to those I care about, to be inspired by curiosity, and to view the world with a deeper, more mindful appreciation of the big and small. My friend has found a passion – why can’t I? It doesn’t have to be big; it doesn’t have to be reinventing myself; I simply need to find a spark of curiosity buried in my heart and fan it to life.

That was why I decided to take a writing class – not because of lofty dreams of publication but rather to find a voice of inner truth through the written word. I have spent the entire week on this simple piece – writing, judging and deleting. Nothing was good enough for the inner critic. After hours and days of crossing out words and paragraphs, of deleting one false start after another, I switched to watching YouTube clips on regaining focus but learned nothing I didn’t already know from years as an ADHD coach.


But I’m beginning to get glimpses of insight. Routine, however mundane, has an important role to play in a fulfilling life. In my current reality I have too much time to think, which leads my mind to race down well-worn pathways of worry and anxiety. I’m missing the distraction of being busy and I’m beginning to realize that some distraction eases intensity.

And this infinity of time hasn’t just been a desert. I’m able to have weekly Zoom visits with my mother in a Long-Term Care home. Is it perfect? Absolutely not?  I wish I could hold her hand and hug her. But this week, I saw her light up and smile when she heard my voice. My heart is still singing. We found a moment of joy. Conversation is hard but through Zoom I can share the screen and we can reminisce through family photos and even if she can’t converse, I know she is comforted by a familiar memory and loving voice. That is big!

I’ve had long lingering conversations with friends over Zoom; whereas in the past we would have struggled to find mutual white space in our over-booked lives. My husband and I are in touch with our son and daughter-in-law  a few times a week and have begun a new tradition of Friday night pizza, beer, and euchre –all online of course.

This may be something we can easily carry into the new world. And maybe that’s my purpose: before the world reopens, I have time to ponder what to keep from this world of isolation and from my former life and incorporate them into my new reality – whatever that turns out to be. Right now is a time for reimagining what matters most.


Ann Imrie-Howlett lives in Oakville and is a self-proclaimed chatterbox. However, due to the current pandemic, she has decided to try more writing than talking. After decades spent juggling between being a mother, wife and special educator, she has decided to slow down a bit and take time to write creatively. Her intention was to write “off the beaten track” travel stories to complement her husband’s photography. When travel resumes, she will welcome the opportunity to explore the new world with curiosity. 


See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly online writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond. 

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