Doing something with purpose has its own built-in motivation. You make a list of ingredients you need for a recipe so there’s a reason to go to Gelson’s. You want something new to wear to a gathering so there’s a reason to go to Bloomingdale’s. You’re on a deadline for a book so there’s a reason to sit down at the computer. There is comfort in having purpose.

But what if there isn’t a reason? What if there is no specific purpose? What if you did something “just because?” You go to the grocery store without a list and you walk up and down the aisles to see what looks good to you. You browse the racks in a department store to see if anything catches your eye. You read a book for the joy of it so you can become engrossed in someone else’s story.

During my writing career, I’ve had obnoxiously tight deadlines and I’ve worked diligently to meet them, but these days, I sit down and write because I like it and I’m curious to see what’s on my mind. I do my best writing when I have nothing tangible to write about. I create this blog each week with no idea what I’m going to write about when I start. It’s a free flowing experience, alive with anticipation and wonder and I’m surprised to see what shows up on the page. I may not like it, sometimes I keep deleting and starting over, but it’s always intriguing to become aware of what I want to say.   

When we first went into quarantine close to two years ago (can you believe it?), I had no professional work projects on my agenda so I started looking into my past and writing my stories for no particular reason. It was a great distraction from long isolated hours to spend time in a creative mode and do what I love. I have some deadline work projects now, but I’m still writing my stories about boyfriends, husbands, friends, clients and life challenges with no idea where I’m going or why. I’m learning about myself and as the chapters accumulate, they seem to have no obvious themes or connecting threads. My inner critic, always on my case, tells me to stop wasting my time writing about nothing. But the more I banish him into the background, the more he begins to dissolve, his voice becomes faint and my judgments disappear. So does my anxiety and I watch in fascination as themes and connecting threads miraculously appear. It’s magical and informative and having no purpose becomes my purpose. 

Do you ever spend your time doing things “just because?” It’s like taking an unfamiliar path in the forest with no idea where you’re going, what you’re going to find along the way and where you’ll end up. But you keep on going. You walk with heightened awareness because you’re not focused on the past or the future. It’s step by step. It’s being present and noticing things that you never saw before. I drove by a house on my street last week, I’ve passed it
hundreds of times, and I was moved by the brilliant colored roses in the front garden that I was noticing for the first time. It made me happy and I wondered why I never noticed it before.

I volunteered at Chris Brownlie AIDS Hospice during the eighties
where I learned about having no agenda, no reason for anything besides being there. I would ask to come into someone’s room, have a seat on a chair beside his bed, take his hand if he wanted me to and I listened. The room got quiet and so did my mind. Time floated, I forgot about myself and I aligned my breathing with his. That was all there was and I felt peaceful. Someone once asked me if it was depressing to sit with twenty-six men in twenty-six beds who were dying of AIDS. I told them that that it was exhilarating. I was tired at the end of a day but not depressed. I felt extraordinarily alive because of the depth of connection, the conscious breathing and the immediacy of the situation. I didn’t know how many breaths the man beside me had left so I made sure to be aware and appreciate each one as it happened.

I’m sitting here right now, writing “just because.” I’ve written this blog hundreds of times, it’s become a ritual, and it feels good to lose my
sense of time and allow my thoughts to unravel. No holding on and no pushing away. One thought might hold steady as I write or it may exchange places with another thought. It’s like putting together a puzzle as you try out pieces here and there, you fit them together, and at the end, there is a finished product that amazes and delights. This is the essence of mindfulness, a purpose in itself, as I let go of being productive, of making sense, and I embrace being present, just because.