A patient posed the following question to me in a moment of distress, asking "What is there to live for?" I know that the patient asked because of the patient's life circumstances, so I paused for a good moment, seriously thinking about the question and its implications. Obviously, I followed my lengthy pause with a response of, "I'm sorry, I was lost in thought over the many possibilities and probabilities to live for."
What is there to live for? I know what I live for, and the reason to live can be highly specific to your beliefs and likes. But let's define what it means to live. Google dictionary defines life as "The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death." Let's take the active term for life - to live - and deconstruct it to find the general expectation for living as well as the psychological detriment of stagnation.
We are organic with a capacity for growth. The definition suggests that there is a power to expand our limits, but doesn't say that there is a necessity for growth to be alive. Growth, of course, can be physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional and we are fully equipped to manage such growth...if we choose. Growth is often wrought with pain, discomfort, or suffering, acting in a way that suggests it is a right to passage, to determine if we are worthy to live. Here is where life struggles, when there is suffering and pain yet without the benefit of its transformational prerogative. We live to grow and expand our limits, but sometimes others don't want to see us grow.
It is quite obvious that we are here because of the push for reproduction . The drive inherent in all beasts and willows. Within the expectations for reproduction, there are cultural dictates that narrows the range of behaviors approved for reproduction. The expansion of life is restrained and constrained. There are limitations related to age, to class, to race, to religion, to name a few. Nevertheless, the push is deep in the psyche, creating a physical state with a need for rationalization of our behavior, such as the decision to climb out the window to run and meet your girlfriend in the middle of the night. The euphoria of the moment, recreated over the adult years, to experience life.
Living is a functional activity. It's a desire to be practical and useful, to find purpose while conscious, to find a reason to be conscious. Work often acts as the mold for a person's purpose and a set reason to get out of bed. But, when work life transforms in a person's head from purpose to a means to relieve the burden of debt, life can seem hopeless and aimless. Another patient asked me "Do you think its better to be alive or dead?" Seems like an odd question on the surface, but it is a question posed with an attempt to understand the reason for suicide. My answer related to what is known. Sure I can cite Near Death Experiences as proof of an afterlife, memories of reincarnation, or the idea of heaven interpreted from the Christian bible, but I simply said that I don't have a frame of reference to make a judgement on the experience of death, when life is all I know.
It may not be so clear how to construct the definition of your life, but if you create your life like you create a Long Island Ice Tea, or mole sauce, you will integrate the basics highlighted in the definition and supported by science. The first is accept the challenge that growth requires shedding the skin of an old way of living. Growing pains happen, and setbacks are expected. These are the fuel for growth. The second is to find someone to love and who loves you. The deepest intimate reflection is from the gaze of your lover's eyes. The third is to find more than one reason to justify being conscious. It is to build, create, or meditate and to find purpose in the small moments and the creation of possibilities for the biggest moments to come.
The final part of the definition is the continuity of change before death. Here, death is honestly and realistically depicted as inevitable. It is the last moment when no activity, purpose, or relationships are possible. It is the final note to your symphony. It is the final punctuation mark in your novel. Life is built for continual change, so with change there is hope. What I said to the reason to live? The beauty that comes from change (add your perceptions here).