Some things you think will never change, and then they do. They’ve re-paved Eustis Parkway in Waterville. One of my friends was so excited about it she called me. “This is making my whole day!” she said. She was driving behind me, on Eustis Parkway. I had been just about to call up my partner and tell her. That’s how long Eustis Parkway has been rearranging axles and killing tires around here. We all thought it would be that way forever.
Years ago, I used to get high every single day. I thought this would never change. For a long time I didn’t want it to. But even after I did want it to I thought it wouldn’t. I went from aspiring to being a little old lady in a rocker with a joint in my hand to desperately trying to avoid becoming that little old lady with a joint in her hand.
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with another friend, and I said something I’ve said before, something I’m sure we’ve all said, some of us more frequently and more whiningly than others, ‘I’ve got to quit my job so I can do the things I really love to do!” My friend listened, then asked quietly, “Is that true?”
This is the first question in The Work of Byron Katie, which she came up with out of desperation, and seemingly through divine inspiration, at a time in her life when her mind was trying to kill her. The Work is a way of exposing thoughts and beliefs that keep us so tied up in knots that nothing ever changes.
And like that! I realized that, no, the opposite is true: I have to do the things I love in order to quit my job!
A couple of days later I rediscovered this blog and started my thirty days of joy writing assignment.
Yesterday I checked out the private blog of a friend who’s keeping a record of a special year. She’d started out keeping it strictly to herself, then invited a very few friends to read it. I wanted to cry for her allowing herself to write. I know what that feels like, to own a heart’s desire that that you feel so unworthy of. But to then act on it!
I wonder what we were like as kids, those of us who have such a hard time hearing our hearts and stepping into our dreams. Did we ever point and dance around with excitement at something we wanted? Did we restrain ourselves? Did we even hear ourselves?
One time, my Dad took me and my best friend out for a riding lesson. We were obsessed with horses. But the stable only had 1 lesson available, and my Dad let me have the lesson. I was shocked, because ordinarily, politeness would dictate letting my friend go. I felt so guilty! Later, he told me with some pride I’d looked like a sack of potatoes up in the saddle! Shortly after this was when he died. I never had another riding lesson. I hadn’t quite put that together until just now, how his death coincided with my first riding lesson, something I’d been passionate about.
I’m reminded of Julia Cameron’s “creative u-turns” from her book, “The Artist’s Way.” They’re those quiet moments when our sails deflate, when we lose interest or forget, or set it aside to take a break. Like my rediscovering my blog, we come back to it months or years later, and wonder at how we could have cared so much and then abandoned the project.
My mind boggles trying to compute how many u-turns and cul-de-sacs my creativity has lived through and struggled out of and still stayed alive! I want to know how to keep this from happening in the first place. The people who study such things will tell you how many times you have to repeat a new behavior in order for it to become a habit. But the number I need to know is how many times you have to break a habit before it comes undone completely. Then, I could conceivably take a break from a project, then get back to it before it’s lost. I could lose interest, then find a different angle. I could find a balance between going under when it’s rough and staying on the beach where it’s safe.
What all this has to do with joy is that to be joyful, to feel acutely a happiness or delight in the heart, you have to be able to wade right in, and when you think you might be pointing and dancing around inside, you have to be willing to listen to yourself. And when something big or small comes along that knocks you off your game and makes you falter, you have to cry and you have to freak. And then you have to quietly, maybe privately, maybe impolitely, maybe awkwardly and haltingly and unskillfully, and definitely patiently, find your things, sit yourself down in the saddle, and ride. Even if you look — and feel — like a sack of potatoes.
What I’ve noticed about the process is no matter how hard it is, no matter how I struggle with it, no matter what crises of confidence and defeats I suffer, it still beats hands down and flat out that sinking feeling of another day gone by without having done a thing about that heart’s desire that just will not go away.