“Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”
“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
The intoxicating smell of comfortable warmth and movement and change. Of sun rays beating down, of future acts, exciting unknowns, shirtless, of liberation from consumption by creation. It smelled of possibilities.
I stopped thinking of what I had to do today. The urgent stuff that wasn’t truly urgent. I sat down and embraced this small area where I would bang out my 1000 words for the day. This would be my bunker. I put the thoughts of everything else out of my head. I willfully -albeit with quiet kicking and screaming- entered this solitary confinement. In this quiet, I stopped holding. The energy of my thoughts moved onto the digital canvas. I knew I hadn’t moved, but I was changing things. What had not existed, now did. People acting, realizing, feeling, and growing. My characters and I took turns leading. When the words were spent, I emerged from the dark cramped environment. I felt liberated. I immediately thought ahead: I must go here, and check this to buy, and then go here and have them fix this, and then I need to go the gym, and then…and then.
And then I stopped the planning. and just as I had when I crawled into my foxhole, I started thinking, “What if?” I started thinking, “Let’s see what happens.” Because life isn’t a series of situations. Life is what I choose. It’s what I create. And my creation started off quite well today.
The summer smells good.
I walked into the grocery and picked up some food for the week. In the self-checkout, the bill rang about $13. I walked out to my 12 year old car. It started up without hesitation. I pulled onto the road and got home in 5 minutes. I made dinner and then settled in to read one of eight books I had borrowed from the public library, one of three branches that are within 5 miles of me. I thought, “I have a lot to be thankful for.” At the end of the evening, after a relaxing time reading, I realized I hadn’t finished my writing for the day and I felt bad.
Recognizing what we have is vital. Gratitude is the foundation of happiness. But what’s just as important is recognizing what we want. Our wants come from the hedonic drive to have more. Not just to have more stuff, but to have more accomplishment. It may be that the accomplishment value lasts longer than the material value, but the cycle of wanting and getting and wanting again continues either way.
The fact is, we’re here for more than a comfortable life, because we will acclimate to whatever standard of living exists in our present day society. What we’re here to do is create something valuable and connect with others who value our creation. Determining what’s valuable is up to each of us. It will lead to our purpose, and then taking action on it. Whether it’s a form of art, or being the best damn office manager ever, we will be happy as we master something.
So realize that our hunger is unstoppable. The trick is, learning how to feed it as our appetite shifts.
When are you at your happiest?
My days felt sluggish. Have you ever felt like your body was walking through mud? This is how I felt. Work was not challenging me, and it had been three weeks since I had been to the gym. I wanted to get back, but only out of habit. Then, in the middle of my workout, after I’d pushed past the point when my mind had told me to stop, I was overwhelmed, but not from any physical pain. I realized how much I needed a consistent challenge in my life, and I wondered: Do most people get challenged in their daily lives?
Challenges bring us happiness
I looked in the gym mirror, breathing deeply. I saw past my face and looked into my eyes, and everything fell away. I didn’t worry about what I needed to do later, or what I should be doing next week. Their time would come, but right now, I knew I was ready, and whatever happened, it would be ok. I took the barbell onto my back smoothly, and balanced it there, feet planted firmly on the ground, and I gazed forward undistracted, but then I thought: Why don’t I feel like this all the time?
Work gives value to our life
Today we have evolved to get things done faster and with less work. Or we’ve evolved to a point we don’t need to do them at all. In the past, the time we spent resulted in a barn, a pair of pants, or a tasty meal. With exercise, there is nothing tangible. All we gain is the feeling that we’ve challenged our whole being, our heart, mind, every living part of us. It is a happiness that lasts all day, and can integrate into our whole life.
I think this is something we can all afford to spend time doing.