Bliss

mourning-cloak-butterfly

I had an amazing moment earlier today that I wanted to share, a moment of complete peace and sheer bliss.

As I may have mentioned before, I am an amateur photographer and a lover of nature. In wandering along Toronto’s waterfront this morning, I passed some butterfly gardens.

Not my first time visiting these small gardens. I’ve even taken photos there.

But for whatever reason, today was magical because there were dozens of butterflies having the time of their lives flitting from flower to flower.

The movement attracted my eye and I wandered over to the gardens to enjoy the sight and grab a couple of shots with my cell phone. But as I stood there, the world fell completely away, and it was just me, the garden and the butterflies.

And rather than flit away to keep their distance, the butterflies accepted me into the moment, a few even briefly landing on my arms and shoulders.

I had somewhere to be, so the moment couldn’t last too long. I have every confidence, however, that if I had had the time available to me, it would have lasted as long as I chose.

Complete bliss, joy and comfort.

I’ll visit the gardens again. Maybe the moment will happen again; maybe not. But I have available to me this one time that it did, and that will sustain me.

monarchs

Writing is its own success

(I’m going to post this here, now, so that when I do make it big financially, I can prove I really did believe this while I was still poor.)

A writer writes

A writer writes

If you don’t love writing for the sake of writing, get out. For the sake of your own sanity, do something else.

I would like to make a career of my screenwriting and novel writing, but if I don’t, I will still do it and be glad that I do.

The truth is that the majority of us (like 99.9997%) will never make it big as writers…not Terry Rossio big, doubtfully Damon Lindelof big, nor Nora Ephron big. Hell, I’m not even sure the simple majority (50%+) will even make a livable wage as writers.

But as much as I want to hit it big and spread the gospel of my genius (he says only half-facetiously), I write because I love writing and I don’t know how to not write.

I can do other things to keep food in the house and a roof over my head, but I don’t want to if I don’t have to. It all interferes with my time for writing.

Perhaps this passive approach to accomplishing something with my writing will keep me from making it big. But I prefer to think that by focusing on the joy of writing, the excitement of expressing my thoughts and feelings, I will be happy throughout the entire process, from now to wherever and whenever I end up.

If nothing else, this attitude means that everything that comes down the road is a known positive rather than a potential disappointment.

Good luck, everyone.

Bonus!

Bonus!

Journey, not destination

In the last couple of weeks, I have spoken with many friends about the concept of happiness as it pertains to life’s pursuits, which has forced me to give thought to my past experiences and the reasons why happiness eluded me for so long in my life. The following is the sum of my thoughts.

A surfer finds joy on a blustery day in Tofino, BC

A surfer finds joy on a blustery day in Tofino, BC

Life is not about destinations. Or perhaps I should argue that a happy or satisfying life cannot be about destinations, because destinations are temporary at best and completely illusory in truth.

We have been taught that it is important to set goals, to aim for a destination, and to a limited extent, I agree. Where I struggle, however, is in the assumption, the programming that suggests the goal will bring happiness, that at your destination, you can rest.

For most of us, this sets up a couple of problems.

If we do not succeed in achieving our goal or reaching our destination, then not only have we failed, but more insidiously, we see ourselves as failures.

But even in those situations where we achieve our goal, arrive at our destination, we are faced with the daunting and disheartening revelation of “Now what?”

In Costa Rica, when you finish exploring the jungle, there is still the mountain to climb

In Costa Rica, when you finish exploring the jungle, there is still the mountain to climb

For despite the momentary glow of success, we cannot rest. We must seek the next goal, identify the next destination. And the cycle repeats, ensuring that for all but the rarest of us, we will fail, we are failures.

Part of the challenge is that for many people, the idea of a goal or destination presupposes that we are not sufficient in the now, that our lives are incomplete and would somehow be better over there.

We don’t make enough money. We are alone. We have not achieved the heights for which we are destined. We—as we are today—are not good enough.

It is good to push boundaries. It is good to strive.

And while those two statements may sound contradictory to the questions I raise above, to what I have decried, I don’t think they are.

Pushing. Striving. These are actions, not endpoints. And that makes all the difference in the world.

A goal or a destination, a predetermined endpoint, is fine, but only in so far as it gets you moving in a direction. After that, it is meaningless.

Life is in the movement. It is in the process. It is in the journey, regardless of where that journey takes you.

Destinations and goals give us opportunities to shift the direction of that journey, but they are not the point of or the reason for the journey.

We are like photons in the universe of our lives. Without movement, a photon has no mass. When we cease to move, we cease to exist.

It is our movement that gives us life, and our interactions during that journey that gives that life meaning.

Feel free to set a direction, but be prepared for and welcome the changes that come along the way, for it is in that journey that we will truly live and ultimately find happiness.

It is enough to experience the world; you do not need to conquer it (Montezuma, Costa Rica)

It is enough to experience the world; you do not need to conquer it (Montezuma, Costa Rica)

An example from my life:

Early in my writing career, I worked for a magazine in Washington, DC. Every year, my boss and I would set goals for the next 12 months; e.g., 3 features, 10 department articles, 20 short pieces. And being a little Type A, I would accomplish my benchmark within 3 months. At the end of the 12 months, I might have tripled or quadrupled the expected output.

I would demand a promotion, and I would be told no…there were apparently other factors not included in my annual goals before I could be promoted. This pissed me off.

But surprisingly, even when I received the promotion, it was not enough. I needed the next one. I set the goals and again, felt held back despite achieving the goals.

And very quickly, the job I loved, the job I practically ran toward every morning in anticipation, became a leaden weight. I ceased to write for the love of writing. I was miserable.

In hindsight, I can see now how much I learned on that job—not the least of which was “office politics”—but at the time, all I could see was failure. It was the journey that helped shaped the man I am today, not the endpoints. I might have been happier had I realized that then.

 

The following video is a rather clever summation of my thoughts. Thanks to my friend Agah for pointing me to it!

Risking it all

Risk

A friend of mine recently posted the above sign on her Facebook page, and I had no choice but to share it with my Facebook community (and now you). Although I find the sentiment a little negatively toned as worded, I completely agree with it.

As many of you know, I jumped off a cliff about 18 months ago, completely turning my life upside down in pursuit of the dream of being a screenwriter. To do that, I have made a large number of sacrifices to the way my life was, but in the interim, I have discovered some wonderful things—about me and my friends—that I might never have learned if I hadn’t.

Last week, I had drinks with another friend, someone who had made a similar jump to mine. Like me, he has had some wonderful times during this phase of his life, but he is also struggling with doubt and the sense that the years of effort haven’t paid off as he would have liked. Doubt is a thing I understand.

At this moment, I have no doubt or at least not about my dream. It seems as real and viable as ever. Its realization is simply a matter of time in and work on my part. I revel in these moments and wish my friend could feel the same way right now.

When doubt does creep in, however, I do my best to give it context.

The doubt: Can I afford this conference? Is this screenplay any good? Have I made a mistake? Am I a fraud?

The context: What is the alternative?

I look back at my life before I made the jump and I realize that I can’t go back to that. This is not to say that it was all miserable…I had love and support; I enjoyed aspects of my jobs; I met wonderful people. But in many ways, all of those positives were for naught back then because I was miserable.

I was living my life for other people. I based my identity on my job and what I did for other people. I was only as good, as valuable, as loved as other people told me I was, and deep inside, I truly suspected they were lying. Through no fault of theirs, I couldn’t have faith in them because I didn’t have faith in me.

So, when I finally jumped off the cliff, I realized that what I was risking was a life of well masked misery and distrust. Hardly much of a risk from my perspective.

I understand that others cannot always jump as wholeheartedly as I did. They have responsibilities that I did not have.

I have no children. My wife and I were separating for other reasons (nice to say she remains my strongest and most loving advocate and supporter). My family responsibilities had all but disappeared. My jumping would leave no one in the lurch.

So, maybe you can’t jump like I did. I’m not suggesting that it is right for everyone. But to not jump at all in pursuit of a passion is folly.

Every day you maintain the lie, whatever your personal lie is, is another day you risk it all.

It will be scary. You will have doubts. But you’re not doing anyone any favours, least of all yourself, by continuing to pursue activities, attitudes or a life that is crushing you.

I hope my friend relocates the wonder in what he is doing and continues to explore his adventure. If he will let me, I am happy to help him in any way I can.

He is a very lucky man because he is surrounded by love and support from a community of people who adore him and want him to be happy. I hope he can take energy from that. I know I do.

Always Here If You Need Me Award?

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A wonderful moment this morning as I logged into my blog and learned that good bloggo-patriot Julian Froment had nominated me for the Always Here If You Need Me Award.

As Julian explained, the award was designed to celebrate the love and support you get from those special few in the blogosphere who not only appreciate what you post but also make an extra effort to comment and provide support and feedback.

I am touched that Julian feels this way about me, and likewise, greatly appreciate his support and enthusiasm for my blog.

The rules of the award are:

  • Post a picture of the award somewhere on your blog.
  • List 5 things that make you happy.
  • Nominate 3 people who have always been there for you, who have always provided support and enthusiasm for your efforts, and to whom you feel you could turn when you’re dealing with challenges. Comment on their blogs and let them know of the nomination.

So, here we go.

Happy-time station

  1. Laughter…it may seem a tad obvious, but I find too much time without experiencing laughter (mine or someone else’s) causes my brain to wilt
  2. Physical contact…I have become a much more tactile person in my later life, so merely making physical contact with objects or people helps ground me and gives me a sense of connection with my environment
  3. The smell of a used book store…the must of a second-hand shop is intoxicating for me, taking my mind to not just the myriad stories within the pages but also of the books themselves…from whom are they second-hand?
  4. Beer…a perfectly pulled pint is a thing of beauty; to envelope myself in the dark chocolates of a magnificent porter or to watch the bubbles whorl in a pint of Guinness or Boddington’s is sheer poetry; and of course, the creaminess of a Kilkenny as it rolls over my tongue and bathes the taste buds in silk.
  5. Sounds of Nature…living in a concrete canyon, I do my best to find ways to envelope myself in the sounds of nature, whether in local parks or by distant travel; it is music to my being

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My supportive triptych

I would of course love to nominate Julian, but that sounds like a feedback loop waiting to happen, so at the risk of nominating many of the same people as previous:

  • Shareen Ayoub (A Day in the Life of Shareen A), whose irreverent sense of humour beautifully parallels mine and who freely engages with me through our blogs or on Twitter
  • Ned Hickson (Humor at the Speed of Life), who has become a drinking buddy in all but drink, Ned and I have engaged in a few comedic one-upmanship battles where he has a bit of a geographic advantage (next one starts at 9am EDT, Ned)
  • Victoria Crouchman (Victoriously), who was a friend long before either of us entered the blogosphere but who has also been an ardent champion of my efforts and loyal supporter as I face life’s challenges; her blog is an inspiration to keep moving forward

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(Images used without permission, because that’s the way I roll.)