Contentment and the pursuit of happiness

Just so everyone knows, I still want to be a writer. Badly. I know my last post was a bit despairing, cause if we’re being honest, that’s kind of where I was at the time (guess that thick skin hasn’t fully developed yet), but things have improved. Besides having been much encouraged by a few things, I’ve also, as per usual, realized yet again that it is my very passion for my work that so grieves me when it flounders. That’s not really the point of this post, but I figured I’d mention it so anyone reading wouldn’t think I was still flailing about in the miry pits of self-absorbed pity.

Anyway, on that note, let’s talk about happiness.

Here’s the thing about happiness. It’s great. It’s really great. It feels good, people like it and, well, it makes people feel happy.

But that’s just it. It’s only a feeling.

In some ways, happiness makes me wary. It’s not like I don’t want to be happy, it’s more that, well, I don’t want to be only happy. To me, happiness is like a lesser shade of joy and contentment, the weakest of the three, and least worthy of being sought. Not only that, but to pursue only the first hampers achievement of the higher two. If I only seek that which makes me happy, I will be unhappy if I don’t find it. If I can learn to be content in whatever circumstances (Phillipians 4:11-13) however, then I can be joyful in that and really enjoy–rather than fear the losing or escape of–happiness.

Which brings me back to that part that I said wasn’t the main part of this post. I think a lot of things went in to me reaching that point of despair from which I wrote my last post. Performance issues, impatience, thin skin, passion, hormones, etc. Probably a lot of things. But what struck me is how quickly that all fled when I finally made some breakthroughs. It was like, “Yeah, I can do this. A stranger on Twitter likes me after all!”

And a tiny voice at the back of my head asked me if that’s really what makes me happy.

Not a condescending voice, or a condemning one, but a gentle one.

The same one that tells me that He already loves my book. And me. Even if it never sells.

I worry sometimes what would happen if I became famous. Power corrupts, they say, and if I had it, what would I do? Could I still speak as freely about my life on this blog if I knew that thousands were reading? Could I hold as true to my beliefs as I do now if I knew that losing fans was a risk? What about losing money? What if I had more of that?

A few of my favorite life verses are Proverbs 30:7-9. “Two things I ask of you, O Lord, do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

These words have proved to be fairly invaluable in reminding me time and time again what I really need. Daily bread. Enough to get by. Not a massive library (*drools*), fancy dance dresses or being on a top-selling list. Those things are fine and beautiful, and excellence in its own way brings glory to God, but I don’t really need them.

I will continue to tell the best stories I can and continue to pursue my dreams, in no small part because I can feel God behind me, cheering me on, but even if I never meet with any kind of success, even if it all falls through, I can learn to be content in all circumstances, because He loves me, and, as an added bonus, He loves my book.

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Twitter and my changing dreamscape

What’s the longest dream you’ve ever had? I don’t mean a long rambling dream in your sleep about that place that was your house but wasn’t your house, a celebrity you’ve never met and a classmate you haven’t seen in years. I mean having a dream for your life. A goal, aspiration, a wish.

Mine is to be a writer.

It still is. I think.

This may sound strange, but, there are other things in my life right now that appeal to me about as much as being a writer does. Finding my husband. Finding my place in my community. Dancing.

To be honest, it scares me.

I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. Aside from a small stint where I wanted to be a CIA agent because of Alias, it’s pretty much been my one goal. Get published by 15, world-renowned by 20, never have a job except to make things up.

So much has changed with time. Not only do I still not have a book published by nearly 25 (to say nothing of my attitude regarding writing as “making things up”), I’m not even sure I want to be world-renowned at all. I want to be successful, yes. I want to be able to have enough money to support myself and to do the things I would like to do, yes. But I also want to dance while I’m young. To abandon money and sell out for Jesus. I want to travel and meet people and not be afraid of what will happen to my job if I’m not there to do it. To be a confident person who can build something without a man’s help, or live alone or go on dates.

I have done extraordinary things with my life, but there is still so much to do.

Before dance, I don’t think I ever loved an activity as much as I have writing. Now, I find myself wildly in love with something, and it isn’t what I’d expect, and it scares the heck out of me. I’m a writer. Writers are loners. Sure, they have their little ring of friends, but they don’t go out and kick it on the dance floor, they don’t party every week, and they certainly aren’t good at it.

But I am, and I do, and I have no idea what to do with this. How do you have something come into your life that is just as good as a dream you have been pursuing your entire life? Especially something that on the surface seems so frivolous? How do people cope with that kind of thing, and, more frightening, what if the shine wears off? I’ve been dancing for about a year and three quarters now, and I still adore it. It’s been rocky at times, yes, but it’s also been something I’ve fought for when I didn’t even know I could fight that hard. I mean, I’ve fought for Machine too, given up time with friends and family, countless hours, the disappointments of rejection and toil of editing.

But it’s not like it was ever something where I had to overcome anything for it. Laziness, maybe, a thin skin, but never horrible anxiety, not like I’ve had with dance. And I’ve always wanted writing. It’s never been something I’ve had to discover or fight for in a “I’m not even sure if I want to be fighting for this” kind of way. I mean, when I fought for dance, it was all in, all or nothing fighting. In the midst of half the time thinking I didn’t even want to do it.

So on the one hand, writing is safe. It’s always been there for me, and in that sense, has validity, if only through stability.

But dance has helped me to grow by leaps and incredible bounds, and sometimes I’m not sure just why I’m writing at all. To entertain people? To reach them? Teach them? I joined Twitter recently as part of my taking steps to build an author platform (which is not nearly as fun as the other parts of writing), and sometimes it feels like I’m just making noise, amidst a sea of noise. Like me, think I’m charming, I’m an authority, too. If this is what I’m writing for, to have people like me on the internet, then I’m not sure this is what I want.

On the other hand, I believe in Rick’s story. I’ll likely have spent a decade on it before it reaches readers, at soonest. So how do I justify spending that much time on something just for it to fade away? To have nobody read it but me and a few other people? Has this whole thing been just for my benefit? To develop things in me for just myself or a few other people to enjoy? There’s a part of me that screams this can’t be true. That my story is important, and deserves to be read.

But every writer thinks that.

To struggle so much to get a foot in the door when you feel this way is the fastest way to start feeling down.

To have nobody else but you think that your story matters.

And I know that that’s not really true. That my family or friends think it’s a valid dream and that somewhere out there is my right fit. But they don’t live it every day. They don’t bleed it like I do.

Like I do when I struggle with dance.

There’s so much I want to do.

The choice is the hardest part.

Sometimes I just want to build a birdhouse. A birdhouse called Machine.