I’m not sure why some people know what they want to do from a young age, and some don’t. I used to think people who didn’t were missing something, but then I meet people who claim they are genuinely content to try this and try that, and who believe that open-endedness is fulfilling. I am not sure I’ve seen actual proof of anyone who is happy that way. But really is anyone ‘happy?’ It’s a lot to ask.
My gut hunch (which may be wrong for anyone but me) is that the mistake comes in people believing they’re chasing happiness. They pressure themselves to find something they enjoy, but joy is impossible to sustain, so it leads to inevitable disappointment. Joy comes naturally, along the way; but it cannot be captured on purpose.
My beloved husband once asked me “do you enjoy writing?” I stared at him blankly. I offered some responses, like I need a sense of purpose and I love actualizing my vision. And he said no.. . I mean do you enjoy writing. I said, in essence, “can you rephrase the question?”
I did not understand what he was getting at. Then I finally realized he was actually asking me if I enjoyed writing in the moment – while I’m doing it. I told him I have no idea why it matters, but the answer is sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It can be grueling, obnoxious, there are many days when I want to run around outside or write something new and not read the same stupid thing for the 500th time. But at the end of the day I feel much better having done it.
I enjoyed playing shows when I was doing music, and I enjoy writing new material; both make me feel cathartic and alive. But do I enjoy editing, rehearsing, practicing the same few notes for the 100th time? I don’t know if joy is the word I’d use to describe that. It’s not like it feels as good as making love (though performing or writing new material, does). But who cares? My overall outlook toward myself and the world is more positive and I feel overall alive.
I am just not attuned to this idea of “enjoying the moment.” It is completely nonsensical to me. The moment on its own is ephemeral, ever changing and passes quickly. A person can be laughing and happy; then moments later, miserable. So how would you qualify that experience overall? Fun?
At any given moment, we have an idea of the past that lead up to it, and an idea of the future before us. Our memories may be distorted and our future visions may not come to pass; but those ideas are part of EVERY moment. We can never JUST exist NOW. No matter how visceral, present and ‘in the flow’ we are, our state of mind is informed by our outlook on life overall. Whether or not we realize it consciously, it is always there.
I’m very visceral and present in the moment. I tune into people completely, I experience sensuality and emotion in full, I love performing, I throw my whole self into whatever I’m doing. I love bathing, swimming or frolicking in nature; I love channeling arts. But I don’t enjoy chasing enjoyment. That very thought makes me feel clausterphobic.
Joy doesn’t come from seeking fun things to do. It comes from pouring blood, sweat and tears into a challenge. If I spend the day seeking joy, then after an hour I can no longer find any.
If my beloved would say, ‘let’s spend today having fun,’ the first thing that pops into mind, besides sensual pleasures – is photoshoots, climbing a mountain or working on the book together.
Lovemaking is wonderful, but a whole day of it doesn’t sound fun to me either. It may be fun if I framed it as a CHALLENGE, to see how long we could last. But in general, that sounds like sucking the juice out of an otherwise beautiful experience. I’d much rather be working.