Follow your bliss. The message zagged through my brain with the charge and sizzle of a lightning bolt. In one moment, my world reorganized.
I had been slogging through some work I wasn’t well suited for, feeling miserable and wondering how I would manage to both be productive and feel happy.
Follow your bliss. Find what flows. Don’t push through the difficult tasks that bog you down. It is time for a change.
Nobody is going to do this for me. Make this change. Make this choice to navigate towards my desire, to how I wish to live and do what it will take.
My ambition and perseverance had trapped me. What I was accomplishing was coming at too high a price. I had put myself into a box that was too small for me.
Although I understood intellectually that suffering to reach my goals wasn’t how I wanted to live, I didn’t know another way. I was relying on survival strategies that weren’t nourishing for me. I didn’t know how to trust that as I put each foot down into greater aliveness, the ground would be there to hold me.
And I needed a bigger box. One that would hold more of me, and enable more access to joy. Those were the two issues. Creating the box that could hold me and following what made me happy.
There is no ready-made box
I bridge multiple worlds. We all do; we are multidimensional beings. At some point in history, we were less complex. We were farmers or sailors. We were wives and homemakers. We had one career, or vocation or none. The box we fit into was smaller and often lasted for an entire life. We didn’t have the same choices we have today.
I, for example, have had multiple careers, a life comprised of chapters. There was no box ready-made for me. Each task, action, or event, led to a skill, understanding or attitude that would be a component of something in the future. Some of these chapters were more fulfilling than others. But all of them expanded me in some way. These pieces are clamoring to be put together. And they want to be put together with joy.
All the pieces
I didn’t know when I went to art school, that the skills I gained included understanding the creative process and that this knowledge would be applied to various endeavors and aspects of my life. Nor did I know before I worked in the film business, that I would be exposed to the hierarchies of ‘above and below the line,’ and thereby learn about the hierarchies operating in our culture or that I would realize that creating beautiful images for a superficial story was akin to selling my soul.
When I was playing with tarot cards, I never predicted that I would learn about archetypes and that my intuition would open. I didn’t realize that talking to people about their lives and struggles would be life-affirming and start me on a new path focused on the creation of the self and life rather than the creation of objects or products. I didn’t know that these learnings would come together and eventually put me on the path to become a psychotherapist.
I had no idea the writing I started when I was small would ebb and flow over the years and eventually become a swiftly flowing stream.
Nor could I have guessed how my difficult upbringing, and the work I did to overcome the parts of me that were crippled, would cause me to grab onto learning, exploring and expanding and would lead me out of a marriage that was too small and into another one with much more space, more potential — one that fit my future self. One that I would grow into, instead of out of.
I didn’t know that an idea I had 11 years ago, would turn into a 10-year project — a startup that demanded all of me. I didn’t realize that the startup I began, would require I take more training and do more relational work, and those new skills would enable my next marriage to bloom and be filled with light. I didn’t know this marriage would be a partnership that was integral in getting my mission accomplished and out to the world. I didn’t know all of these elements would contribute towards me becoming a person with expertise in relationships.
All these pieces of me developed because I do understand following your bliss. Yet once I entered each chapter, I often bogged down. I put persevering before bliss. I didn’t trust the process. I got caught in survival. I ended up feeling as if I had to walk 100 miles through a desert to reach a glass of water. That energetic position did not help me.
The new keyword is balance
My path unfolded organically. I applied myself. I tried to be a real person with a real life as well: a person with time for more than work. Yet, sometimes there was and is so much to do, that I struggle to be more than a collection of activities and have too’s.
How do I balance productivity and life when life is filled with so much? I work. I write. I garden. I exercise. I relate. And more than all of that, I am a person who feels, who experiences, who takes in what is around me. I am a seeker looking for self-actualization, peace, and spiritual balance. This makes for a very full plate.
Aren’t we each trying to be real people with real lives? How do we see beyond the trap of survival and instead create a life which is expansive? Because the have too’s of survival can be a trap. The nose to the grindstone (which I am excellent at — to my detriment) doesn’t help us find our joy. It doesn’t help us breathe in peace or trust the universe. It doesn’t help us appreciate each unfolding moment. It doesn’t help us talk to the trees or open our hearts.
Follow my bliss. It is tricky. Because bliss and joy may not only be about what you do but the attitude you carry. And applying ourselves to something difficult may not feel blissful, yet it may be fruitful.
Had I walked away from what I had struggled with these past years, I wouldn’t have created what I created. Because I am just one person, and our startup had to have certain tasks completed, I spent months (years?) in my left-brain inputting data because there was no other way to get that work done. That work was deadening, not enlivening.
Part of my problem was caused by fear. What if I didn’t get this thing off the ground. What if it and my efforts were wasted? I couldn’t live with that. I persisted and persevered.
I suspect now, if faced with some of those tasks again, I would find more balance and a different attitude. I doubt who I am now, would have been able to tolerate the misery I felt then. Yet sometimes we have to do what is challenging, and find a way to hold acceptance and peace at the same time.
Consider where you overcompensate and what you avoid
I am someone who has overworked. Over ambitioned. Overthought. Over everything-ed. So, my message may not work for you. You may need to apply yourself more, not less. If you are the kind of person who gets stuck in inactivity or avoids what is difficult, you will have to face your discomfort. Following your bliss is not a way out of facing fears and challenges.
You have an intuition. What does it say? Or are you stuck in not knowing which voices to listen to? It helps to understand what is a fear and what is a desire. It helps to know the voice of entitlement and the voice of low self-esteem. Each voice has a different message.
It helps to look at our patterns and learn from them. It also helps to know we can deceive ourselves and that it can take a while (and maybe some therapy as well) to unravel any confusion.
We are here for a reason. It isn’t an accident. Yet we can get stuck. Unraveling what stops us will help us reach our potential.
Affirm who you want to be
But really, we are all going down — our physical form is mortal. We are living on the gift of the time we have. This makes it an inside job.
How do I feel? What makes me happy? How do I best use each moment? What did I come here for?
Affirm the parts of yourself that are reaching for more bliss, but don’t be afraid of hard work. Don’t be afraid of discomfort. Don’t be afraid to take on a challenge. Like going to the gym, the challenge will make you stronger.
I want to accomplish. I have a mission and purpose to fulfill. I want all the pieces to come together into a box of my own making, and I want to bring them together with joy. Slogging through the muck of have too’s has become counterproductive for me.
I’ve swum upstream for much of my life. I’m ready to move on with more grace. I’m doing it differently now.
Check out some of my other articles on https://blog.weconcile.com/
Originally Published August 22nd, 2019 in The Ascent. https://medium.com/the-ascent/are-you-swimming-upstream-or-following-your-bliss-2189776180ab