We can’t all be happy
Accept unhappiness, but not all the time
I want to be a successful writer, and by that I mean I want people to read my writing. I was a secretary, but now I’m unemployed so being paid for my writing would be nice, too. But I’m 45 years old and still don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Is it too late for me to do what I want? Should I just accept that life isn’t exciting or fulfilling for me? It’s not just work that isn’t exciting—it’s everything. I do plenty of yoga and meditation (without electronics). I go to therapy. Nothing changes. Should I just accept unhappiness?
Accept unhappiness, but don’t let it cling to you. Unhappiness is one flavor that accompanies life experiences. Sadness, anger, joy and serenity are among the others. Each emotion has something to teach us. So notice and name the feelings arising in you. Be curious about why you chose to respond with that particular emotional energy. Glean what you can. Tuck whatever you learn about yourself into your knowledge base. Use it to take better care of yourself. Then allow the feeling you’re experiencing to move through you. When it does, it creates interior space for contentment or another feeling to arise. This is yoga off the mat, a way of living in meditation.
The process I just described of shifting from being at the mercy of emotions to witnessing your emotions is easier said than done. That’s especially true for anyone who is struggling with depression. It’s possible that depression is your underlying issue. Whether clinical or emotional, depression dampens our natural enthusiasm. So that might be why life feels dull sometimes and why yoga and meditation don’t seem to help anymore. It’s good that you are seeing a therapist. Be certain to speak honestly with her about everything.
Contentment is one emotional baseline to target daily. It’s linked to self-acceptance: If you’re a hot mess one day and a genius the next, be OK with that. Feeling like novelist Jodi Picoult’s greatest fan one minute and like you might break up with novels forever the next? No worries. Give yourself space to live your life as an artist, a person who thrives in the liminal space between belonging and never completely fitting in. Paradox is everyone’s true home but most people never figure that out.
Mary Anne Evans famously said: “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” Evans is better known by the identity she created for herself as George Sand. She wanted her writing talent to be taken seriously so she did what was necessary to carve a place for herself in the literary world. For many writers literary achievement does not always include a university degree (or the debt that accompanies it). Writing is a craft. Skill improves through practice, reading, classes and mentoring. The definition of a writer is someone who writes. A professional writer is one who understands the value of a commitment to the work. Read Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. Study one chapter a day. When you finish the book, read it again. It will birth the writer you are and are becoming.