“Nothing that is complete breathes.”
Description: Flux. By its very nature, significant change is unsettling, disregulating and life-altering. Over the past 6-8 weeks I have lost spouse, employment, my personal and relational rhythms and schedule, the savings in my bank account depleted. I have applied for over 180 jobs, written as many cover letters, tweaked as many resumes, attempted to keep up with my coursework, and take good care of my four amazing children who abide with me. Each week in therapy (without doubt a literal life-saving engagement) the session will end with something like curiosity at just how uncertain, good, terrifying, significant, painful, frightening, moving, difficult and meaningful the week’s happenings are. I have felt I am living multiple lifetimes of experience in each 7-day period. Inherently, overwhelming are experiences that cannot be described, portrayed, understood or explicated. These are strange states, devoid of much that could be regulating or structuring, a wild gyre of hope and despair, connection and separation, exhaustion and inspiration. Strange states.
One of the things that has pestered and picqued me this past week is a growing recognition that most of the people I know – friends, peers, acquaintances, relatives – are people that can DO almost anything well, even exceptionally. Humans have such an uncanny adaptive ability to (as Kafka says) “wriggle through.” My people are the sorts of persons who find satisfaction and contentment in being well – the activity of living itself, ever specific to context, is its own contentment and satisfaction, often regardless of what they are doing (it seems).
From early on, many of us were instructed to “follow your passions,” or “use your gifts and talents,” another way, I am thinking, of saying FIND DELIGHT. Delight, it seems to me, is that tone of experience we incur when both being and doing provide utmost satisfaction and contentment for our individuated and particular “selves.” Moments such as that first eye contact that seems comprehending, recognizing between the infant you have brought into the world and love so much and yourself. Moments often termed “flow” – when your ache to express and the form of your expression seem to unite, resonate – in whatever medium you most enjoy – dancing, painting, writing, conversing, thinking, playing, sculpting, calculating, making music, serving others – whatever it is that brings you joy coupling with your own unique history and experience and way of being.
And here’s the rub: in our authentic relationships, most of us have a good sense between us of what it is that makes our “others” tick, or thrive, their core desires and wishes, delights and strengths. HOW they like to be WHO they are. My friends who love to observe and capture beautiful moments, create photographs, artefacts of world/self combined are often selling insurance, teaching classes, running cash registers. My friends with conceptual strengths and reflective panache – philosophers with ever-evolving ideas and visions of the world and how it functions – are often administering organizations, delivering mail, stocking grocery shelves. My friends who thrive in drama and play, or sport and music, or math and surfing – end up spending their days repairing roofs or selling shoes, concocting coffee or serving food, mowing lawns or teaching children. AND THEY ARE EXCEPTIONAL AT WHAT THEY DO!
The rub: When people are being well, it seems they do well, regardless of whether the task or activity would inherently give them delight. It is the being that delights them, and they infuse whatever they do with that wonder and wealth. The query: is there, when is there, how is there – the possibility of (remember, our lives are brief) – combining our capacities for being well with those things we most enjoy doing well and might that not result in a life characterized by delight ? Is it possible to insist on? And is one able to survive? As I search for work – I realize just how many things I am able to do well – like so many others – and that doing well at things has a certain level of satisfaction because one is being well. But what joy (remember, our lives are brief) if our lives might be characterized by being well/doing well those things that delight us (nourish our well-being)? We are social, and because of that our survival depends/inter-depends on one another – and society needs certain things of us – teachers, mail deliverers, food service, grocers, manufacturers, administrators, tax accountants, waste management, shoe repairers, and so on. We fill these positions FOR one another, for our greater good, making effort to infuse and tweak our responsibilities with as much as we are individually able to also gain some satisfaction and contentment with the ways that we be in those roles.
This question is unclear. I suppose I am wondering the experience of all of you out there – Is it possible to live a life characterized by delight? Where we are able to survive being well doing what we most enjoy doing well? I have yet to fill out the application, sit through the interview for, or see the job posting that asks me to DO WELL WHAT I BE. Perhaps that is the application of life itself. Perhaps I will never run across the posting that says – actualize your desire to write – whatever you are compelled to write – and we will make sure you are sustained and healthy. Any testimonies of conflated being and doing and surviving and thriving out there?