Further Thoughts (I know, I know) on Choosing Joy

unsplash54In recent years, many of the activities I enjoy have been “corrupted” by my anxiety, negativity, perfectionism, and proneness to comparison.

Instead of loving writing, I’ve let myself be miserable about it: Will I finish this on time? Do I have any good ideas? Am I a total fraud? Do I have a career in this field?

Instead of loving reading, I’ve let myself get stirred up to unhappiness: I can’t compare to this author. My books aren’t like this. I’ll never have the readership this author has. Why does plot hate me?

Instead of loving recruiting, I’ve been stressed and discontent: I should be working on my novel. I’ve been doing this for too long. I’m washed up. Kids don’t think I’m fun anymore.

Part of it, I can’t help. I have an anxiety disorder and I do not play well with uncertainty.

But I’m so blessed: I’ve found the right medication, the right therapist, have found freedom through ERP, and have a league of people in my court.

All those resources are allowing me to finally start to chose joy and delight. To say, “Look, I’m going to read, I’m going to write, I’m going to work. I have to do all those things. So, as far as I can, I want to delight in them.”

I know I’ve been writing about this a lot of my blog. Bear with me. Or don’t. You can skip these posts if you want. I’m just learning so much and writing about it is helping me to sort through it and maybe even understand it a little better.

Take this weekend, for example. I’m reading a tremendously good book all while trying to graft a month’s worth of ideas, scenes, and revisions into my most recent draft. In one weekend. On Friday night, I was stressed and had all this negative self-talk: You’ll never write a book like the one you’re reading. It’s so much better than the one you’re writing. And there’s no way you can hammer through as much as you want in just one weekend.

Instead, I told myself: You don’t write fantasy. Quit comparing your unfinished contemporary to this published fantasy. Enjoy this book. And enjoy your weekend of hard work on your manuscript. You LOVE writing, remember? Do what you can before Sunday night and leave the rest for later.

And know what? I did.

I enjoyed the book I was reading and I had a BLAST writing. Felt like “the good old days,” back before I was writing under contract. I did as much as I reasonably could without killing myself, and then I sent my manuscript to my editor, knowing that I’d continue to brainstorm and work on things behind the scenes while she reads it.

Here’s to a great weekend. Here’s to choosing joy.



Choosing Joy Over Misery (Plus a Thoughtful Caveat)

melancholyI don’t understand it. I don’t exactly know how to do it. But I think I’m doing it.

Last week, I wrote a long post about choosing joy:

The biggest thing that I’m learning is that I need to love the work and love the process, or I’m going to be miserable. [I read something that] was basically asking if you wanted to be the person who loved the work or the person who loved the reward. Because if you’re the latter, you’re going to spend most of your life kinda miserable. But if you can be the former, you’ll be satisfied.

It’s mysterious to me. I have zero idea how this works.

But I do believe it’s working in my life.

Last week, I got a hard email, an email that would normally spiral me into panic and tears. And, instead, I paused and reminded myself to choose joy, told myself that my writing life is going to have highs and lows but that I’ll persist, and that panic and tears would not solve problems … and there was no panic and there were no tears. Instead, I thought rationally, sought out advice from a friend, waited for a couple hours, then wrote my reply.

It occurred to me: this is how a “normal” person reacts to bad news.

It felt like the first time in my life it happened for me.

I’m growing. Somehow. I don’t know any of the secrets to this yet. Do you? I’d love to hear.

P.S. I want to clarify: this post is not in contradiction to this one. I still believe that many people with brain disorders do not have the capability to simply choose to be happy. But I am finding in my own life that medication and OCD treatment and talk therapy and prayer are tools that are making that more and more possible for me. I am one of the lucky ones who has had so many opportunities and resources. They are opening up new doors for me that were locked even just a year ago. Would love to hear your thoughts.