Dreams. We all have them, and most of us can attest to the fact that we’ve been instructed to chase them since our lives began. Of course, sometimes they don’t work out – or at least right away – and we’re told we should lessen obsession with the outcome and instead “enjoy the chase.” The question is, how do we do that?
One piece of wisdom that has struck me the hardest lately (in a good way) is derived from the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. It is the Second Noble Truth, which basically says that the cause of all suffering is craving. In our lives we continually search for something outside of ourselves to make us happy, explains Barbara O’Brien, author of Buddhism Guide. We constantly reach and grab for things to achieve that sense of wellbeing, while clinging to ideas and opinions about ourselves. And in the end, we become frustrated when we don’t live up to our own expectations and the universe doesn’t act as we believe it should.
I’m not a Buddhist. But in my experience, that’s dead on.
While I’ll admit that craving can be really invigorating, particularly at the spark of that big idea, it can be just as exhausting emotionally. Even painful. For example, I have a finished manuscript, the product of about five years of hard work and many years of graduate school learning how to write what I perceived as the “best writing” I could possibly do. And I just haven’t been able to get it published. This feels crushing at times, as does the head-clouding anxiety about what do next—do I rework my story or let it go and write something new? The other problem, I must confess, is that I’ve told myself from the beginning (probably about Grade 3) that I was going to be an author. Worse, I was meant to be an author. I’ve written so much in my 10+ year writing career and yet none of it seems to matter without that byline. Even as I look back at that ‘10+ year career’ sentence I just wrote, I hear a voice inside saying, What are you talking about – you’ve been writing since you were about three. That’s how much you love it.
You just love it – so why the heck aren’t you doing it? Not for pay. Not for the byline. Just doing it. Just what I’m doing now, unedited, feels like painting on a canvas and actually not caring what people will see. When I create for myself, my hands tap the keys and each click click click is a la la la. Yes, I realise how cheesy I sound. But those who love to just sit and create know exactly what I’m talking about. Creating is a pleasure that goes soul-deep. And just as the Buddhists practice their Four Noble Truths, it is this love that I need to be practicing.
I’ll admit I need to practice practicing what I preach. So that’s why, as I keep my author goal swirling in its admittedly confusing state, I’m going to practice my ‘love-writing’ on the side: my two blogs, BethAttempt and Coffee with a Koala. They at least give me the freedom to write for a real audience (all four of you, thank you so much – wink, wink) and bonus… I even get a byline!
I know my limits—the chance of me practicing the Buddhist way is slim to none, because I don’t think I can give up my chase. Who knows, maybe I’m misinterpreting that Second Noble Truth. Maybe it’s about pursuing our dreams, but without being so entrenched that we miss out on those priceless everyday moments and little victories we take for granted. An off-the-cuff remark by the man I love, which makes me laugh so hard I’m sobbing even at 8 in the morning. The morning, afternoon and evening hugs I receive from my 9-year-old stepdaughter (how she’s in such a great mood in the morning particularly, I’ll never understand). A surprise latte by my favorite barista/art director at work. Or even—oh what the heck—the words, “The client loved your copy, Beth.”
Maybe it’s about being able to say, “Yeah, I had such a great day”—period—without adding the, “if only I had this or that…” Practice being happy with what you have, because no matter how you look at it, the craving will never stop.
Yes, we’ve all heard it before. But there’s no harm in a little practice, right?