Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Creativity, Joy | 4 comments


It’s been one of those weeks. The kind you might be tempted not to talk about in a forum like this, because who wants to read about the downsides of life when you could read about good stuff instead? Well, the thing is…the downsides come to all of us sooner or later, and denying that means that we deny our own realities. So here’s mine.

I missed out on an opportunity this past week that I was really, really hoping for. I can’t go into the details here for confidentiality reasons, but let’s just say it would have been a chance to do some really interesting work, and I had no idea how attached I’d become to the idea until it was no longer a possibility. Then it felt like someone had died. I realized how much I could see it, taste it, feel it…but not anymore. That reality was gone.

Now, I’m the one who is on the quest to create joy this year, so finding myself spending half of my weekend wishing I could cry is not really what I had in mind. Nonetheless, that’s where I was. (The crying never happened, alas.) I did spend some time feeling like a cross between a hypocrite and a failure—no joy for me!

I’ll bet every single one of you reading this looked at that last line and thought something like, “Are you crazy? Just because you’re looking for joy doesn’t mean the crap doesn’t happen!” You’re so, so right, and yet we all see ourselves through this very warped lens when bad stuff happens, don’t we? I’ll bet you’ve had a moment much like mine and said something similar even though it’s obvious how ridiculous it is when someone else says it. (We humans are strange creatures, aren’t we?)

In the middle of all the internal chaos, I had a rehearsal and a recording session for a 16-year-old local composer who’s submitting a piece to a composition contest.  I didn’t want to go out Friday night in the snow to learn it, but since there was no other way (I don’t have a piano, and even if I did, I can pick out a few notes, but not a whole piece), and since a friend mercifully offered to drive in the muck, I went.

And then on Sunday, we recorded. It was a marathon session, and I didn’t feel good mentally or physically before I got there, so I was not really in shape for what we did. The piece is very physically demanding, so it took a lot out of me, and there wasn’t a lot there in the first place. I’ll be honest; I wished this recording had been scheduled for another weekend. Almost any other weekend. But I had committed to do it, to honor and aid the creativity of a very promising young man. And despite it all, I did want to do it (the spirit was willing, and all that), so I went. This was the result (seriously, give it a listen). I decided it’s my new theme song, pulling out the most stirring lines to repeat to myself as necessary.

So what does this have to do with joy and creativity, the categories for this post? A lot. Creative focus is a path out of despair. It distracts you long enough to find yourself again under all the muck and loss and general unpleasantess. It’s a path to joy. Conversely, finding joy loosens up your creative self and allows you to be free and silly, which is when you start making wild, even bizarre, connections that lead to exciting new ideas. The two build on each other just as surely as their absence builds into sadness and depression. Throw in a dose of doing something to help someone else, of enjoying someone else’s creative work, and you’re really starting to work with something incredibly powerful. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to come back from a loss or disappointment—not at all—but there are things that do help in the quest to feel human again.

It’s also worth remembering that you can’t know joy if you haven’t known sorrow. Like light and dark, the one can’t exist without the other.

As the saying reminds us, “Shit happens.” When it does, it’s okay to take some time to really feel that and process it (in fact, it may be dangerous not to), but after that, it can be really reassuring to remember this:

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

And so are you.


  1. Hugs to you hon! I had a disappointment today too – I tried to just carry on regardless, but I needed to stop, process, acknowledge that I was hurt and upset…and then find the joy on the other side, and the gifts in the situation. I think you can’t get back to joy until you allow yourself to feel how you feel now, and let the feeling move through. And you’re right, creativity is a great short cut back to joy! x
    Donna recently posted..February Daily Practice: Lighten UpMy Profile

    • I agree completely, Donna. You have to let yourself feel the sorrow before you can move on. Our “everyone should always be happy” culture has tried to teach us that it’s not so, but when we try to ignore how we feel, we just make it worse (or such has been my experience). I’m glad you’ve been taking care of yourself through your disappointment, too!

  2. I set your blog up on my google reader. Your last post and this one on your lost opportunity came at the right time; I was just thinking about putting in a job application and I hadn’t looked at my career in a long while. You gave me the impetus I needed to put in the huge effort and get something submitted. It’s not as good an application as I would have liked, but I put it in. I may not even be shortlisted..and if so, that will tell me something. There’s a lesson in everything. I have seen my skills in a different light and in myself I’ve seen something that can grow into something amazing.

    Although you might be kicking yourself over this lost opportunity, it will not be your last. You have tweaked your mind to this now, and you will be aware of any new opportunities that come, and may even be more prepared and find that the new opportunity is a better fit for you than any that you might have lost or wished you had gotten or pursued. It’s good thing – you can only go up from here.

    “when “god” (or the Universe, or whatever you believe in) closes a door, he/it opens a window”. You just have to believe that good things are still coming to you.

    • I’m so glad the posts have been helpful, Michelle! I know from my own experience how easy it is to keep doing the same thing over and over without ever thinking about whether it’s still doing anything for us, so I’m especially glad that you gave things a look and took some action! I can also relate to that, “Well, this isn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but it’s what I have and I’m submitting it anyway,” feeling. I really think it’s better to do something imperfect than to do nothing at all. As you say, something comes out of it regardless, even if it’s not quite what you had in mind.

      I was really grieving much more than kicking myself—the decision in the end was something completely beyond my control—but I do think it’s funny how our perceptions change in those moments of sorrow. I’m actually kind of fascinated by that, which I suppose is a bit morbid, but it’s just interesting to see what our brains do to us in sorrow or grief. I already know that this just means it wasn’t the right thing for me, and there’s something else that I have to find, though I also know that knowing these things intellectually and knowing them emotionally are two radically different things, especially in those first awful moments of pain. Fortunately, those have passed, so now I’m in a much better position to, as you pointed out, not only believe that other cool stuff is out there, but go looking for it. :)

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