Enjoyment is in The Waiting… Insight from Martha
Last month I promised to tell you results of my experiment in Radical Fun. This month I will be somewhat cryptic, because although things are in process, they are not yet signed, sealed, and delivered. I will say however, that even the pursuit of these radically fun ideas has, itself, been radically fun.
This has led me to think—a rare but thrilling experience for me—and my thoughts are that as I wait for things to be signed, sealed, and delivered, I have the capacity to derive immense enjoyment from the challenge of creating in form what I have pictured in my imagination.
It seems to me we do this all the time: we spend months or years in anguished waiting, thinking, and longing for the day that things are signed, sealed, and delivered, and then we will be free to enjoy ourselves. To draw this to its logical conclusion, I suggest we all do what Salvador Dalí was rumored to have done—purchase our own coffins, climb in, and pretend we are all finished with everything, forever. The fact is, as long as we are breathing, the conditions of our lives will always be in flux, our ships still sailing in, the things we already own potentially dissolving (or disappearing). To accept that fact without anxiety is to enjoy the process of living. Anything less, and we are simply suffering until we die.
Try a thought experiment with me: Recall something good that happened to you in the past which required some level of patience. Maybe you started a business and didn’t know for a while if it would succeed. Maybe you fell in love and weren’t sure if the object of your affection would love you back. Maybe you planted weed in the back of your walk-in closet and had to wait to see if it matured before the authorities caught you. Were you relaxed and jovial awaiting the outcome? (Remember I said before the weed matured). If not, if you spent sleepless nights or anxious days anticipating an outcome you could not control, welcome to the club. Most of us do that. Now imagine that you knew beforehand that all would go well—as in fact it did. Imagine the feelings of anticipation, the delight, the happy planning, and the joyful discussions with loved ones you could have had in the absence of that anxiety.
Now notice that even if you had been disappointed, that period of positive anticipation could have been enjoyable, in and of itself.
I think the key to this kind of enjoyment is to relax around the concept of disappointment. Tension and anxiety won’t make you less disappointed if you don’t get what you want. So you might as well dive in and enjoy optimism knowing that while you cannot control all outcomes, you can control how well you cope with circumstances that hurt your feelings.
My favorite story about handling disappointments comes from the India guru Amrit Desai. He had a collection of very rare crystals that he’d accumulated over many years. One day his cleaning lady knocked over a display case and smashed most of the irreplaceable crystals. When she tearfully pointed out her mistake, expecting a violent reaction, the guru shrugged and told her “Those things were for my joy, not for my misery.”
This month, accept things for your joy instead of making them the reason for your misery. Hope for your wildest dreams to come true, and then spend all your time imagining, discussing, dreaming, and enjoying the happiest possible outcome in advance. If your heart’s desire does not happen, you have my permission to be extremely disappointed—but not for very long.
The fact is, the only reason you are alive is that far more has gone right for you than has gone wrong. Your dreams are for your joy; even if they lie crushed on the ground, you need not make them responsible for misery. If you raise your eyes from the shards you’ll find more dreams all around, and many of them can come true. As Marcel Proust wrote, “If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.”
I’ll update you next month, but in the meantime I plan to enjoy myself!