Enjoyment is in The Waiting

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!

16 replies
  1. rebecca @ altared spaces
    rebecca @ altared spaces says:

    I think I might be learning a teeny bit of this. The jury is out on whether or not my business is going to truly be a success. But I noticed how much fun I’m having. So about a week ago I decided to stop worrying.

    I didn’t work as hard this week. I noticed a great increase in my joy.

    Do you think I should worry about that? 🙂

  2. Kathy, Dream of Italy
    Kathy, Dream of Italy says:

    Wow. This line touched me more than anything – “The fact is, the only reason you are alive is that far more has gone right for you than has gone wrong.” I so agree that in the face of dashed dreams, maybe it is even better to dream bigger dreams. Thanks for a great read and much to think about…

  3. Selina Barker
    Selina Barker says:

    Ah, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now. Oh I love this approach to it – dream bigger and EVEN more optimistically – why not? May as well enjoy it and IF things don’t turn out as hoped for, be disappointed, that’s ok, but why hold back the excitement just in case of disappointment that may or may not happen. Right, I’m off to get excited. Seriously excited. Thank you Martha x S

  4. Angela
    Angela says:

    Thanks for this lovely insight, Martha! I was actually just contemplating this concept the other day…
    I really love the idea of enjoying myself while my dreams are unfolding!

  5. kathryn
    kathryn says:

    this is a wonderful reminder…like you said the conditions of our lives will always be in flux, so why be miserable and unhappy. happiness takes work, consciously creating fun takes awareness…it’s too important to our well being not to work at it!

  6. Jacquie
    Jacquie says:

    I’m navigating a bunch of changes at once and beginning to read and write a lot to gain resource while doing so. I’m at the beginning of “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World” and have to take a break to ponder the “Wordlessness” concept.

    Most people see me as outgoing and vocal. I need to use these qualities in my work, and my friends appreciate them as part of my personality as well. Off and on since I was very young, however, I would go into pockets of silence that seemed strange to others. This could happen while listening to a friend tell a story, while watching a comedy onstage or -screen, or other scenario that traditionally produces external feedback in humans. I’d be questioned at these times for not laughing, not speaking, and seemingly not reacting.

    One of the most powerful examples occurred while I sat by my father’s deathbed for hours that stretched into days. My mother would walk into the room to find me silent, and desperately plead with me to talk to my father. I wasn’t sure what she meant. We were having a perfectly meaningful conversation; only, no one could hear it but ourselves. Moreover, if I tried to transcribe it to this day, it would contain abstract pictures; not words.

    So it seems that there is deeply gentle power in the dichotomy of extremes. Though I can be larger than life in my speech and presentation, I am at my keenest of learnings when I am Wordless.

  7. Amy
    Amy says:

    I learned a great lesson about this in about 1971, from a college suite-mate. She lost an heirloom bracelet, handed down to her from her grandmother. I felt very bad for her and was starting to commiserate, but she interrupted me and said that yes, she was disappointed and sad to have lost it, but that the only sure way to prevent that would have been to lock it away and never enjoy wearing it. She preferred having lost it to not having been able to enjoy it first.

    A couple of years later, I had a similar experience, losing a much loved necklace that had been a gift from a boyfriend. I was initially stunned and sad, but not for long. Remembering Elisel’s experience, I decided to appreciate the pleasure I’d had wearing it, and also realized I would always have the knowledge of his thoughtfulness in choosing it for me.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] nothing would help change that Book of Destiny written for me. Then my silent moment led me to a writing by Martha Beck. She […]

  2. […] is an excerpt from Martha Beck’s writing. I read an article in a Real Simple magazine twelve years ago and I wanted to become a life coach […]

  3. […] if they lie crushed on the ground, you need not make them responsible for misery,” writes Beck in Enjoyment is in The Waiting…Insight from Martha. “If you raise your eyes from the shards you’ll find more dreams all around, and many of them […]

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