Last week I read a story that took me from “Oh, my God!” to “Isn’t God good!” in under 800 words.
Which isn’t bad.
And said story made me think – about happiness, and dreams, how quickly the latter can be snatched away and how slowly they can be birthed. About not giving up. But mostly about happiness. Because it’s something I have a hard time fully accepting.
You see, I tend to qualify it. To tell myself it won’t last, so maybe I shouldn’t enjoy it quite so much now.
But let me back up a little.
Elora Nicole Ramirez is also a writer, with the dream that most writers cherish, of seeing her words in print. Last year, armed with a literary agent and a publishing contract, it seemed certain her dream would come true. By the end of the year, she and the other authors in contract with her publisher were informed the company was closing its doors and returning their rights. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she soon lost her agent as well. And as if all that wasn’t enough, she…
But I don’t want to give too much away, as I want you to head on over to Prodigal magazine and read her story for yourself. I know she’d appreciate it, and besides, she tells it far better. However, I’ll add this: Her life is an example of another story I read a while back in which the author pointed out that sometimes a dream has to die so another can be born in its place. And Elora is finding joy in that truth.
I’m happy for her, although we’ve never met. Yet half of me was thinking, as I neared the end of her essay, “Oh, dear friend, don’t hold on too tightly! This new dream can be taken away too; nothing is certain. Be careful” – while the other half of me was wondering what the hell was wrong with me.
Can I get a witness?
Frankly, this has everything to do with the natural human desire to be in control, something none of us actually has regardless of how we try to convince ourselves to the contrary. But while we’re rightfully told that if we can’t control our circumstances, we can at least control our reactions to them, sometimes we also overdo it, keeping happiness in check so the thud won’t be so loud when we fall back to earth – as we inevitably will.
That’s why earlier this month, even as my heart swelled with joy at the impending fulfillment of one of my own dreams, I found myself whispering, “Don’t put too much importance on this, Lucie. It’s just a little chapbook. You know you’re not going to sell many (if any!). You won’t break even on your investment, much less make a profit. Hardly anyone will read it, and even if they do, they’ll forget it quickly. It really doesn’t matter that much.”
But later, the small voice which told me to “Just blog, fool,” the same voice that tells me to keep on writing even if no one ever reads a word I pen, countered with a phrase that my mother has used on difficult occasions. One that a friend called “the four words that will make the happiest person sad, and the saddest person happy, at the same time.”
This too shall pass.
Whatever life situation you’re in. Good or bad, happy or sad.
And sometimes those words are a life-saver. During a spell of the bad and the sad, I cling to their truth even though they don’t bring immediate relief, make myself remember that even if I can’t see through the dark just now, there will be a day when I feel normal again, and be glad I’m still alive, because there are still words to be written and other dreams to birth.
This too shall pass.
Ridiculously simple, no? Yet the truest and most helpful words in my life to date have always been the simplest.
So later this week, when I finally hold those newly-pressed copies of my first published book in my hands, I’ve promised myself to savor the moment without trying to deflate it prematurely. Time has a way of doing that for us already. (I’m sure it’s for our good.) I’ll remember the hours I struggled over those words, the kindness of those who read them, commented on or complimented them, who believed in them and helped me to bring them to this place.
And I’ll enjoy the taste of that moment to the fullest extent possible…simply because it too shall pass.
But how about you? Do you ever find yourself trying not to get your hopes up too much, because they’ll surely be let down? Believe in keeping your emotions in check, because they’re transitory? Remind yourself that “This too shall pass?” Tell me your story.
* * * * *
Next week I’ll be kicking off a two-part series on persistence and writing, beginning, in honor of National Poetry Month, with the story of Mary Leapor, or, as I like to call her, “the poet only measles could silence.” I hope you’ll join me!