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Enjoying the Moment (an Ode to Loving the Small Blog)

I am emerging out of my Chekhovian mood, and I debated writing about this (and certainly about posting it).  But it was still on my mind, so one last bit of navel-gazing about aging.

This current round of my midlife crisis started when I was at an event, filled with what I think we’d all describe as fairly accomplished people.

I started to zone out at one point, staring at the person behind the podium, contemplating his skeleton. (Am I the only person who does this when they’re getting all angsty?  Imagine that people’s skeletons are suddenly visible externally and their disjointed mandible is wiggling up and down as they speak to you?)  All I could think of was how little everyone in the room had accomplished despite the fact that general society would describe the people in the room as fairly successful.

I mean, what do books and movies and theater even mean at the end of the day?  Most books — even very successful ones — go out of print and are forgotten within years.  Movies go in one eye and out the other.

“It sort of doesn’t matter how much we accomplish because we’re all going to die anyway,” the cheery skeleton man silently informed me in not so many words while his actual body spoke about the latest book he wrote.

Can you tell that I’ve read a lot of Scandinavian literature?

But really, it was a little freeing to stop worrying about whether I’ve accomplished enough.  Enough.  How can anyone ever measure enough?  All I know is that whatever amount of good things I have — love, children, books, possessions; it never feels like enough.  The freeing part came in recognizing that very few people ever reach the stage of “enough” in one aspect of their life much less in all aspects of their life.

I mean, how many people can say, “feh, hold the love, I have enough of it.”  Or “I don’t really need any more success at work; I’m all full-up.”

Once everyone’s skeleton reminded me that we’re all heading to the same destination despite whatever else we accomplish along the way, I stopped coveting one writer’s $500,000 advance and another writer’s movie rights sale.  I mean, it’s all well and good that they have this money and can slap an accomplishment on their biography — but it’s certainly not keeping them from death.  And who will care in the future whatever small feats they accomplished while on earth.  No one (okay, perhaps their descendents).

And again, even with those accomplishments, I’d hazard a guess that neither of those writers are saying, “it’s enough.  I’m done.  I can walk away from the game happy.”  Success breeds a desire for success.  Don’t you feel that way after you write a particularly fantastic blog post and you get an unusually high amount of comments?  You want to do it again.  You don’t know exactly how to do it again — that is the frustrating part since success usually requires external forces or people to cooperate.  But you really want to do it again.

But isn’t it a little freeing to think to yourself, what does it matter if I have enormous blog traffic or a small amount of blog traffic?  What does it matter if this post gets two comments or 20 comments (oh please, let it get 20 comments, let it get 20 comments)?  A year from now, who will remember?  A decade from now, who will care?  A century from now, we’ll all be ashes anyway.

This is not meant to sound depressing in any way — just the opposite; it is a confirmation of enjoying the journey since we all end up in the same place regardless of what we do (except for those who have the means to cryopreserve their body… or their head… or whatever one needs to do in order to extend life indefinitely).  Of enjoying your blog regardless of where it is going simply because it exists.  Of enjoying whatever love or happiness or comfort you can grab since isn’t it all fleeting?

Which is not to say that nothing we do or care about matters.  Again, just the opposite — of course it matters.  Of course I want the 20 comments and the enormous advance on my next book.  Of course I want to sell the film rights and get to see my book turned into a movie.*  Of course I want to walk down the street and have someone show me that they had a tattoo made of my name across their bicep (something understated and pretty).  But as I sat in that room, staring at the especially smug skeleton across from me (he was probably contemplating his book advance as I was contemplating his disembodied phalanges), I thought about dividing apart what I was being pressured to believe was important by society and what was personally worth chasing based on how I viewed the world.

What was worth worrying about the enoughness of it all?

I don’t have a clear answer, and to be honest, the answer has changed from moment to moment.  Love is always on the list — I think it’s worth my energy to chase love, to worry about love, to wonder if I have enough love, to fret if I’m giving enough love, to fear that I am about to suffocate the children with my enormous, pillow-like love.  Sometimes I think it’s worth my energy to chase artistic success.  Or to chase down additional family building success.

And sometimes I step back and say to myself, “it doesn’t matter, Melissa, because there will never be enough.  So don’t dismiss what you have, worrying about the size of it.  Just understand that you will never be full but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy this small, simple meal.”

At least, that is what I say to my own skeleton when it materializes externally, blotting out skin and hair and heart and blood.


* And even more than that, in the immediate moment, I want very badly for people to help me spread word that my book, Life from Scratch, is one of the Sunshine Deals on Amazon and help me get it to #1 on the Kindle List.  $2.99, people, it will never be that low again!  Please help me send my kids to college by either reading my book or telling someone else to read it.  It seems worth my energy stressing about that this moment while also trying to enjoy the small good thing that is being chosen by Amazon at all.


1 Chickenpig { 06.06.11 at 11:18 am }

I got a bit of a chuckle because you said you were in a ‘Chekhovian’ mood, and then went on to say books don’t matter because they all go out of print anyway 🙂 Oh really, now, so how do you know what a Chekhovian mood is, pray tell. Har har, hardy har har. I just bought a copy of Anne of Green Gables at Target, written by a young woman who wrote the book for a Sunday School class over a century ago.

You do know how many books are written that never get published at all, right? You rock 🙂

2 serenity { 06.06.11 at 12:44 pm }

Ah, Mel. I love his post.

Because, for me? This is the very essence of finding happiness in my own life. Seeing the “enough” and not thinking “Fail.” Finding contentment in the here and now, instead of coming away from something with a “I need to do X and Y and Z – I’ll do it better NEXT TIME.”

And I wonder just how much of this is our generation’s upbringing; the sense that if we work hard, only the sky is the limit. Whereas this idea that working hard will get me everything I want is GOOD, because it’s motivated me to seek out success and get better?

It’s also damaging, because it’s never enough.

I’m trying to find the enough myself. I expect it’ll be hard to maintain that balance – like I’m standing on one foot with my eyes closed. But I HAVE to find it. Because now I have to teach it to my son. Because I do NOT want him to see Fail when he looks in a mirror 32 years from now.


3 Natalie { 06.06.11 at 1:14 pm }

Great post. And so true. There will never be enough.

I always find myself comparing to others’ houses…. that’s my big thing. I’ve never liked mine and I am full of house jealousy. But, would I be any happier in a bigger house? Probably not. I mean, maybe about the house (ha), but I’d have to give something else up to get it.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with where we want to be. Much, much harder to be okay with where we are.

4 jodifur { 06.06.11 at 2:11 pm }

There must be something in the water. Because I had at least 5 conversations last week about “maybe personal blogging is over” and “maybe I should be done…”

I’m not sure what any of it means, other than, if you are a writer, I think you want people to read what you write.

5 Justine { 06.06.11 at 2:22 pm }

How very Buddhist of you. 🙂 Really, though … as I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh, I am reminded to appreciate what I do have, instead of worrying about the next thing … because by worrying about the next thing, I completely miss the joy of what I have in my hand.

6 Seriously?! { 06.06.11 at 2:36 pm }

Funny, I just posted about … ‘what now?’ and just wanting a bit more to feel ‘fulfilled’…’full’. My blog has been quiet, I just found myself in a place where I didn’t know what to say.

I wonder if anyone can sit and be content with their life as it is ‘today’??? We always need reminders of this. Quit the chase and just be happy with what you have. So good in theory, I need more practice, that’s for sure!!!

7 Heather { 06.06.11 at 2:46 pm }

Good post. I think I go back and forth between being really happy with what I have and always wanting more. I try to keep the two feelings in balance with each other. I think that the balance of the two is important to keep you moving forward and appreciating where you get once you get there.

8 Esperanza { 06.06.11 at 2:51 pm }

I think you make a good point and I totally understand what you’re saying. As a student of Buddhism I’ve heard this teaching, in different forms, many times and I recognize it’s truth. But I also think that the successes you mention aren’t just measured by the indelible (or not) mark they leave behind, but also by how they allow you to live. If you get the $500,000 book contract you can quite your job and just write. If your blog gets a lot of traffic then it may lead to more fulfilling employment opportunities down the road. And that kind of stuff does matter because that is how we live our lives. Our work takes up the majority of our waking hours and doing something we love can make a huge difference in our happiness. And for that, some successes can be enough. So while I understand that, in the grand scheme of the universe, whether many people read my blog doesn’t matter (just as I don’t matter) in my life it might matter very much. And of course you can always point to something else you want to work for, another success you want to achieve, that is human nature, but I don’t think that those successes are really meaningless. Especially not if they lead to more fulfilling opportunities. That’s just my two cents.

9 Lut C { 06.06.11 at 2:57 pm }

Hm, I’ve been feeling a teensie bit abandoned on my small blog. Is there a point in continuing if response is dwindling? Sometimes I wonder.

10 N { 06.06.11 at 3:34 pm }

I do, actually, feel like books, movies, etc, mean more than that, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.

But as far as blogs, I enjoy having a small one. I mean, I’m glad people read it, and that I’m not just writing for myself (as I’m terrible at that), but one comment, two, is enough to put a smile on my face. And the things that go hand-in-hand with a large blog, with getting there and maintaining it, are things that drive me up a wall and I’d rather not deal with.

11 jjiraffe { 06.06.11 at 4:15 pm }

I got no comments on my post today, and I’m not gonna lie: it sucked.

There is a book I read called “Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton, which deals really well with the feelings you’re describing, and I think you might enjoy it. Basically the premise is: when you are around people with $500,000 book deals or four kids or a mansion in the Hamptons it inevitably will bum you out. Botton suggests ways to get past the understandable envy provoked in these scenarios. Some of which, it sounds like, you are already using.

12 coffeegrl { 06.06.11 at 8:40 pm }

I haven’t read the Alain de Botton book but am intrigued! A while back I read Seligman’s Authentic Happiness and found it useful as well. But this weekend I just read an article about this topic in a broad way and one of the things that stuck with me is that a lot of it is how we think about and reflect on our choices in life. There are things in my life that aren’t fulfilling right now, but there are lots of things that are. I can’t immediately get all of the things I want perhaps, but I can make different choices to start to undo the less satisfactory parts, or to try to take things in a different direction. Thanks for adding more food for thought.

13 coffeegrl { 06.06.11 at 8:44 pm }

Oooh! Also, have you seen this: http://www.mssngpeces.com/548/4951/work/today
I think there’s something really profound in his work. I think the idea that each photo for a day reveals that our life is really a journey and that there isn’t an attainable *something* at the end. And yet, there’s something to his idea of thinking of our lives as containers and taking the time to tell stories – I think this is the crux of what you do very well!

14 a { 06.07.11 at 12:48 am }

And those of us who have enough are thought of as having no ambition. I have a great job, a lovely family, a nice house, very few worries. I am content. There are problems (some major) in each of those categories – I would like to change them, but if I don’t, so be it. My husband, who contributes to those problems, does so because nothing is ever enough. Why is he in Afghanistan? Because the pay is so good. Does he need the money? Not really, but he can never pass up the opportunity to make more.

I think the world would be much more stable if people recognized that there can be enough.

15 Missy { 06.07.11 at 1:38 am }

Is it strange that I feel like I’ve done enough since I had my son, even though he died? I could die tomorrow and not have any regrets. Yes my days/weeks/months are spent trying to make a baby that gets to come home, but that’s just me wasting away time. I did what I wanted and he was perfect and beautiful.

16 Mina { 06.07.11 at 8:46 am }

It is all quick sand, measuring success. now you think you have it all, then you hear about some other parameter and of course you try it on, and just like any other garment, it may or may not suit you. Most of the times, you are left wanting more.

And yes, I agree, that in the end, we all die, and it does not matter what we did and what we had, because death is death for all. Our story, our life, our mistakes or our success might be told later on by family or friends or strangers, and they might serve as an example for one thing or another. But it still would n0t matter to us.
Cheery thoughts, innit?

Still, life is beautiful. And worth living.

17 missohkay { 06.07.11 at 10:13 am }

I emailed a co-worker who owns a Kindle and recommended your book and she wrote back “Oh, I already bought that!” So that has to feel pretty good! 🙂

18 loribeth { 06.07.11 at 9:01 pm }

Very timely. I read a story in the Globe & Mail last week about “A Good Enough Life” that was so thought provoking that I put it on my blog. I’m still thinking about it.


19 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.07.11 at 11:55 pm }

Just helping you get to 20 😉

But seriously, I am trapped in this thinking. It’s not that I have a specific goal for myself. I just want more MORE.

I am proud of myself, though, for walking away from Perfect Moment Mondays, if temporarily. It was successful in so many ways, especially getting people to be more aware, but I had begun to have internal dissonance about it.

The skeleton think is kinda creepy. I’m going to a water park this week and am going to try thinking of everyone as their skeletons.

20 Mali { 06.10.11 at 10:26 pm }

Infertility and pregnancy loss brought me to the realisation that we can chase the never-ending dream of getting what we want, or more of what we want, bigger, more expensive, flashier, more popular etc, but that it won’t make us happy. Being comfortable with myself, not trying to hide my flaws in bigger/better/more. That’s what I consider now to be my greatest achievement. Sure I slip – a LOT – but it’s very satisfying when I manage it.

21 marilyn { 06.12.11 at 11:36 am }

I got something form this post..I often think about death..I know strange. I really am a half full optimistic person..but sometimes i go there. Think about death and then my life changes. I tell people I love them. I do the things that make me happy. Because we get just one chance. I do things that make me happy and do things for the people I love. I love your analogy about success and we all are going to die. Does success in a way really matter. it does, but for how long. we are not better than others, nor should we act this way. I really enjoy your blog..it always gets me thinking out of the box:)

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