This thought is still fresh and somewhat percolating, so forgive me if I need to revisit it later to clarify some things, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the difference between being fulfilled and being a fulfillment. Here’s what I mean: being fulfilled, as in, you’re content, you have all that you need, your wants and desires are fulfilled. Being a fulfillment is more like being the fulfillment of a plan, your destiny, or even your potential. How many of us were told in school to “fulfill our potential”? In other words, it would have been a crime if Einstein had become a janitor (that one movie with Matt Damon notwithstanding). We want the great scientists to be great scientists, the great artists to be great artists, the great parents to be great parents, etc. We don’t want people inherently gifted in one area to ignore those gifts trying to pursue endeavors where their contribution might be mediocre at the expense of what would be amazing contributions in their naturally talented subjects.
A lot of people don’t believe in destiny or fate, and that’s fine, I’m not altogether certain that I do, either. At least not in the sense of how they are normally understood. However, I think it was Leonardo DaVinci’s purpose to be a great artist and inventor, Stephen Hawking to be a great scientist, Michelle Kwan to be a great athlete, and Jimi Hendrix to be a great musician. And I think all of us have a “purpose”. No, we’re not all going to be world-renowned or famous, but say your purpose is to be a great parent: maybe you don’t win any awards or get a ton of recognition, but your contribution goes forward beyond your life through the lives of the kids you raise. You’re still changing the world, even if you’re not in any history books for doing so.
So, fulfilled versus fulfillment was what I had been dwelling upon, and then tonight while meditating, I was asking questions of the Universe/God. What am I supposed to do, why am I here, what’s the meaning of life, you know, mild stuff. No pressure, Universe. In this same meditation session I was putting out there my wants on a very “physical realm” type level. I want financial security (I’ve already discussed the difficulty in focusing on higher purpose when you’re stuck low on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs totem pole). I want a home. I yearn for a home. I dream of a home. I look at real estate listings and cry. Really, really (really), I’m obsessed with having a home of my own (yes, it’s just me and the kitties in my apartment, but I rent. I want a home I can truly call my own). And as I was thinking of the more physical realm stuff, one of the larger answers hit me: I’m supposed to write my book.
Yes, the book has transmogrified in scope these past several months, and the original “happiness manifesto” idea has given way to a much larger concept (plus, I found out sometime after starting this blog and the book that there is apparently already a book called “The Happiness Manifesto” – oops! While I’m sure it does not have my subtitle (“How I beat the living hell out of suffering and made it my bitch”), I didn’t even think to search for similar titles when I was still in the just-starting-out phase of writing. Gah! If anyone finds this blog looking for information on that book, sorry – not me. I didn’t even know it existed until I was browsing on my Kindle one day and lo, there it was. I just about kicked myself. I’m sure there are books out there with alike titles, but still – so it’s a good thing that that is no longer the title).
Anywho, The Book (it will heretofore be referred to as The Book in capital letters, as even though it has another working title, I don’t want to a: goof again before I’ve researched that no one else has a book out by that title and b: it’s still shifting around in my head, and I may change it again when all is said and done. I’m not putting it past me at this point). The more I think on it, the more The Book is my raison d’être. I want to write. I’m meant to write. Don’t worry, I’m not growing a massive ego and thinking I am The Most Awesome Writer Ever, but I must write. I used to write so prolifically that I could reliably sit down and pound out a chapter in one sitting, giggling to myself as twists and turns came to me as I was writing them. I gauged if it was any good or not by how violently my best friend threatened my well-being if I did not write the next chapter soon (I was really good at a cliffhanger). Now, of course, I look at those old stories from my college days (or high school days or junior high days – yes, I wrote stories to share with my friends back then, too) and think, wow, I was really young. Characters developed in my head as I was writing them, and so the original vision didn’t always mesh with the end product. I was famous for going back and doing re-write after re-write after re-write in an attempt to align the earlier flying-blind parts with the later now-I-know-who-this-person-is-and-where-the-story-is-going parts. I was more famous for forgoing paper altogether and just regaling my friends with verbal stories; the aforementioned best friend and I would take a random drive and she would put forth her one-word request: “Story?” My friends knew the universe inside my head by then and it was nice to just shoot the shit with my characters and not worry about having to spell out backstory for potential new readers to understand what I was talking about. Also, it was the most awesome way to test out new ideas and character developments ever. But I digress.
The point is, I’ve always been a writer. And lately it seems to come in fits and spurts, and as often as not I go back to the completed parts and look on them with disdain some time later. It’s not that it seems terrible, but it does seem contrived. Or young. Yes, there’s that word again. When I look back at my writing and think young, it’s the equivalent of crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it in a wastebasket.
Though now I look at my old stories and think young, I actually was young at the time. I’m allowed to think the oeuvre of my twenty-year-old self seems young. But I don’t look at it with disdain: I look back on it with fondness and pride. I actually wrote that book, and that book. I told thousands of stories. I drew thousands of related comics. One of the friends who read and heard the stories even drew comics based on the characters in my universe. I inspired someone else. My stories spoke to someone else. I couldn’t have asked for better confirmation of worth than that. Yeah, I was young, but my youthful stories spoke to other young people. To this day I can drop a reference to those stories among that group of friends and get a giggle. And two of my cats (I have three) are named after two people from that pantheon of characters. Those stories are a huge chunk of my life.
Today, not only have I shifted my focus both in reading and writing to non-fiction (it’s rare that I pick up a novel anymore, though it does happen occasionally), but I don’t seem to be able to sit and churn out a chapter as I used to. I would be okay with a slower pace if it was at least steady, but it’s not that either. It’s very much as if my muse is teasing me with hints of what I will be writing more than actually writing it.
Tonight, in that meditation session, the reason came to me: my mind is still too focused on the Maslow’s Level Two stuff to be absorbed in The Book. Back when I used to sleep, eat, and breathe Story, it was my survival mechanism. Life was supremely craptastic and so I escaped to the much better world in my head, and ran on autopilot in “the real world”. Now I’m firmly anchored in “the real world,” and unable to fully let myself escape into Book World.
Therein lay my answer to the fulfilled/fulfillment question: it shouldn’t read “versus”. It’s more like, in order to be a fulfillment of your purpose, you need to be fulfilled.
I’m not fulfilled in the “physical realm”. I need to be so I can let go and fully engage in The Book.
Now, I’m not saying every wild dream has to come true in order for me to fulfill my purpose in writing The Book. In fact, that would be a Star Trek-worthy paradox, as completing and publishing The Book is one of those dreams. What I’m saying is, I need to feel “safe” enough to go and live in the alternate universe that you really have to take residence in in order to pen a meaningful work. I need to not worry about how I’m going to pay the bills, or where I’m going to live, or when am I going to do this or that. I need to have some basic things taken care of that are taking away precious focus from writing. I have been better about not stressing so hard about things like money, but to be frank when I’m not sure where/how/when it’s coming, I do focus on things related to it, like: I need to list more things in my Etsy shop. I need to check Craigslist for temp jobs. I need to make business cards. I need to “network”. I need to list more things in my Zazzle shop. I need to submit another article in an attempt to get published and paid for something now. Etc. It’s a very different distraction trying to establish yourself as a freelancer than working a full-time “day job”. It may be more miserable, but in some ways it can be easier to mindlessly punch in, do work, and punch out again. The more mindless the job, the more my mind wandered off and dreamed up new stories. But then again, when I was in a horrid make-you-cry-in-the-restroom type job, there was no daydreaming there. Well okay, there was, but it involved choice words to certain real-life people and maybe a middle finger or two; not exactly “storytime”.
So, I made a deal with the Universe. God knows I don’t need or particularly want a lavish, crazy lifestyle. But I do very much want certain needs taken care of, which would free up my brain to go live in Book World. I want my own home; I want financial security; I want a car (yep, 33 years old, never owned a car. In NYC that may be normal, but in Denver that’s shock-worthy). The car seems arbitrary until you consider how much more involved it is for me to go anyplace (hours instead of minutes whether I’m bussing, bicycling, or walking. How much can I carry or cart around if I’m grocery shopping. The fact that I can’t do those things I would love to do and have always been good for my soul, like drive into the so-close-and-yet-so-far mountains and just enjoy the scenery or load up an SD card with metric tons of photographs. There is no city bus that reads “pulls over at every cool spot for photographic opportunities”. Go and visit friends and not worry about the last bus out or if I can hitch a ride. Not have to deal with creepy creepers following/chasing/stalking/bothering me (yes, that’s happened… a lot) walking home or waiting for a bus. Etc. For me, it would be rather life-changing. So I told the universe that basically, I need for the little things to not be so hard. I need for them to not be so thought-consuming. I need to be able to live somewhat on auto-pilot again but not because things suck; because it’s easy to do so.
It’s not that I want to be permanently on auto-pilot, though I do want my life to be permanently at least a little bit easier. I want to know that if I follow my muse into Book World, where time moves much more slowly than it does here in physical realm, then I’m not going to come out of it with a completed chapter and an eviction notice. I want for my physical realm to be safe so I can go play in the alternate Universe.
So there it is. I get a safe home, the world gets my purpose fulfilled. Not a bad deal, eh, Universe?