August 05, 2013

Don't Do What You Love - Unless...

We've all heard it: Do what you love. It sounds so simple. But I think there's more to it than that. 

Do what makes you love yourself. 
Do what makes you feel good about yourself. 

Many assume it's the same thing, but it isn't. Not always.

"Self-love" by Loving Earth

I love to read. When I was fifteen, my family staged a reading intervention on me. They, my parents and two younger brothers, opened my bedroom door (without knocking!), walked in, and sat on the floor facing me as I sat against my headboard reading. I was so stunned by this wildly aberrant behaviour that I did little more than blink for several moments. They all just sat there, and stared at me. Then they told me they were going to stay there until I stopped reading and came out to participate in life. I was livid. I glared at them, a real lazer-eyes burn-you-to-a-crisp glare. I'm stubborn, what can I say? After a prolonged and very uncomfortable stare-down, they gave up and left me there with my wall of books. I was so mad, and so embarrassed, and so sad when they walked out. As much as I love to read, it's never made me feel particularly good about myself.

On the flip-side, I hate to write. I find it immeasurably difficult and tedious and frustrating. But, I LOVE having written (hence the frighteningly apt Dorothy Parker quote at my profile; at least I'm not the only one). Even if I've written crap, I love how I feel about myself after I've written. Something inside me rests. I always smile and sort of do this bragging-to-myself thing, where I read and re-read what I've just written, as though I've just topped Mt. Everest or something equally painful and monumental. Sometimes, I forget how good writing makes me feel about myself. Sometimes, I get caught in that DO WHAT YOU LOVE trap, which is fatal for my writing and almost as bad for my social and mental health. 

As I'm writing this post, I'm on my second day pulling out of a minor bumbed-out-rut-thing. Last week, I read nearly fifteen books in 6 days. I wrote nothing. I felt like crap. Yesterday, I felt compelled to write down the details of a memory from my corporate-working-girl days. Then I felt better. Doing what I love, is not loving myself. Doing what is hard, but rewarding - that is loving myself. 

I must never forget the subtle difference.

I hope it's easier for you. I hope doing what you love makes you glory in yourself. I hope it brings you peace and soul-satiation. And if it doesn't, I hope you'll find something that does - even if you hate it.


And because I'm still doing that bragging-to-myself re-reading thing, here is the memory that I wrote yesterday:

Pickle Jar

She watched the four guys at the lunchroom table wrestling with the giant jar of pickles and smiled to herself. Well, she thought it was to herself, but apparently one of them noticed.

“Don’t laugh, we really want these pickles,” he said, grinning.

She walked over to the table. “Here,” She reached for the jar. “Let me try.”

One of the other guys leaned back, eyebrows raised, “We’ve all taken a turn, what makes you think you can open it?”

She smiled, “I’m a girl.”

She took the jar to the counter and grabbed the dullest butter knife she could find from the cutlery drawer. She slid the tip of the knife under the lid as far as it would go, then angled it away from the jar. Her lips trembled, she tried so hard to restrain her triumphant grin as the air trapped in the jar hissed out and the lid popped. She withdrew the knife and easily unscrewed the lid from the jar.

She had to use both hands to carry the enormous jar back to the table, it was so heavy. They stared at her as she set it down in front of them.

“I don’t get it. How did you do that?” one of them asked.

With a cheeky smirk, she unapologetically gloated. “I told you, I’m a girl. I solve problems with my brain.”

Then she left, walking out of the room with swag.

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