Sunday, March 9, 2014
Bliss. I like that word. More so than joy. Joy seems temporary to me, a flash in the pan, a candle flame that is easily extinguished or fades the moment the candle has melted. Bliss, on the other hand, feels more permanent, something that actually becomes a part of you, that lasts well beyond the end of the event or task that brought it on. It is a word that you don't seem to see much.
I was reintroduced to the notion of "bliss" about 20 years ago in a magazine to which I subscribed, "Victoria." "Victoria" magazine was--and once again is as it went out of circulation and now is back--a tribute to fine living, inspired not surprisingly by its namesake. It represented everything that I wished my life could be--gracious, beautiful, elegant, tethered to a romantic past. I was raising 4 boisterous children--three of whom were boys and every bit the antithesis of that life. But I could dream couldn't I? Sometime in the 10 years that I was a subscriber the magazine editors began a series of articles that then morphed into a book entitled Bliss, which was dedicated to applauding women who started/owned their own businesses doing the very things that brought them bliss. The supposition was that a woman could do what she loved, that thing that not only allowed her to demonstrate her creative abilities but also was something that she enjoyed doing and make a living doing it.
A little history here: I have spent my whole life, it seems, seeking that which brings me bliss and have managed to also spend my whole life working at occupations that don't fit that criteria. The idea that I could contribute to the family budget while also doing something I loved was terribly appealing. The first problem was uncovering my secret gift: that creative thing that I was good at--good enough to make a living at it--and that brought me bliss. That was the sticking point.
Take note: I'm not talking about doing just what one is "good" at. There are plenty of things that I can--and have--done because I am quite capable of (perhaps even gifted at) doing. But many of those occupations at best bring some momentary satisfaction and at worst seem like a drudgery, something I have to do because no one else appears capable or willing. No, I'm talking about a pursuit which one genuinely desires to pursue, that which the doing of, no matter how much hard work it represents, is so worth the doing because it brings pure bliss. It is something that you want to do even when you find that you have to do it.
I am reminded here of the historical novel about Robert Louis Stevenson--Under the Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan--that I just finished reading. RLS or Louis (as he was referred to by friends, family and colleagues) was not a healthy man his entire, short-lived life. He seemed to spend a great deal of his adult years in bed just trying to stay alive. Yet, he was a prolific writer, often eschewing sleep and sustenance at times, while scribbling furiously his multiple manuscripts. That is bliss; when one can even rise above impending demise to pursue one's passion. I can't imagine what that must be like...or maybe I can just imagine.
Don't get me wrong; there are many things that bring me joy...my dog, my cat, my children and their many creative accomplishments, my husband, a sunset, the noise of the waves at night, moonlight on the water, an afternoon spent with a friend, cooking a fabulous meal and having it enjoyed...the list is seemingly endless. But joy, to me, is short-lived; it comes in spurts, explodes like fireworks and then is gone...except perhaps in the memory...until the next time. Bliss seems deeper than that; bliss is a slow, steady stream, changing sometimes, yes, but a constant all the same. Bliss sustains you, even in tough times. At least this is my image of bliss; I do not think I've experienced it myself. I'd like to think I'd know. Bliss should be an undercurrent in one's life, not the leaf carried along in it. Pure bliss...would we know it if we found it?