The Joy Project At Age One, or: Don’t Know Much About Blisstory
It’s been a year. I started the Joy Project in March of 2010, and I find myself at an embarrassing juncture.
I’ve enjoyed the journey, I’m proud of some of my posts, and it’s certainly been gratifying and fulfilling to be in contact with you this way each week. But I’m at a loss as to how to continue.
I started with great intentions and expectations, sharing what I thought (and still think) to be great ways to access and perpetuate joy. In truth, I wanted the blog to morph into a book. I wanted it to go viral. Neither has occurred. Worse, I feel no closer to a truly joyful life myself. Oh my life is rich, saturated with blessings, often satisfying and sometimes happy. But joyful? Not so much.
Sometimes I feel like one of those teachers who can teach, but not do. Do I really know more about how to actually live joyfully than anyone else?
Perhaps I’ve been cursed by the blog’s title. “The Joy Project” sets up, quite understandably, an expectation by the reader that it will deliver not just information about how to live joyfully, but also an author who would himself be, at least over time, a shining, inspiring example of same. So the title promises more than it delivers. Further, having to perform weekly and fulfill these expectations makes me less joyful.
So what am I doing?
Today I find myself wanting to shed what I try to impress you with, like an expensive car whose payments I can no longer afford.
Writing this now, I realize that the burden I feel is the burden of a role – the role of Knower or Expert. It now feels like a straight jacket.
So I need to say that perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Perhaps I’m not up to the task. I aim for profundity, significance, to be inspiring; but lately I feel out of steam – spent, tired, and uninspired.
Interesting — when I stop right now and think – is all this actually Charley talking, or just his ego? — I start feeling the clouds lifting. How much about my wanting to impress you, and move you, is about trying to look good? If I drop this, what (and who) is left?
What happens if I drop the role of Knower?
Says my friend Rich, “Once you give up writing about what you know, the topics are endless!” He’s also a writer.
What happens if I surrender my attachment to looking good? Or being a success? It’s helped to push me ahead in life, but it has often made me miserable, as I have continuously measured myself against what I’ve believed a man at 30, 40, or 60 should have been earning, or should have accomplished by that time.
Having aimed to always live my life on a grander scale, I’ve simply ended up living my life on a scale.
This attachment to my life’s story working out a certain way; to my ego’s investment in being looked up to; or even my thing about wanting to be attractive to young women – these are all so many sandbags weighing down my balloon. When I even think about letting them go, I start lightening up.
And embracing my ignorance feels like a relief.
But what if one makes their living by looking good, or at least looking like they know something of value? Like the role I play as a therapist: people pay me to deliver my expertise to them about everything from how to feel what they feel, to how to get along with a mate, to how to best live life.
And yes, I have some knowledge about these things. But so often I feel stumped in that room! And so often I wish I had the courage to admit it! It’s as if I believe it’s the worst thing a therapist could do: You mean I’m paying you $130 an hour, and you don’t know what to do for me?!
Yet paradoxically the best therapy often happens when the therapist drops the mask, pops out of the role, and in effect says, “Hi – it’s just me, here with you.”
Once I had an especially difficult and disturbed patient, who’d seen countless therapists before me, all to no avail. Soon I discovered why that was. When he’d describe the work he did with them, it seemed like he was trying his best to defeat them, along with himself. He proved each therapist, and each kind of approach, to be useless, and it seemed to leave him increasingly frustrated, despairing and cynical. Soon he was engaged in the same behavior with me, and I found him maddening. Finally one day, exasperated, and at a complete loss, I confessed that I didn’t have a clue what to do for him.
“No one has ever said that to me before,” he said. “Though I could tell they all felt that way.” He was so grateful! It was the one and only truly therapeutic moment we had together.
Well, you may not feel grateful for this, but I really don’t have a clue as to how to actually live and sustain a joyful life. At least not information useful enough to actually make me any more joyful than I ever was, which was not very.
Just saying this now, I feel relief, shedding the Role Of Knower like so much really good looking, but very heavy clothing.
So where do I go with the blog from here?
I don’t know.