True Happiness

Christina Katz, mama-writer guru and the author of two of my favorite writing books, The Writer Mama and Get Known Before the Book Deal , has challenged bloggers to write about happiness this week.

Am I happy because I am almost done with my proposal?

Was I happy last week when I lost weight at TOPS?  Another affirmative.

But that kind of happiness is fleeting; a happiness contingent upon the event.  An event that can change in the blink of an eye. Last night when I stepped on the scale I’d gained a pound, and I could have wallowed in my disappointment.

Instead, I shrugged my shoulders, got on my bike and rode home, determined to see a change in the scale next week.

I learned a long time ago that happiness comes from within, not from the number on the scale or the acceptance in your inbox.

How many of you, women especially, told yourself at one time that “If only I lost weight, I would be happy.” Don’t buy into that.  You can be happy now. Go ahead and try to lose the weight, write the book, or sell the article, but you can choose to BE HAPPY NOW, while you are working at it.  And do work at it.

The writer’s life is kind of like the dieter’s life.  When we are losing weight, we feel successful.  Ditto for the writer selling their stuff.   When we step on the scale, and see a gain, we feel like the loser we really are.  Fatso.  You big pig, says that little voice in your head. So it goes for the writer who is seeing way too many rejections.  You aren’t a writer. No one wants to read what you write. It is all crap.  Why do you even try?

Silence that little voice right now.

And remember this: YOU are worthy.

When I battled an illness in 1992, an immune system disorder that left me weak, nauseated, and tired all the time, I lost 35 pounds.  Quickly.  Too quickly, which meant I lost muscle tone, and not just fat. People around me raved about my weight loss.  You look great.  You look ten years younger. I didn’t feel great.  I didn’t feel ten years younger.  I felt awful. And old. And very, very tired.  I would have given anything and taken back those 35 pounds plus some, just to feel like my old, fat self again.  I think of that now while I take walks with my sister, ride the bicycle, and stand on a ladder and paint all afternoon.

I am taking care of myself; eating right and exercising.  I have more energy now than I did ten years ago.  A number on a scale can tell me only what I let it tell me and I’m not going to let it tell me I am a worthless slob.  Instead, I will continue taking care of myself and expect to see a change in that number if I do so. I can use my weekly weigh-in as a gauge of how well I am doing, but I refuse to let it dictate whether or not I am going to be happy that day.

So it is with acceptances and rejections.

I’m working hard to sell my new book.

But I’ve been working hard all along. I’ve written a book and worked hard to get it published.  I’ve sent out (gulp!) 80+ queries and proposals regarding that one book, which should tell me something.  No, not that it isn’t good, but it isn’t marketable right now.  Instead of pursuing publication of that book, I am pulling from it for anthologies and essays.  The writing is good. The idea of it as a book might not be.  Now I will concentrate on writing a book proposal and a book that is marketable.

Since January, I’ve sent out over 25 essays for various markets, and some of them are being published. Some are not. Again, I am not letting those rejections decree my state of happiness. On the contrary, I have learned to use rejection as an impetus. I am one stubborn woman.  If one editor doesn’t want something, I am convinced another will.  I may revise a bit, but a rejection no longer stops me in my tracks. Instead, it means I just have to work a little harder to find the right market.

The number on the scale might mean the same thing: Work a little harder.

So, whether you are an aspiring writer or a woman struggling with her weight, a mom at home feeling overwhelmed by the puke and Pampers, or a working mom pulled in two directions by demands of career and children, make your mantra this: I will be happy.  Wherever I am right now, whatever I am doing right now, I will be happy. I won’t wait until things change to be happy. Fake it at first if you have to. Smile at the child who wakes up at 5:00 with a sniffy nose and can’t fall back asleep. Cheerfully read the 2nd rejection of the week and accept it as a challenge to send it elsewhere.  Get off the scale, shrug your shoulders at the machine’s inconsistency, then avoid it for a week or two while you work at making that number smaller.  Fake it until you make it.

Do it: BE HAPPY.

2 thoughts on “True Happiness

  1. Susan says:

    Amen Mary! Well said. I needed to hear this today as I am feeling completely and utterly gross as far as my weight and physical appearance goes. Thank you for the reminder that I am allowed to be happy today! Excellent post.

  2. Liz says:

    This is a wonderful post with such great perspective. I love your line: “I learned a long time ago that happiness comes from within, not from the number on the scale or the acceptance in your inbox.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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