seasons

choose joy

How much of our lives are up to us? What truly falls within the domain of our control? It’s a much-debated subject. 

Is it simply mind over matter? Do we cause things to happen by our own force of will? Or are we leaves on the wind, dipping and twirling wherever the unseen forces take us?

I’m still figuring that out myself (and, I suppose, always will be), but lately I have been learning about surrendering control, or rather accepting my lack of control.

Whatever outside circumstances I’m faced with, I do believe my attitude toward them is something that falls within my responsibility. 

This quote comes to mind.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” 

― Charles R. Swindoll

Despite some popular quotes saying otherwise, I don’t fully agree that I’m the captain of my own destiny. But I can be at the helm of my emotions, steering them where I wish through both clear and stormy weather.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes that ship’s wheel goes flying from my hands and spinning wildly.

Maybe the whole thing is more like flying the Millennium Falcon, with complicated panels of levers and flashing buttons. Maybe I need a big, hairy co-polot to help me. Maybe I’m taking this analogy a bit too far.

Anyhow, I do believe we have a choice in how we feel, which leads to how we act. For this reason I believe that:

Creativity is a choice

Love is a choice

Joy is a choice

There are some strong connections between creativity and love. I write a lot about it in my upcoming book, The Endless Creative, but for now I want to talk about joy.

In this Christmas season (or whatever holiday you might celebrate around year’s end), joy is one of the main sentiments. I’ve often heard joy described as something even deeper than happiness, an inner contentment not based on circumstances.

C. S. Lewis talks about being surprised by joy and how it was a feeling he could not fabricate. He claims it is a by-product of something else, the source of joy.

The two words, “choose joy” have been circulating in my thoughts these days. Can I really find joy in every circumstance? When work is challenging? When I’m not feeling creative? When I’m discouraged? When I’m sick? When my kids wake up crying their eyes out in the dead of night?

Yes, I believe so. In all circumstance, joy remains within reach. 

Joy can be felt alongside emotions like sorrow, fear, and even anger. Joy is a big, weighty feeling and, once captured, it presses upon all the others, giving them depth. But that doesn’t always make it easy to find.

I don’t know if it was part of the plan, but it makes sense that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. I’ve found that thankfulness is a natural path to joyfulness. When I stop and think about all the things I have to be thankful for—my job, my family, and the many opportunities I have to exercise my creativity—it leads me to joy.

If joy is a by-product then the objects of our gratitude may be some of the best fuel to feed its flames. If that’s the case, there are also ways we can stamp out the glowing embers of joy.

When I set my mind on reasons for self-doubt or worry, I’m led to darker, joyless places. For me, I find joy in dwelling on Christ’s coming and how he has changed my life.

I hope, good reader, that whatever way you celebrate this season, you find creative new things to be thankful for—things that set your joy ablaze. Whether joy sneaks up on you or you must spend long, quiet moments slowly stoking it to life from the ashes, I hope its warmth remains very near to you.

seasons

One thing particular to life in LA is the lack of seasons. Sure, it gets a little chilly in the winter and hot in the summer, but, most of the time, it’s a nice day outside. It’s one of the reasons so many people live there.

I didn’t realize I missed seasons until I moved away. There’s something special and important about changes in weather patterns and how they mark the passage of time. For me, it creates a mental expectation of change. Without that, I had a vague sense that time was passing, but most days felt just like the one before. There was an ongoing sameness that dulled me.

Seasons bring their own challenges, and also their own moods. Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring each have a different feel to them—a special uniqueness.

Much like the annual seasons, there are also seasons of creativity. There are times of newness and discovery, times of repetition and improvement, times of rest, and even times of loss and failure. Each one is an important part in the cycle. 

Currently, I’m entering a time of trying new things and also bringing old projects to a close. I’m learning to allow and plan for the time each creative undertaking requires, rather than trying to rush through it. I’m also learning which investments yield too little results to continue.

After having been through some big life changes, and a time in which I didn’t accomplish much in the pursuit of a creative career, I’m now returning to routine practice, goal setting, and measured growth.

I’m still figuring out what is most important and how I should best manage my time, while also experimenting. As I hear someone describe: when you’re getting started, you just throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks. Though I’ve done all that before, I’m rearing up for another round of spaghetti chucking.

How about you, have you thought much about what season you’ve come from and which one you’re entering?