Edition Eighteen

A Friend of Mine

The other day a friend of mine wanted to talk about "things."

He'd been feeling irritable for quite awhile and his family was suggesting that he needed to lighten up.

He recognized this but at the same time he wasn't sure how he really could lighten up as "things" just haven't been much fun.

The truth was that even though he had just finished a very successful year in his professional practice he wasn't feeling very happy. He noticed that I seemed very relaxed and happy and could he talk with me about it? Could he hear my story?

I found myself talking about the need to learn about who we really are as this brings us choices and opportunities that ultimately help us find happiness. I'm not a counselor; I've simply been trained through real life experiences and thankfully I've learned to try to understand the cause and effect relationships in the emotional dynamic in which I'm required to live. And yes, I have found some sources of personal support but when friends want to talk about "things" I feel a concern that what has meaning for me is just that, meaning for me. At the same time, people often come to me, just to talk about "things" and I can't just walk away especially if they are unhappy. So inevitably I take off my coat and sit and talk with the hope that my listening and my thoughts might help.

My years are definitely accumulating, my hair is graying and I have a few wrinkles growing. Throughout the last decade I spent much time thinking about the experiences I've had in life and what it all seemed to mean. My motivation was to try to understand if I would ever feel really good about "things" in my life.

During this decade of personal evaluation my sense of self-definition was confined by what I'd been doing as a career. This was a paradigm I needed to understand as it skewed my thinking. My life was sales and marketing in corporate environments where I'd climbed the ladder to accept ever increasing accountabilities. Externally I was successful: internally I was terribly fragile and deeply unhappy. Functionally I was adept and very capable, but personally I really didn't care about the things the corporations wanted me to do. I felt so out-of-sync with everything.

Joseph Campbell wrote those amazing words "follow your bliss and doors will open" and when I first read this a number of years ago, I tried to understand what my "bliss" was. The dictionary definition I found for the word bliss was "supreme happiness." Well I knew I wasn't feeling any amount of supreme happiness so I decided to try understanding if a feeling of supreme happiness was ever possible for me.

My first attempts failed miserably. I was functioning in a box that restricted my focus to career values and activities. My thinking was about job attributes instead of life attributes and I was bogging down terribly in my quest. The whole exercise became pretty hopeless and eventually I moved on to investigate other approaches that might help me find my way through whatever it was that I was trying to work through. At the same time the words "follow your bliss" stayed with me: unconsciously I was resolving what my bliss really was.

The cliché we hear almost every day about life is that it is a journey. If I'm to use this term, my journey eventually took me to a place where I became acquainted with depression and my path involved some needed therapy. The therapist, in the role of an angel, introduced me to someone I'd not spent time with for many, many years: my inner child. And communication with my inner child, who I call Jimmy, helped me revisit a list of joys I experienced when I was very young.

When I was three years old I watched an artist draw a picture of a cowboy on a blackboard. I remember how totally immersed I was in wonder and excitement while I watched the cowboy appear from the chalk touching the blackboard. This was a life defining moment for me that had been buried for decades. Renewing my connections with Jimmy helped me re-live and revive my senses of internal energy. Through this I began to understand, and know, my bliss involved art.

While I've always had an affinity for pictures, as an adult I'd never allowed this much space: my career life was just so important, so hectic. But now I had reason to take pictures seriously as I allowed the presence of art filled energies to grow within myself to become a meaningful expression of who I am. I was also recognizing my need to make a transition from career life in corporations to become an artist. Downshifting became a welcome reality.

Today I am an artist, I paint. I'm following my bliss, and doors are opening. I'm very happy and feeling nourished.

My friend listened to my story. And as he asked questions I could see he was sensing conflict with stepping away from the things that seemed to cause him unhappiness as I did. He was unsure about things like inner child, transition, paradigms, bliss and downshifting.

I nodded. I understood.

By Jim Pescott