In the old days I never heard compliments, only criticisms. For most of my life I concentrated on that which I did wrong and that which I’d failed. If one reader didn’t like a book, I lingered over the nasty email or online review while skimming the glowing ones. Somehow the nasty, the mean, the harsh and the punitive meant more. Somehow anything good or loving wasn’t as valuable.
Why? Was I really so bad? Was I really so awful? Did everyone else somehow know the truth about me???
Now I ask myself, what was I smoking? Crack?
I was never bad. In fact, most of my life I’ve been a desperate over achiever, people pleaser and I needed approval, I needed everyone�s approval because I didn’t approve of me.
Thank God I’ve gotten over that craving for approval. What a headache! What a chore, and a bore.
I’m into good thoughts these days. I’m into compliments, laughter, good wishes, good friends and fun. I’ve never worked harder but I don’t mind. I’m working hard because I want the challenge, not because I�m afraid of failing, and sadly, that’s what drove me before. I was always trying to prove myself, prove something, anything, I just didn’t know what.
Today I live differently, today I’ve kicked the perfectionist out. She can’t live in my house anymore (although I do sometimes see her camping out on my doorstep) and she can’t torture me with everything has to be just right anymore because there’s no way I can be perfect, or you can be perfect, and there’s no such thing as right, either.
What I ask myself now is, do I want to feel good, or do I want to feel bad? It’s honestly that simple.
I want to feel good.
I don’t have to be the suffering artist to write great stuff. I don’t have to be suffering anything. Suffering is highly over-rated. And besides, we’ve all suffered, we’ve paid our dues, and we can live better, live happier, live calmer, more peaceful, more joyful lives.
So, this is what I do now: every time one of my kids (usually its my younger one) draws me a picture and writes ‘I LOve YoU’ under it, that picture goes up on my new ‘Happy Board’ which is on the wall next to my novel’s idea board. When I get a photo of me with my Surfer Ty, the photo goes up, just like when he sends me a short email that’s sweet, it goes there. If I read something cool in the paper, I tear it out, pin it on the board. When I see a gorgeous floral arrangement in a magazine, that pic goes up, too. The board has ribbons from the Rita ceremonies, cartoons from papers, my list of goals and dreams. Basically the board is to remind me of all that is good and beautiful, all that I love, all that love me, and all that I want to achieve and do and be.
Until fairly recently I’d turn in a book and worry it was crap. Okay, I still worry that its not great, but now when my editor tells me that its fantastic, or brilliant, or something else warm and wonderful, I print it off, write it down, put the praise on my board where I can see it and remember that I do good. That I do great. That there’s no reason to think anything but positive thoughts, no reason at all to worry and criticize and fear and dread.
My board is a reminder that all I need to do is live and love and write.
Happiness isn’t hard. Happiness is actually quite easy. Happiness is just the thoughts we choose to think.