I tend to feel a slight twinge of guilt when I don’t agree with my favorite writers. Today, I feel sheepish because I disagree with this quote from one of the most revered women’s voices in current literature. Today, I agree to disagree about the other side of paradise with a favorite writer and poet I’ve been reading and quoting for years.
“Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there’s no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.”
― Margaret Atwood
On a warm June afternoon I considered this quote and I don’t want to agree with it.
In fact, I am feeling the excitement of victory above and over the damn thing.
Loss, regret, misery and yearning alone move stories forward?
It can’t be so, this can’t be the reason or the magnet or the finish line or the goal posts rising toward the sunset and champagne and accolades and hugs and happy high fives. No no no no and no.
I respect Margaret Atwood AND no, I don’t believe her assertions here about happiness and paradise. Do you believe what she says?
I’m going to think of today as a microcosm of story.
I had a blast of a morning: so much fun in my virtual co-working experience where we all got more than the norm done. We all moved forward perhaps along a slightly twisted road and I heard nothing about misery.
We had some technical glitches and stuff took a little longer than we had hoped, but loss and regret?
I’ll look at something else from today. Lunch with Emma. Found out a server at a restaurant we go to died in a car accident. Definitely loss. Discovered a gofundme I can share, something I can take action on, which made me feel slightly better.
Next Emma and I went to Kaiser. I felt annoyance due to poor communication but at least we took action. One might argue we were focused on avoidance of misery if a broken toe is misery. Perhaps it could be misery?
I put her car key on a cute key chain I found. I have no idea where the key chain came from, I just know I felt ridiculously happy because I have a horrible habit of misplacing keys and this one simple tool would make it much easier… to avoid loss and or regret?
Perspective, I think as five minutes of writing passes and I start yawning, wanting to avoid more discovery of loss or regret or misery or needless misery.
Happiness is unexpectedly seeing an old friend who values you more than you believe you deserve.
Happiness is forgiving yourself for being afraid and then finally taking action. Happiness is having the action netting authentically pleasing results.
Happiness is framing photos and art after waiting a while, and then hanging that art which makes people smile and then create their own art.
Happiness is going to a meeting where people appreciate you and a meetup with a friend who finds you funny and interesting and surprises you with the memories of you she shares.
I totally forgot the loss and yearning and misery as I recounted happiness which is probably why I feel so strongly about using gratitude as an ending point for free flow writing exercises.
I have experienced a lot of grief in my life. I have lost friends I cherished, I have fallen upon hard times with my face squarely in the mud for a lot longer than was healthy.
What helped me pick myself up and begin again was not the misery or the grief itself, it was the awareness of the sun rising, again, even after a lengthy darkness.
It isn’t an either misery or ecstacy, it is the awareness that even with misery or is currently great loss, there is also room for joyful ecstacy. It isn’t one or the other, there is one and there is the other.
Paradise has stories. For some reason, I am smelling vanilla – rich vanilla, not cheap, mild flavored vanilla – when I think of paradise stories. I see maps and diaries detailing journeys into and out of and over paradise and journeys into and out of and over and into hell: which is the only antonym for paradise (heaven, bliss, cloud nine, utopia, wonderland) and many other synonyms to happily, contentedly and transformatively describe a space many of us aim to inhabit.
Misery might love company, paradise loves permanent residents: especially those who are compassionate and kind to those who live outside. Those who haven’t learned about the joy of experiencing the richness and fullness and sweet losses of life with grace and hope and a future.
I can’t think of the perfect red bow to tie this up and I want to be finished.
Maybe you have a more proper ending? If you do, add it here.
As for me, I am off to today’s next paradise, next regret, next happiness, next loss, next story and next dissatisfaction and next moment of deep belly laughter, and the next story I tell about it all.
Julie JordanScott is the Creative Life Midwife: Her work as a life coach, muse and group facilitator has inspired best selling novels, new careers and knocking knees during speeches, performances and video releases. Right now she is enjoying hosting Ta-Da Tuesdays and preparing for her next Summer and Fall programs.