Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Thinking Out Loud: On Knowing What One Wants

This week I received a rejection letter for my last submission. There was once a time when I would have been devastated. I hardly even blinked when I opened this one. It's not that I've become immune to disappointment through Rejection Letter Repetition so much as that I've made a discovery in the past year--publication doesn't seem to be what matters so much anymore.

I began sending out poetry submissions 10 years after finishing my degree. It was 10 years before I felt I had anything worthy of sending. When I did finally begin submitting, the first 4 things I sent out were accepted. One of them was promptly nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I walked around stunned and not a little afraid for months. It made me nervous, quite frankly. I tend to hold as suspect the literary taste of anyone who is quite so eager to get their hands on my poetry. Perhaps I was a little disillusioned, too. It was supposed to be harder than this. Whatever the reason, I submitted less and less often, and the burning drive to Write Poetry has settled into gently glowing embers, while the drive to Publish is rapidly becoming nearly non-existant (although, the perceived obligation to Unload Some of These Poems cluttering my hard drive does occasionally annoy me).

I thought I knew what I wanted: genuine poetic skill on the professional level, a writing degree, literary publication, a decent regard for my work from other people whose work and/or literary opinion I valued. I worked hard for years amid intense concentration, pulled hair and occasional tears. I desired it earnestly, achingly. It was a large chunk of who I thought I was, who I'd labored diligently to become. And to some degree I evidently succeeded. Why, then, the definite diminishment of desire instead of an increased wish to continue?

We yearn for something, set ourselves to accomplishing or acquiring it, and then stand befuddled, holding it in our hands, staring at it as if to ask, "How did I get here, and why did I think I wanted this?" before shrugging and tossing it over our shoulders or perhaps relegating it to a scrapbook or the attic of our lives. Are we so fickle? Do we really understand our own hearts so little?

I like to think that each friendship we pursue in our lives, each career or personal goal, each whatever-it's-been that we've worked for, deeply yearned for and sought after, has held some factor consistent with an overall longing of our hearts, a longing that is, perhaps, too big or too complicated to be comprehended at once. If so, then the question is not, "Is this all there is?" but "What part of this could I not imagine having lived without? What element has made (or has the potential to make) all the striving worthwhile?" There, I think, is where we'll perhaps find an answer that begins to satisfy, and where lies the possibility of beginning to understand what it is we truly desire.


Megan said...

That helps put A LOT of things in perspective. Many, many thanks.

Meg said...

We yearn for something, set ourselves to accomplishing or acquiring it, and then stand befuddled, holding it in our hands, staring at it as if to ask, "How did I get here, and why did I think I wanted this?"

I stand in this place more often than not as of late. Thank you for putting into word the feelings that race around in my head. :)

Connie said...

Maybe desire for achievement is like sexual desire...which can be satisfied sometimes with great passion, sometimes with a gentle cuddle, and sometimes sublimated into something else altogether.

And sometimes God gives us the desires of our hearts without our fully realizing that desire. So then we stand in amazement, with the very thing in our hands and say, "I didn't even know I wanted this."

Dawn said...

I really enjoyed this... I mulled it over all day today. I think there is an aspect of thinking we want something, only to find, once we get it, that it wasn't exactly what we thought. However, I also think the lessons we learn along the way to a desired goal can be as fulfilling and life changing at the goal itself was thought to be.. so that when we get to our goal, we aren't really the same person because God knew it was the journey that we needed, not the "goal." Make sense?

Brad said...

"What is there left to do when all of your dreams have come true." One of those odd thoughts that bubbled to the surface one night in front of the sketchbook. Lauren even wrote a poem around it. At least you aren't the only one thinking along these lines.

Cindy said...

Megan and Meg--You're both quite welcome. Hopefully your answers will come more easily than my wrestled-out ones. :)

Connie and Dawn--You're both very onto something. On the way to finding/becoming our Truest selves, our desires change, so that in the end we stand holding in our cupped palms, brightly chirping and fully fledged, the winged desires we didn't know enough to want when we first began. Thanks for more clues.

Brad--So, have all your dreams come true? Are you content? (Glad the sketchbook is seeing some use--makes me unaccountably happy, for some reason.)


Lauren said...

Remind me to share that poem with you next time we get together. I have a feeling you will relate to it better than most.

It kind of make me sad to think of you going into those deeper, darker places I tend to dwell in. I think of you more as a light in those darker places, chasing out the shadows with your wonderful self.

P.S. Happy birthday a few days early. We plan to spoil ya ::winks::

Cindy said...

Lauren--I'll be anticipating the poem on Sunday, then. :) This isn't a dark mood, as such; just a deeply reflective one, I suppose. What you wrote really means a lot to me, though. Thank you very much.

And as far as the spoiling goes...you guys always spoil us! (And we love it!) :)