by Ron Vitale
My kids and I saw the Lego Movie a few weeks ago and we loved it. In the beginning, Emmet, our hero, wakes up and goes about his business getting ready for work and we hear Tegan and Sara's song Everything Is Awesome. Some of the lyrics are great and get you thinking about life and whether it's really awesome to lose.
After I came home from seeing the movie, I started thinking. I'm finishing my third book in my Cinderella's Secret Diaries series and happened to come across a negative review on the first book Lost when I was doing some research. So I started thinking: Is it an awesome experience to be ripped to shreds in a review?
No, it's not really awesome. But what about other parts of my life? There certainly have been some events and circumstances that have happened to me that simply sucked. Flooding in the basement from Hurricane Irene, definitely not awesome.
When I decided to write my Cinderella's Secret Diaries series, I wanted to show Cinderella's progression over time. In book one, she's naive and, at times, she comes off as whiney. She's young, self-absorbed and learning her way. In book two, she's learned some things, but so does the reader. There are dark secrets that she shares that show some downright horrible decisions that she's made. And in book three, she's matured and we find out if she's going to make it or wallow in her self-pity.
I wrote these books, not to show how everything is awesome, but to show how Cinderella goes on a journey and struggles to find happiness. This isn't your typical happy ever after story. It's not meant to be. Just like in life, we encounter some difficult situations and even when we achieve a great goal or have an amazing and wonderful event grace our lives, the reality is that life is filled with ups and downs.
When my kids encounter problems, I tell them the truth. Sometimes life is unfair. Sometimes we don't get what we want, but it's how we deal with these challenges that allow us to grow and discover who we really are. Every day on TV and in the news we're bombarded with celebrities, their wealth and façade of happiness. Most of what we see is a constructed illusion, but we play along so that we might forget our own troubles for a time.
Sound depressing? Could be if you look at it from a certain angle, but I choose to be more positive than that. Everything in life isn't awesome and that's okay. When I sit down with my kids, I share with them the reality of what we're going through. When I screw up, I apologize to them, sit them down and talk with them. But I also need to listen more and to be open to see the world through their eyes so that I can understand their feelings and the problems they are going through so that I can be a good parent to help them in their tough times.
What was so refreshing with the Lego movie is that we all can't have special powers, but we all are unique. Our kids are growing up to get participation medals just for showing up. Unfortunately, life isn't that simple when you get older. There's failure and many times when we don't get a medal.
I think it's important for me to be real with my kids as well as myself. What I've learned in life is that there's a secret to what we do and how we live. It's not really a secret, most of us have heard this, but I suspect we forget it when we grow up.
Joseph Campbell said it many years ago: "Follow your bliss."
The full quote is:
"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be."
Unfortunately, many have misinterpreted this over the years. Campbell once said that he should have said, "Follow your blisters." For me, following my bliss means getting up at 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. to run or write before work. I do this because it's what I want to do and it's how I am meant to follow my bliss. This is what's right for me. No, getting up early each day isn't awesome. But it's my way to help me follow my bliss and contribute my verse to the world. It's hard work. Plain and simple. I get what Campbell meant about blisters. When I made my goal to run my first marathon a few years ago, I did so because I wanted to try something different and to reach for a goal that I had never thought possible. I never dreamed I could run a marathon, but I did it. I had dreamed for years of writing books and publishing them. With a lot of hard work, I have obtained this goal as well. I have achieved these things because I have tried, failed and gotten up and tried again. I have followed my bliss.
I know that everything isn't awesome. Life's not supposed to be entirely awesome. Life is filled with the sublime beauty and the dark torture of the soul. I choose to embrace both the good and the bad and live from that. The next time I hear my kids tell me "that's not fair," I'll agree with them.
At times, life isn't fair and it can suck. There's no way to sugarcoat that. We can hide from it and bury it down deep, but the reality is that we're only on this Earth for a short time and what we choose to do with that time is up to us. It doesn't matter so much if life is awesome or filled with challenges. What matters most is what we do with the cards we're dealt and to make the best of it. Am I following my bliss today? No, I haven't been doing that so much lately. But I'm going to change that. What about you? What will you do?