Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Power of Dissatisfaction

image I used to my students that some people are strivers, and some people are complacents. (Or, as one of my English lit classes called them, "common cattle.")

Take my mother and stepfather. Their entire life, they put in their work, came home, ate dinner, and watched TV. In the summer they do the yard and some light gardening. Every year, they go to North Carolina on vacation.

image My father, on the other hand, had a big-time travel bug. He sailed from the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and up the Pacific. He took us on a tour of the United States. He built elaborate miniature train sets, handmade wooden boats, screened-in porches, huge gardens...

I was thinking, today, how nice it would be to go to bed at peace, without dissatisfaction with what I've completed (or not completed) hanging over my head.

But what would the price be?

Would I write as much, if I were satisfied? Would I strive as much, if I were satisfied? Would I workout, if I were satisfied? Would I have learned anything as well as I have, if I were satisfied?

image I don't think so. Would the Mona Lisa been more than a sketch, if Da Vinci had been satisfied? It's the human condition to be dissatisfied, because without it, we cannot grow.

But I do want to hang up my striving hat every night, and enjoy one or two hours of satisfaction. Why not? I can torture myself the rest of the day, but for two hours a day, I want peace.

That's my New Year's Resolution.

And guess what? I'm working on a present for you guys, but it's not quite finished yet. Hopefully tomorrow night!

How do you balance your striving and your dissatisfaction with your need for moments of peace, relaxation, and just plain winding down? Do you manage this every night? Once in awhile?

40 bonus scribbles:

writtenwyrdd 12/30/2008 08:26:00 PM  

I swing from complacent to dissatisfied. It's the goal of my middle age and elder years to write full time, but I have too many other things to do that occupy my time as well. Besides, there is the regulation vegging and tv watching that kills too much time.

I think being dissatisfied is perhaps the lesser motivated person's drive. Or it's helpful becuase we are so overstimulated by all the things we can distract ourselves with. do I sound confused?

Sarah Laurenson 12/30/2008 09:03:00 PM  

I plan ahead - like this 2 weeks I have off from work - and plan on getting a lot of writing down now. Only my mom was out for a visit and it was hard to write with company, so I thought I had this week to write. Couldn't write this past weekend because it was precious time with my wife. Her work schedule is insane this time of year (while my company is in shut down).

And now here's my week to write only I'm dealing with the heating repair people and the house cleaner is here now. And it's hard to type with cold fingers. Glad we live in southern cali as it has been relatively warm the last couple of days. And my wife will be home starting Thrusday and I have other appts on Friday.

OK, so I need to learn to write without getting the peace and quiet and the classical music softly playing in the background.

And somehow I need to learn it right now. *sigh* Wish me luck.

BTW - I call them sheeple. Especially the ones who line up in one on ramp lane when there are two available simply because that's where everyone else is lining up. They do the same thing day in, day out - baaaaack and foooorth to work and home. And they don't make waves.

Merry Monteleone 12/31/2008 01:44:00 AM  

I think striving is an important part of being alive. If you're not striving for something, what do you have to look forward to? I guess maybe vacation time or a new season or something... I don't know, I'd love to know what it feels like to have complete satisfaction, but at the same time it sounds a lot like complacency... and what's the fun in that?

You are not the first person I've seen mention peace as a priority on their new year's resolution list... I hope you get it, in small increments or large doses... and a lot of joy... and some acheivement is always good because it begets peace and satisfation :-)

Happy New Year!

Erica Orloff 12/31/2008 08:26:00 AM  

Wow . . .

Let me just say, this post was awesome. I have to think about this. From a Buddhist perspective, I try to be at peace. But as a creative person, I am never satisfied and thus live in some state of dichotomy.


Mark Terry 12/31/2008 08:56:00 AM  

I'm not sure I balance, but I try to keep the important things (family and health) on top.

My wife and I were discussing this in a less philosophical way--talking about one of her sisters and her husband. I made a comment that neither one of them was ambitious and L hesitated and said, "If you mean they don't seem to want to better themselves or improve their situation in life, yeah, I know what you mean. But I think they both work hard."

I think so, too. But, for whatever reasons, they're content to continue doing what they're doing, drifting through life, working mediocre to crappy jobs, living paycheck to paycheck, going to the bar, watching TV and playing poker with friends. But neither of them seems to take that next step to try and finds careers and go back to school or take risks that might make their lives better. Maybe they're happy as they are.

Amy Nathan 12/31/2008 10:18:00 AM  

I honestly believe that most of the time I'm doing the best that I can. And when I don't, it's temporary. I fall into bed each night and when my head hits the pillow I fall asleep. I fill myself each day with work and life and thoughts and worries and with joy, and at night I let it all drain so I can be open in the morning to start again. Each day brings new chances.

I've not known you long, but you should go to sleep each night knowing how much joy you bring to others, through your music, your teaching and for us here - with your words.

Happy New Year, SS.

colbymarshall 12/31/2008 11:40:00 AM  

Oooh! A present! *rubs hands together*

The past few nights I haven't wound down...I'm nearing end of my WIP, and I just keep going. It's crazy!

Edie 12/31/2008 11:57:00 AM  

My goal for the last couple years is to get better as a writer, so I'm always striving. And I'm not good at balancing. That's part of my plan for 2009.

We'll balance together, Spy!

Realmcovet 12/31/2008 11:59:00 AM  

Great questions to ask one's self.

That fact of the matter is that I just DON'T balance. It all comes out as chaos and I'm hardly ever ready for either.

I'm with you Spy...Peace man, PEACE!!

And your father sounds like he's lived such a beautiful life full of adventure. Kinda sounds like the "split-life" of your adventurous father vs. the reliable way of living your mother and step father did emulates your own in a way. Like maybe you've come to a crossroads of sorts. Maybe you should just embrace the 50/50. (If that's even what it is to you)

It's good to have a middle grounds, but I'm still with you on the "peace". Happy New Year!!

Kath Calarco 12/31/2008 12:30:00 PM  

I've found peace in knowing when to let it go. For instance, striving for publication used to be a miserable task, and then I chose to not make it the center of my universe. I'm more productive now and the universe thanks me.

Anonymous,  12/31/2008 01:08:00 PM  

Like Kathy, I've learned to let things go, too. All I can do is my best. If that's not good enough for some people but good enough for me, guess whose opinion is going to outweigh the others? ;-) That's how I keep my sanity and don't sweat the small stuff. So far, it's worked rather nicely for me. Also, that's how I maintain a good balance.

Charles Gramlich 12/31/2008 01:34:00 PM  

I tend to agree. Being satisfied is often the death knell of creativity. I've seen it happen with friends of mine, and sometimes I find myself perilously close to being satisfied myself.

Rick 12/31/2008 01:42:00 PM  

Happy New Year, Spy! Being satisfied or burning with desire, in my opinion, rests on two fundamental criteria: the price of coffee and the availability of a good pair of shoes.

Marilyn Brant 12/31/2008 02:47:00 PM  

I really enjoyed your post, Spy, and I think you're right--it's difficult to find that balance, to accept that a certain amount of dissatisfaction is a necessity for growth, even when all we want is some down time... I'm always seeming to swing from one extreme to the other.
Happy New Year :).

Virginia Lady 12/31/2008 05:45:00 PM  

I have to agree, I'd love to be able to ditch the dissatisfaction for a few hours, or maybe a weekend. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work that way. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I guess that's part of it, isn't it? There's always something we want to improve.

Barbara Martin 12/31/2008 09:00:00 PM  

I don't concern myself with such things. My writing will improve with time, and someone eventually will like what I write and how I create my characters.

All the best in the New Year for you, Spy, and your husband and extended family, for good health and unlimited creative methods to garner ideas for your new stories.

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:00:00 PM  

Written, I envy that swing. A taste of each sounds like a well-balanced life. :-)

And you don't sound confused. You aren't a Libra, by chance?

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:02:00 PM  

Ooh, Sarah, opposite schedules pretty much suck. I need to quiet the distractions in my life, too. When Glenn is gone for months, he (obviously) doesn't take care of the little things.

Those little things take up so much time!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:03:00 PM  

LOL, Merry. Yeah. I want peace AND more striving. It's a little crazy, you know? I guess I need both. :-)

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:04:00 PM  

Erica, I wonder if those two diametrically opposed things are actually what keep you balanced. (Or as balanced as possible.) You know?

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:11:00 PM  

Mark, my stepfather went so far as to turn down promotions (he didn't want to be the boss of his friends). My mother hated her job every day of her life, but she loves retirement.

I think they are happy, mostly. Especially the stepfather. I think he would change very few things. Hanging out with people and friends is his favorite thing in the world. High school was a blast, for him.

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:12:00 PM  

Happy New Year, Laughing Wolf!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:13:00 PM  

"and at night I let it all drain so I can be open in the morning to start again."

Wow, Amy. I want to do that, too. I'm going to add that to my New Year's Resolutions.

Happy New Year, Amy!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:14:00 PM  

Oh, Colby, that's wonderful! GOod luck at the finish line!

Happy New Year!

PS: My present is late, and it's DEFINITELY not as cool as your presents, especially the video ones!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:18:00 PM  

Sounds good, Edie! Together, huh? How about I relax, and you strive? LOLOL... I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant.

Yeah, I'm with you on that one!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:20:00 PM  

Realm, I really love the idea of embracing the 50/50. I LOVE it!

I loved your post today. I actually read it my Reader, then on your site, but my browser crashed before I commented. If I don't remember to pop by again later, I just want say I loved it. "Let Olive be Olive." That's awesome!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:20:00 PM  

That's awesome, Marcia. I'm definitely going to try and emulate that this year!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:22:00 PM  

Charles, it sounds a little bit funny when you put it like that: "I've been perilously close to being satisfied." But you're absolutely right! Me too!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:22:00 PM  

Rick! LOL!

And gosh, the price of coffees keeps going up! I spent over five dollars, yesterday!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:23:00 PM  

Marilyn, swinging from one extreme to another is a sort of balance, too. You know?

Happy New Year!

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:23:00 PM  

Virginia, you're right, you're definitely right!

I'd love for a few hours.

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:24:00 PM  

Happy New Year, Heather!


spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:25:00 PM  

Barbara, I LOVE your patience and your trust. You're so right. Why should I worry about things that will happen? I don't know. I need to learn to let go this year.

spyscribbler 12/31/2008 09:26:00 PM  

Okay. There's an odd number of comments, which means I left someone out, but I can't find who!

Happy New Year, all of yoU!

Kath Calarco 1/01/2009 10:03:00 AM  

P.S. Happy New Year to you, Spy.

Melanie Avila 1/02/2009 10:42:00 AM  

I hope you can learn to be more satisfied with life. If you have a good workout, enjoy the feeling afterwards. Same with writing. Since you have such huge goals for yourself I worry that you'll never allow yourself to be happy with what you HAVE accomplished. If you can learn to enjoy the small moments, you'll want to repeat them and that will make them happen more often. :)

spyscribbler 1/02/2009 05:01:00 PM  

Kath! Are you the one? You are! I'm sorry!

And I loved your comment. :-)

I can see that. Striving for publication is so much out of our control. That's why I have so many "numbers" goals this year. I can do all that. If NY doesn't like any of it... well, I still made my goals. If they do, then it's like a bonus!

spyscribbler 1/02/2009 05:03:00 PM  

Melanie, that's the truth! I worry about that for myself all the time. I'm open to amending them. :-)

The first day was great, though! After my morning 3K words, I definitely had a post-workout rush, along with the reward of a WHOLE day with plenty of time! It was a wonderful feeling!