photo via anthropologie
Like the confused nymph in the photo above, I’m torn between two worlds. We’re all stuck there, really; it’s just a matter of whether we’re aware of it, and to which world we give our attention.
Just today, I was reading an article from The Muse about how to create a magical career. Aren’t we all looking for that spark that catapults us out of bed in the morning? Aren’t we all desperate for that energy that stops counting the hours of work left in a week? I was treading along–it’s a long but very engaging article–when a quotation stopped me short: “This doesn’t feel good to me anymore, so I’m not going to do it.”
The woman being interviewed, Gala Darling, had been super-inspired by an interview she herself had done of another successful woman who’d decided at the 11th hour that launching the magazine she’d created actually didn’t sound like fun at all, so she decided to ditch the project.
I’m not against ditching projects, or cutting losses, or even quitting when things seem to be just picking up (I’ve done it myself!); it was the reasoning that left me cold. “If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.” Sounds good to me. Except that a part of me knows it’s not good for me. To stop something because it’s just started to hurt, or to stretch, or to challenge, or to exhaust, is about the worst reason ever. Olympic athletes can’t afford that kind of attitude (hell, high school cross country runners can’t afford it either–and I would know), nor can shift workers on the car assembly line, or (milk- and sleep-) drained mothers of young children.
“This doesn’t feel good to me anymore, so I’m not going to do it.”
That’s the lie. That’s the other world that I’m so tempted to watch and give my attention. Just because I’m not launching out of bed every morning (or even any morning) right now doesn’t mean that I should stop doing my work. The question at the root of these two world is this: what is my purpose?
If my purpose is to feel good, then yes, by all means, I ought to find some bit of work that is tantalizingly delicious and makes me overflow with unctuous gladness every moment, and when it stops–when it stops–find something else entirely. This sounds exhausting. It also sounds like a lot of what the culture tells me is true about marriage and friendships and family and food and clothes and, well, everything.
So, what’s that other world? What’s another story about where my purpose lies?
Well, this one doesn’t go down quite as easy. The other story, the other world, isn’t about me–it’s not about what feels good to me. It’s about God. It’s a story about a big old being who knows and loves me better than anyone ever could, who made me and made work for me to do before I was even conceived. So in that world, in that reality, my work and my life and my world may not always “feel” good, but I can know unequivocally that the work I’m doing is good.
So it turns out that though I’d love to hide in the armoire, the little, self-satisfying, “what feels good?” world, real life is waiting for me outside my little fairyland. This real life doesn’t always “feel” good, but when that does happen–when it doesn’t feel good–I can rest assured that something good is happening in me.
I understand–and agree with–the main point of the post: relying solely on what “feels good” in the moment is a terrible way to make decisions about most, if not all, things in life. But what about the flip side? What about job/career situations where you really DO need to cut and run, because they’ve become unhealthy/unfulfilling? Those situations typically don’t feel good either. So how do you discern between the two?
You’ve hit the nail on the head! It’s hard to know what’s just “difficult,” what’s necessary challenge to force you to grow, and what is truly unhealthy, dark, and evil. I’ve found that my close relationships are most helpful there–they can tell me, “Emily, you’re becoming shriveled; this work is bad for you. It’s making you *less able* to reflect God’s love.” For me, that’s the difference–is the work/situation/relationship making you look more like Jesus or less like Jesus?