Fighting Windmills. — Or Why You Should Let the Rock Roll Down the Damn Hill.

{Don Quixote by Fabricio Morales via cargocollective.com}

{Don Quixote by Fabricio Morales via cargocollective.com}

“Things we’ve wanted
When we get them are never enough
Never what they seem but they lead us to the road”
~ Sam Phillips
Let’s face it, we are a needy lot. I want, I want, I want. I need, I need, I need!

And the irony is that getting what we want or think we need almost never makes us happy. Most importantly, it doesn’t lead to joy.

As much as we’d like it to be otherwise, joy has nothing to do with achieving our goals. Joy has nothing to do with pleasure (or money or status or #winning).

Think about it. When was the last time you experienced actual joy because you completed a big project, crossed the finish line, or had a mind-blowing orgasm? Wait, nevermind, forget that last one. I’m pretty sure that counts as actual joy.

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” ~ W. B. Yeats

The simple truth that we forget over and over is that joy comes from letting go. From giving away. From showing kindness, generosity, forgiveness.

Some of my most vivid experiences of joy happen when I am doing something for someone else. Or when I let go of a worry or a grudge or a perceived injury that I had been carrying for god knows how long.

Joy also happens anytime we can let go of control. Vacations work best when you can absolutely leave your cares behind. When you disconnect from the persistent reality of the virtual world and go somewhere out of cell phone reach.

We know all of this, but we are a society of amnesiacs. And so we keep creating monsters to chase, dragons to slay, bad guys to capture, windmills to tilt.

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

If there is an enemy, it is fear of losing control.

All fear is really based in the fear of loss. But we are not so much afraid of losing something or someone as we are afraid that the loss won’t be on our terms. Control issues are all based on the anxiety that things won’t go the way we want. 

The thing is, the more we let go of, the better off we are.

We waste so much energy on all these things we see that need to be fixed, the to do list that never ends, the injustices that must be righted, the countless arms that beg to be wrestled, the arguments that have to be won…

But these are all just our own brand of windmills, hulking giants we trick ourselves into believing we must joust, despite the voices of others who tell us they are simply tricks of the brain.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu

These endless lists of things we are forever updating, these imaginary enemies we drag around with us, these pieces of identity we hold on to for so long we forget they are there. These are the things that keep us from ourselves.

We walk around the store filling our carts, our hands, our pockets with all the things we don’t want. Meanwhile we starve to death.

Joy is letting go. Joy is keeping the cart empty enough for the things we really want.

 

*****

 

{What do you really want?}

 

 

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Thomas Lloyd Qualls
Thomas Lloyd Qualls is writer, novelist, essayist, videographer, the recipient of three Best Novelist awards, the co-creator of the Power of Words Video Project, and a regular contributor to Rebelle Society and to Reno Tahoe Tonight Magazine. Waking Up At Rembrandt’s, his debut novel, has received local and national critical acclaim. On occasion, he is also a painter, bike rider, foot massager, and sometimes salvager of troubled lives. The second edition of Waking Up at Rembrandt’s is now available in print (think of vinyl, only for books) and on multiple e-version platforms. (If you want to stop what you're doing and buy it right now, go ahead. We'll wait for you.) And hot off the electronic press: a new book of poetry, love jaywalks, is available all over the damn place in ebook format. Still to come: new paintings and a second novel, Painted Oxen, due out sometime in 2014 (fingers crossed). In the meantime, feel free to stop by his website whenever you like and subscribe to his online journal, alchemy of words, while you’re there. tlqonline.com

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