I won! I won! I won!
Someone praised my work, mentioned my name, applauded my efforts, handed me a coupon for 40% off. And then the day ended and became the night when I couldn’t sleep, and finally the morning with nothing on my calendar. What happens next?
The feeling of nausea from too much sugar in my system. I know what causes it – the encroachment of the blahs seeping through my veins, taking the place of my life blood and replacing it with a saccharin gel I can’t live on. Run to the bathroom or crawl under the covers?
The blahs chasm after public validation. It opens before me, spiraling right to the center of the Earth, never rising back to the top. How do I avoid depression after the elation of the big win?
Wallowing in inertia hits the target pretty often. I can’t feel the power of victory all the time (hardly at all in fact) and the opposite of victory is defeat, which makes me feel like crap. Thrusts me right into the take-it-to-the-dump box. And there I am, literally down in the dumps, unable to climb out.
Victory is not a guarantee. Others are competing, others with more talent, more success, more intuitive mastery. I may try to replicate my victorious entry – a new painting, book publication, ballet recital, soccer goal (OK, I’ve never managed a soccer goal) – but the trophy already has someone else’s name etched on it. Even without reading the brass plate, I’m sure of that, or I wouldn’t feel so crappy.
When I was a kid we had the most wonderful dog in the world, a mixed breed mutt with long red fur, silky black feathers dangling from his droopy ears, and a puppy face even when full grown. Also, a loyal heart that gave love and gave love and gave love. So when I was a kid, I announced, “I’ve got the blahs,” and Patchy slathered me with kisses till I fell over laughing. And felt better.
Patchy is long gone, I am absolutely certain to the heaven he deserved, and now I have to find another anodyne to the pain of the blahs.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Success is not always public. Sometimes the most radiant success remains private, a tiny raw gem I store in the back of the closet. It’s there, I know. I choose not to share.
Public validation has a lot of calories and little substance. I’d love to autograph my book for you, when it finally gets published, hoping you don’t give it to the library book store next month.
Applause is thunderous, then it fades. I remember its sound but am not sure the audience remembers the reason they clapped.
It’s time for me to recoup. To meditate. To think about what I’m going to do next with my life. To consider what will inspire me to create.
The best strategy to parry great success is an expanse of internal quiet. Going away for a while, leaving the public fray to find solace in my internal spirit. Embracing solitude, gathering only my family and closest friends near in case I need them. Listening to the kernel of truth at the center of my soul. Praying. This pulls me out of the doldrums.
And now I’ve discovered something truly amazing.
The same strategy works just as well when I’m not savoring success but trying to recover from devastation. Which is where I am right now.
No, you may not ask what or why or how.
Please take this away for yourself: being quietly reflective is the antidote to the cacophony that beguiles you with false acclaim. Hush now, sh.
The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau