Like most people, I don’t like change. Yes, change is inevitable. Yes, change is the only way to improve and grow. Life is like a soiled diaper, if you don't change it, it stinks. Blah, blah, blah. I know it, I accept it, and as a self-improvement writer, I even write about it.
But it doesn’t mean I like it.
Recently, when something DIDN’T change I performed a little happy dance. I work as a public relations specialist at Royal Neighbors of America, one of the largest women-led life insurers in the U.S. I am constantly creating a number of articles, press releases, web content, and blogs. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job and the people I work with. But like most workplaces, especially one that is as highly regulated as life insurance, there is a chain of command. Many eyes see my work, comment on it, change it, and send it back to me for revisions.
However, once in a while something wonderful happens – nothing. My article comes back unscathed. It's sheer ecstasy when a bit of my copy emerges unsullied from the strike-throughs on the track-changes tool on Word. Or better yet, it comes back with a happy, little bubble comment that says something like “great” or “we loved this”. It makes the whole process seem worthwhile. An unaltered document is like a victory to me. On the rare occasion my work is accepted as is (rare), or praised (less rare), I raise my fist in exalted victory, mutter a happy “yes!”, spin in my chair, take a second to regain my balance, and get back to work.
I don’t think this is an unusual reaction for a writer – especially a public relations specialist, journalist, or screenwriter. For instance, a popular expression in the screenwriting world is you don’t get paid for what you do, but rather what they do to you. It isn’t that bad in PR. We are trained to see the bright side of things. Many of us are like cocker spaniels. We live for a smile, a pat on the head, and occasional byline. Of course the biggest motivator comes from knowing something you write or do created value in the world. I must confess, for me, that is the greatest joy of all. In those moments of helping others I would gladly work for free. But a gal has to eat and live, so even on a good day I’m still cashing my paycheck.
While I would never discourage anyone from these celebratory moments of bliss, as a Buddhist I know personal glory is a double-edged sword. That type of joy (rapture) is not true happiness. It is a transitory emotion. It’s like a hit of cocaine. It’s a momentary high. And what comes up must come down. The problem is when we base our happiness on external factors such as praise, wealth, fame, status etc. it is an unsustainable happiness. Even the greatest transitory joys in life are temporary. Even if we are extremely fortunate and enjoy wonderful circumstances for many years, all things come to an end. After all, we can’t take our possessions, our wealth, our achievements, our families, or our status with us when we die.
However, from a Buddhist perspective, there is one thing continues sticks with us – our karma. The good and bad causes we make do not fade away. It may take eons for past thoughts, speech and actions to manifest into an appropriate and correlating effect, but it does. Of course it would be nice if we could see immediate results from our good efforts. But then it would mean we would have to see instantaneous results from the bad causes too and who wants that?
There is a reason for the delay. As time elapses we have the opportunity to (hopefully) grow and gain better insight into our past behavior and learn from it.
But we are human. We will make mistakes. And I am not advocating we live a life without pleasure. I, for one, will continue to enjoy joyous interactions with my family and friends, laugh at jokes, smile when I know I have helped another, and yes, do a little jig when one of my unedited articles gets picked up by the media.
But I have changed.
As I have practiced Buddhism over the years, my perspective about being a writer has evolved. I can revel in a little personal glory now and again, and I can grumble a bit when things don’t turn out the way I would like. The bottom line is deep down I know these little incidents aren’t as important as I would like to think they are.
If I want to be happy, I need to concentrate less on glory and more on prayer. In my case that prayer is chanting the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. When I chant it sparks an internal human revolution in me. As a result of my prayer I can see that many of the “edits” I face help me grow. It can also serve as an opportunity to change for the better – and sometimes that applies to my copy as well.