As I sit down to write this blog I am feeling very aware of how externally focused we are in our culture today – at least the culture I find myself in here in Northern Canada. The news is all about external events, warning signs of danger. Work is all about deadlines and budgets and meetings where we report on progress. Don’t get me started about social media and that like button on Facebook. These are all external, measurable, fear inducing (and not always in a bad way – fear gives us the heads up so we can take some action to improve the outcome) moments that we respond to in our day. Our capacity to deal with the external world is finely tuned. It is all very heroic.
(image from Johnston architecture.wordpress.com)
What I long for is an equal proficiency at navigating my interior life. And while I’m making wishes, I want to live in a culture that does this too, so I am not swimming against the tide all the time. I imagine this culture would support spending time at a spa (a personal dream) and expect people to have free, playful time after work, and care about individual values and make room to live by them. I don’t want to replace the external focus with an internal focus – I want them both.
This begs the question – What do I truly value? When I can answer that confidently, do I trust it and shape my life in alignment with that value? That would create a world driven by love. And I think it is the essential core of romance writing.
The first thing that comes to mind is that I value my family life (no question) and today, I’m looking around at a level of chaos in my home that shows I am neglecting the little touches that make a house a home because I have a lot of work deadlines. Short term, that’s fine, but long term it is a lack of attention to my interior world.
This is where I think novels and particularly romance novels are brilliant. Just the act of reading causes you to turn your attention inward, fire up your imagination and start walking around your interior world. When it is a romance, I get out of my logical thinking brain and occupy my heart, guts and tips of your fingers. It is a love-based world and the more time I spend feeding my senses with delicious words, the more comfortable I become living with a compass that originates inside me.
It’s not just something I have noticed. Research by Stuart Brown on Play has shown that when people are playful and doing what they enjoy, the effect lasts throughout their day. We learn to stay centred on what is important to us personally, as we navigate the stress of the day. We can be more confident sharing our authentic views because we value them ourself. We can be more open to other people’s views because we are not confusing external acceptance of our opinion with a measure of how valued or loved we are. Romance writing can be very grounding in this way. I also think this is the ultimate turning point of the protagonist.
Learning to turn our attention from the external factors to our internal feelings is also the key to happiness. Taking care of all the external challenges will give you a sense of well being because you know you have done what it takes to be safe and comfortable. This is the heroic story. The kind of well being that feels like happiness is an internal experience that money can’t buy. It is a feminine story that I call the Virgin story. It is the ability to notice your feelings and spend some time taking care of them until you feel good. It is to really know you are of value when simply being yourself, just like a Virgin forest.
Whew, I’m having a deep morning! Catching up on my housework brings this out in me…
Have a great day.