The floor encourages you to leave it a few inches below.
“I’ll be fine untouched,” it says. "Go! Float!”
Anything is possible. Songs come into being unbidden. Hunger makes you feel good, as if those cranky pangs were just life's way of helping you savor your own wonderful, scintillating senses. You must have been doing something substantial to grow so hungry, right? Right on!
Filled with lightness your heart is so full: it's not crazy at all to think the novel that you've been longing to write could just come out, right now— I'll just drop into my seat for a moment or two, sketch it out—easy!—and fill in the blanks this afternoon!
But elation—lightness and joy, in all their ebullience—can also surprise and beguile our creative trains. Fueled and heated, full of promise and ready to leave the station, we’re convinced we’re headed to sensually, spectacularly saturated points unknown. The doors are ready to close any minute now. We’re feeling so good, so light, that expectant promise simply perpetuates our endless potential. Suffused with such ebullience, it’s sometimes impossible to stop and focus, to bring all that energy to a singular, productive point. In dreamy, elated lightness, the day can evaporate.
I recall packing up for a return trip home after a long, challenging overseas production. Shooting a complex gig above the Arctic Circle, based at a dilapidated international scientific research outpost, had tested my limits on all counts. I had been responsible for logistics, production, creative development, and even hosting my own stories on camera. The days never seemed to end, only to be followed by a new dawn promising more and more and more. Exhaustion, mental fatigue, and loneliness described my final week on the gig, and I could scarcely consider the profound effort it would simply take to get home. But then, when the job finally wrapped with a successful production and a happy client, helium elation lifted me off the floor as if gravity’s complete authority had been repealed. It raced in like an unexpected burst of music and light. I could scarcely sit still despite the exhaustion. Everything amused me. The heavy boxes and bags I needed to pack and pre-stage for shipment became little more than minor tasks to handle while I amused myself with zany, incongruent playlists from my tiny cell phone speaker. The rough wooden chairs in the room I shared with a crew-mate became auburn, hand wrought furniture of exquisite craftsmanship. My heavy-duty, hard-to-move Pelican case looked sturdy and rugged, proving that I had completed an adventure worthy of Shackleton, of Livingston, of Carter. I still had a day and a half to wait until my flight home, but I could hardly contain my internal fountain. Sunlight filtering through grimy curtains in common areas made everything around me glow.
I recall the narcotic pleasure of it all, determined to feel this way from now on, and for always.
I recall falling like a tree trunk into bed that night, completely exhausted, but relaxed in a way that I had not been for weeks before. The weight of the production tour had fallen away, replaced with a profound sense of accomplishment, of competence, of swaggering cool. I felt like the hero of a John Hughes movie (if you’re old enough to remember those), full of power and desirability and indomitability and wiseacre intelligence. I knew that over the next two days I would fall through a long, tedious journey back to home, but it didn’t matter. For the present everything shined, complete with what felt like never-before accomplished feats of media derring-do on location that other professionals could only dream about.
Elation plays with your head.
I slept deeply, the first time in weeks.
What elation does not do is change anything, except your own perceptions. It does not make recently accomplished travails easier; it does not make for a better marriage waiting for you back home than when you left. Elation cannot turn a lazy scribbler into an erudite writer, and it cannot transform your pudgy middle into chiseled marble. But elation can make you forget reality. It can make you forget, and often that happens because there’s something you did or something you experienced or something in your immediate future that temporarily re-calibrates your own private assessment of life.
What elation is…is a beacon. It’s the shore of a shipping channel where the tavern stays open late eternally, and the sensually bohemian crowd sings lusty songs all night long. It’s the exquisite shock of wriggling out of your clothes with your first lover. It’s the confidence that you’re not only going to live forever, but that your life matters in the world, that what you do has bearing and provenance and will influence others in a way that lasts.
It’s a dangerous, wonderful feeling, and for a creative person, it can simultaneously fuel flights of invention as well as derail all of your best ideas. Elated, there’s little reason to venture further down the road into the hard work of creation. You don’t want to let this awesomeness get away! Elation fuels ideas and insights, but it also bamboozles and distracts. It can let you know that something is going well, but it can also immobilize you from every doing something else. If you’re serious about living a creative life, elation is the party to which you hope your muse will invite you, but like all great parties, they’re no fun if they never end. By all means hang on to the exquisite feeling, but be careful not to get hooked like an addict. Pursuit of endless elation begins to defeat itself. You experience it by doing something real, but by chasing the feeling itself, you’re not doing the things that can bring it about. That said, when it happens you should savor every single atomic moment. Elation is the lift that promises our great potential, individually as well as collectively. In the great joy of feeling, you have access to experiences outside the bounds of ordinary days. Don’t miss a moment.
P.S. Next week in Part Two of this series, we look at the opposite of elation. Trust us: it’ll be worth your time. So, don’t despair: share!