How many times have you said “I’ll be happy when…” It could be when you lose 20 pounds, when you buy a house, once you get that promotion, once it stops raining, when I can move, once I can buy a sports car, etc. The thing is there’s ALWAYS going to be a “when” and it’s always going to be in the future, and more times than not, there’s always going to be a barrier to getting it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something new or better but we often forget to rejoice in the now.
View from our new townhouse in Maryland
We just moved to a new part of the country – we put down a deposit on a townhouse site unseen. It was nerve-wracking, intimidating, and anxiety-ridden. Luckily, thanks to Google Earth and lots of research, we didn’t do too bad. We have a nice place in a pretty nice neighborhood close to shopping, great views, and everything we need to get by. I can’t help feeling though, constantly even, that maybe we made the wrong choice.
What if there’s a better place that’s closer to base where my husband works?
I wish we were closer to that awesome mall!
It takes us 20 minutes to drive to all these places we like, why didn’t we think of this?!
Dublyn – helping us unpack
When something big in your life changes, it’s normal to question just about everything you’re doing. We all have moments of anxiety and insecurity. This morning I started thinking about all of these racing thoughts in my head and asked myself “what do you already love about the place you rented?” Ok. I love that it’s something we can easily afford. I love that it’s cozy with tons of space we’ve never had. Then I started thinking deeper about it. 20 minutes to get to that mall or that movie theater is not THAT big of a deal. It’s certainly not a big enough deal to pack up and move again in a year.
My point in sharing this with you is that we live in a society where many of us constantly feel like we instantly need the next big thing. That life isn’t good enough until we have more by putting in less effort – it’s a sense of entitlement that’s brewing a plague of unhappiness.
So how do we stop this cycle and become happy in the now with what we already have?
1. Give yourself time to adapt and be patient. Whenever change happens – moving, a new job, a new group of friends – we might expect ourselves to just snap into it especially when we can anticipate change and know something is coming. The thing is, that’s not how the mind works. There isn’t a switch in your brain to just “get with it.” For any new/big situation give yourself some time and space to think. I remember it took me two full months my first quarter at college to get used to being away from home and family and to embrace all the new changes. Those first two months I felt lost and depressed – but after that? I felt awesome, accomplished, and like a new person!
2. Make a list every day of what you love and what you hate about the change. Sure – we keep hearing “just focus on the positive!” but come on, we have to listen to what bugs us, too if we want to find a solution. The other night I asked my husband “what do you hate about living here?” It took him off guard but then he thought about it and listed a few things. He doesn’t like the aggressive drivers, the barrage of freeways everywhere, that there’s way less craft beer. But after he told me this I could see there was a sense of relief, because acknowledging our feelings helps us move forward. I asked myself the same question the other day and realized that I feel out of sorts because I’m in a totally new environment, I don’t know anyone yet, and I want to get back in better shape. Once I realized what was really bothering me, it didn’t seem so bad. Hey! I thought. I can actually start to change these things! It’s also important to be thankful for the things we already have. That’s why today I’m working on creating a Thankfulness Jar. I’m going to cut out strips of colored paper and every day or anytime I think of it, write down something I’m happy about or thankful for with our new surroundings. Then when I’m having one of those awful mind storms, I can reach in the jar and remember something happy 🙂
Savage Mill – Savage, MD
3. Realize that “normal” happens faster than you think. I always panic at a new job or a new apartment because I don’t have my barrings yet. Everything feels out of place and nothing is “regular” yet. We’ve been just a little over 2 weeks and already I feel more at home simply because I know how to get to the grocery store without GPS, I know the name of all of the leasing staff, and I’ve figured out what time of day to close the blinds to keep the heat out. All of these little things may seem obvious, but if you think back to times in your life that you felt completely comfortable, it was because you just KNEW stuff.
4. Consider how you would really feel if you had everything you want. While wanting to live closer to all these amenities, I thought about how I would really feel if we decided to move closer to stuff. We’d have to pack up all over again, move all over again, unpack, and then yes, we’d be in this amazing new place but how long would that feeling of euphoria really last? I remember the first time I was looking for my very own 1 bedroom apartment. I was telling my Mom all of my “must haves” including marble counter-tops, pool access, you name it. For a 23 year old at the time with a small salary, it was not only ridiculous but lavish. My Mom laughed but then said something that has always been great advice for life. She said “after a few weeks, you’ll forget the marble counter-tops are there, you will say ‘I can go to the pool tomorrow’ because you know it’s there, but if you find a place that you can truly afford without all the bells and whistles, after a few weeks you’ll also forget that you don’t have marble counter-tops.” She was absolutely right though. The next time you really want something or a big change from what you just got, think about how you would really feel if you were able to instantly have everything.
5. Think about what you want to carry with you on your journey and what you want to leave behind. I’ve always liked the metaphor of having a backpack for your life. We all get one and we all encounter times when we have to stuff it full of stuff to take with us. The problem is that each backpack can only carry so much. Sometimes we have to let friends go because they are weighing us down or preventing us from trekking forward. I’ve spent years of my life carrying heavy rock-like feelings because I thought I had responsibility to hold on to them for….someone else. Once we realize that it’s okay and healthy to take things out and leave them on the trail as we go, we are able to make room for new treasures, thoughts, experiences, friends, and moments. That backpack is YOURS and realizing you can pick up and let go of what you want, when you want, allows you to embrace the journey. Keep it light for those days up the mountains, but fill it up with luxuries when you know you’re close to an oasis.