When I was really young, my mum used to count down to major events (birthdays etc.) by telling me how many ‘sleeps’ there were between the moment we were in and whatever I was looking forward to. When I was four, three sleeps felt like an eternity. Now, eighteen sleeps feels like no time at all. That’s how many nights I have left in my home before I start university. It felt like a long way away until I looked at it from this perspective. As I laid in my bed last night, watching my dog sleep beside me and cuddling up against the warmth of his fur, eighteen nights did not feel like long enough at all. And as I squeezed him tighter, and whispered into his ear that I was going away in just eighteen sleeps, I realised that some people won’t even be here by the time that has passed. Some people don’t get that long. Rather than enjoying what I had right at that moment, I was using my energy worrying about when it was going to end. A moment that in under three weeks I will be longing for, I wasted, allowing my mind to drift off to university prematurely. I started to miss my dog before I’d even left him.
We spend so much time trying to prepare ourselves for the future, that we forget to enjoy the present. It is only after the present becomes the past that we realise its value. We regret not enjoying moments that we will never be able to relive, and then we get so lost in these feelings of regret, that we forget to enjoy the present moment once again. We spend so much time chasing happiness, worrying about things that we are powerless to change. And in doing so, we bypass the happiness right in front of our faces, we neglect the things that we can control… And then life overwhelms us. It loses the joy that it once held. We feel hopeless, and out of control. We long for things that we have probably had all along. We spend our whole lives wishing.
Everybody else probably feels the same, but when we look at them, in the present moment, they seem to be doing things so… right. They seem to have perfect lives, and this makes us feel even more inadequate. What we don’t realise is that we also look like this to them. They spend their lives looking forward too, and then looking back, missing the beauty of each moment. They miss the things that we see in them, just like we miss the things that they see in us. Because our thoughts are never in the same time zone.
We’re often too busy to stop and take a break. We rarely take a few minutes to pause and live in the present moment. We’re always thinking about the next place that we have to be, the things we should have done, the things we wish we’d done or still have to do. We wallow in our insecurities, we are choked by our fears. In chasing our happiness, do we scare it away?
In the same way that we overlook the good, we also focus on the bad. Focussing on bad things is only helpful if we can learn from them. Most of the time there are lessons to be learned, but in order to understand them, we must first overcome our feelings. It is difficult to deal with a problem while you are still trying to overcome the emotions that it has stirred up within you.
This morning I went to the dentist (we couldn’t rearrange the appointment). Friday was more traumatic than I could really share with anyone, and it left me completely overwhelmed. I wanted a break from medical environments, from being poked, from being out of control. Until now I have had perfect dental health. Today, after discovering that the dentist went to the university I am about to go to, and discussing where I bought my trainers, and that he couldn’t believe I was old enough to be an adult; he told me that I need some fillings. I’m not even joking, I nearly cried. I hated my teeth, and then I hated my entire body. I just thought to it, ‘give me a break’. I felt out of control because I couldn’t see what was going on while the dentist examined my teeth. I couldn’t deal with being poked and prodded. I wanted a break. For a brief moment I had just had enough. Pathetic I know, but we all have our flaws. I went through the whole emotional cycle of anger and frustration and ‘seriously?!’ and then… acceptance (there were a few tears I’m ashamed to say, but only very briefly on the way home). When I got home, the wound where they implanted Reginald was bleeding once again so I had to change the dressing, and at that point I wanted to wriggle out of my body and throw it out of the window. Again, I got a grip. It’s not easy to break free of thoughts like that. It is human instinct to make sense of them, to try and fix them, but those thoughts are sharp and if you try to handle them you will wound yourself on them.
What did I do? I went and hugged the dog, and this time I whispered into his ear ‘don’t worry, there’s a whole eighteen sleeps before I leave.’
Step 18 to getting out of a rut in life:
Happiness is not something you can force upon yourself. It isn’t something you can make or chase or find, despite what people may lead you to believe, so don’t feel like a failure if you can’t make it happen. Happiness is something that finds you. And it finds you in the form of friendship, or love, or experiences, or gestures. They tell you that happiness starts from within, when in truth, that is where it makes a home for itself. Sometimes your happiness might move out and go on holiday, leaving hopelessness and futility to house-sit. Sometimes your happiness might travel the world and you might feel like it is gone forever. Run after it, and you will miss it. Travel back in time, and you won’t be there when it comes back. Have faith in it, and it will return. You do not control your happiness, do not blame yourself if some days you can’t find it (it is simply playing hide and seek). Don’t focus on where it has gone, don’t focus on where it has been, just focus on right now.
Those people you see smiling… some of them are crying on the inside. You are not the only one
“In today’s rush we all think too much – seek too much – want too much – and forget about the joy of just being.” – Euhart Tolle.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – William Shakespeare