“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist; that is all.” Oscar Wilde
Are you a future thinker? Do you constantly dream about your life in that pink puffy place in the distance where all dreams come true? Is happiness so elusive that you constantly tell yourself you will find it just around the next bend? Until then, you just exist – like a dog chasing his tail… round and round.
I’ve been guilty of this so many times. When I was in high school, I thought happiness would happen when I was on my own. When I was in college, I thought happiness would happen when I had a successful career. When I was single, I thought happiness would happen when I found my true love. There was always some bigger goal that I was pushing for that held my eternal “happily ever after.” I am an optimist, but life has given me my fair share of lemons. Instead of making the golden, sugary liquid now, I save all my lemons for a huge swimming pool of lemonade later. I am a future thinker. I have big dreams… had big dreams.
You see, my five and ten-year plans didn’t work out. Life happened. Someday I hope to tell the tale. But, to sum it up for now, despite all the hard work and planning in the world, I had those dream-crushing life events that change everything.
So, in the setbacks, I lived in a constant state of expectancy. I yearned for that amazing time when I would find happiness. Surely once I got done with this, once I was able to buy that, once I was this weight – then I would be happy. If you have ever lived this way, then you know… it’s exhausting.
Maybe I live on a faster time clock because, in the back of my mind, I’ve always felt I had less time. You see, I lost my mom when I was a 15-year-old girl to cancer. That childhood trauma stays with you. She was only alive for 43 years. I have her genetics. Will I make it to 50?
Now rationality kicks in and says I’m being completely unscientific. Just because she died at 43 of cancer doesn’t mean that I will. But, subconsciously it’s still there… driving me. Do I have enough time to matter, to make a difference on this planet? When I hit setbacks, I hear the clock behind me… tick… tock.
I’ve learned that this is a horrible place to exist. You don’t really live in today, you just keep trying to taste tomorrow. It’s right there, on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t quite reach it. Like a coiled spring, ready to release, you tremble trying to hold back the yearnings for more. You believe you deserve a different life – a better life. This story you’re in now can’t be right!
Yet, happiness doesn’t have to be held captive by tomorrow. Happiness is a choice – one you make every time you wake up. Instead of being constantly captivated by the shrouded future, think about today. You will never get this day back. What if it’s your last? Would you spend your last day simply existing and wishing for tomorrow? I would hope not! No one would sign up for that, but do you realize, if you’re like I was, you are doing just that every single day?
Even with this epiphany comes the challenge to not fall back into the way of thinking that has enslaved me. Old habits die hard. You see, my husband is going through his hardest term in medical school right now. He is often gone the entire day from 8 a.m. to after 11 p.m. Sometimes, he makes it home for an hour for dinner before going back to the school to study with his group. Other times, he doesn’t, and I pack both lunch and dinner for him in the morning as I say goodbye.
Now, I have two choices. The first one is to wallow in self pity, missing him and feeling alone while dreaming of the day when he is finished with all of this and I have my best friend back. I think, “Once he’s done with medical school, he will have time for me again and I will be happy.” If I choose this direction, to allow tomorrow to have my happiness, misery and depression will be my constant companions. But there is a better choice. In this scenario, I proactively build a life that brings me happiness now. I embrace every day. I find friends that share similar interests, like triathlons, and train with them. I swim among silver swirls of fish in the Caribbean Sea. I run up mountain tops and take in the most breathtaking sunsets on earth. I touch sea turtles. I run through herds of goats. I teach others to swim. I foster new relationships. I pick wildflowers. I race with pot hounds barefoot in the waves. I lay on grassy meadows and watch sail boats glide across the deepest blue waters. I explore underwater reefs, pick up starfish, dive among shipwrecks, and play with puffer fish. I explore the secrets of this amazing island that I only have a short time to experience. I allow myself big dreams to inspire, but I do not hang my happiness upon completing them. I volunteer my time to those less fortunate and love on kids that need a friend. I give my time to missions. I write things that inspire others, and gain joy from hearing their feedback and stories. When my husband again has time for me as his studies slow down, I can bring a sane and fulfilled person to the moments we share, not a clingy, bitter soul starved for love. This is my choice. This is how I would spend my last day. No regrets!
I can honestly say that I am happy. I still have my moments where I miss my husband as I fall asleep alone, but I’m usually too tired from my amazing adventures to miss him for long. I know he’s studying hard to bring his dreams to fruition. I know he’s doing his best and that he misses me just as much as I miss him. Meanwhile, I’m living my dreams today.
No matter your circumstances, I would challenge you to embrace this life with each breath you take. Find the joy right now, not in the distant future. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. Live your life! Don’t just exist! Life is not a waiting room! As the sand slips through your hourglass, cherish every golden grain. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Tell people you love them. Forgive old grudges. Find beauty in your surroundings. Foster new friendships. Give back to those less fortunate. Be brave enough to let go of what holds you back. That’s when you find out that your happiness was there all along, just waiting for you to discover it. With each beat of your heart, taste every moment of your todays! Then, you will join the few in this world who have truly learned to live.