Warning: If you’re someone who A. Reads this blog regularly, or B. Prefers feeling miserable, you can skip this one because you’ve seen most of it before, or potentially run the risk of feeling better about your life.
Please just stop.
Just for a minute.
And use every bit of brainpower and awareness and common sense you possess to ask yourself: Why am I doing this?
Doing what? Doesn’t matter. Anything. Whatever you’re doing.
It probably applies most to your job if you have one, or your decision to attend school if you’re a student.
It probably applies to your home life. To your relationships. To your decision about where you live and whether you rent or buy, and what you do when you have free time.
But it really applies to every waking moment.
Why are we doing this?
“What is it that you really want?” people like to ask. It’s a really great question. And we’re sometimes quick to fire off some answers that we probably think are true.
Or maybe something more specific.
A million dollars!
A spouse who makes me feel safe!
An end to all the fighting in the Middle East!
I think I want all kinds of things. A more-lucrative career. Writing success. Maybe a really nice house and cars. Maybe the means to go on adventurous vacations and see the world. And little things. Like a massive television or a kitchen and bathroom upgrade or my favorite team to win the championship.
Sometimes I feel bad when I don’t get what I want.
Sometimes We Need a Wake-Up Call
The ability to empathize can sometimes provide us with the dose of reality and perspective we need without actually having to suffer through a crisis or tragedy. That’s always nice.
Other times, maybe we need the bad things to happen to us.
I lost my family.
The two most-important people in my world. One gone half the time. A little boy I sometimes feel as if I’m constantly failing. The other, gone forever.
And I felt so horrible that all of the things I thought I wanted I quickly realized—for the first time—just how irrelevant those things like money and new televisions really were.
When you’re broken on the inside, there is no checking account balance large enough to mend you.
Early this year, I had a tonsil infection with symptoms that mirror Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There were a few days where I thought I might have an illness serious enough to kill me and I was scared.
I’m pretty sure having a really luxurious kitchen or a 100-inch television wouldn’t have quelled my fears.
Last May, I was whining about my life right here when I learned about a lovely child named Abby Grace Ferguson. A little girl who the doctors say has a terminal illness they’ve never seen overcome.
Abby has a mom and dad.
A mom and dad like my son’s mom and dad. My son is 6. He’s in first grade and my soul bleeds any time I let the briefest thought pass through my brain about something bad happening to him.
Abby’s parents believed her to be perfectly healthy until she was 8, when she was diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome—a rare disease that causes progressive brain damage. Without a miracle, or radical medical advancement (which they’re working on!), Abby will lose her ability to walk, talk and feed herself. She will more than likely lose her hearing and have seizures. Most children diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome do not live past their teenage years.
It’s unimaginable. What her parents must feel.
But I can assure you, me having Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma would seem like a pleasure cruise by comparison.
Everything is relative. Some people prefer to deal in absolutes. I try to stay as open and flexible as possible. Because the older I get, the less sure I am about how much I really know.
But I do know one thing.
I Know What You Want
I’m not saying you don’t want money. Because it’s easy to want.
I’m not saying you don’t want love. Life is emptier without it.
I’m not saying you don’t want world peace. Things would be less messy, scary and complicated.
When you strip away EVERYTHING? All the noise and bullshit?
All you really want is to feel happy. Is to feel content. Is to feel inner peace.
That’s it. That’s what you want.
You think money will make you feel content. You think the freedom and purchasing power it provides will make you feel happy. And you believe you’ll have more peace if you eliminate debt and don’t have a horrible boss and have sex regularly with someone you trust who says I love you and makes you feel confident and safe.
You want the stuff because you want that feeling. That feeling we call “happy.”
We don’t need stuff or status to feel good about our lives.
You could lie still on a couch watching reruns and feel amazing about your life if you only felt happy enough. And there are people like that. They’re called stoners and tweekers. Drugs are not a good choice. But they DO illustrate my point fabulously.
You don’t need more money.
You don’t need a nicer car or bigger house.
You don’t need things.
And if you believe otherwise, you might be doomed. I think most people are. To a life of dissatisfaction and sadness. And that’s no way to live.
I might argue you only need ONE thing to be truly happy: Gratitude.
Genuine, heartfelt gratitude is the prerequisite to true happiness, and you can change your life overnight simply by realizing it and working daily to stay mindful of it.
You have a house and aren’t sleeping outside in a box with no money or food? Thank you!
You have friends or family or children or pets to love and love you back? Thank you!
You can hear music and people speak because you’re not deaf? You can see sunsets and attractive people and your child’s smile because you’re not blind? You can walk or kiss or have medical insurance? You have lungs and breathe because you’re not currently drowning or being choked by someone mean and horrible?
Some people are going to roll their eyes. “You know who says ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness?’ People who don’t have any!”
Not everyone can be helped. Pity them and move on.
We have enough.
You ARE enough.
Choose happiness because it’s so much better than feeling terrible.
Choose gratitude because you can never be happy without it.
Choose love because you get what you give.
Tomorrow isn’t here and yesterday hardly matters.
All we have is right now.
I am eternally grateful for you.