When will you have enough to be happy?
What is the dollar amount in your wallet that will make you feel fulfilled? What status do you have to achieve in order to feel successful? Who do you need in your life to feel loved? What do you need to do, achieve or acquire to be happy?
I did a crazy thing today. I decided to be happy. I walked around my messy, beautiful house and I saw the messy, beautiful people in it. I glanced in a mirror and caught eyes with a messy, beautiful 40-year-old woman and I noticed something remarkable. That woman was smiling. “What does she have to smile about?” I thought. “It’s 6:42 a.m.! On a Monday! And it’s snowing outside! There are a dozen things to do in the next ten minutes if anyone has a prayer of getting where they need to be when they need to be there!”
And then the woman in the mirror laughed.
The woman was me, of course. The messy, beautiful woman was me, deciding at that very moment to be happy, because all the things that had to be done and the people that needed to be cared for were just reminders that the woman had everything she needed in the world to be happy.
Too often in life, we play the “wait until” game. We think that when we finally walk down the aisle, or have that baby, or publish that novel, we’ll be happy. That never really seems to happen, though. We walk down the aisle and we have the baby and maybe we even fulfill our lifelong aspiration for some type of career success, but it isn’t enough to make us happy because there’s always more to do or more to get. We got the man – now we need the house. We got the kid – now he needs the soccer scholarship. We got the book published – now it needs to be on the New York Times Bestseller List.
When we wait until we achieve something in order to be happy, we miss the chance to be happy now. The tragedy is that now is the only thing we can ever have.
The dream of a future is simply a projection of our experiences onto a fictional reality that will never happen. It will never happen, because we don’t live in the future – we live in the now. We can only have meaning and happiness now. It’s not possible in the past or the future. Yet, when we lament about the past or we “what until” ourselves about some point in time in the future when we are allowed to be happy, we miss the now completely. And in missing the now, we miss the only chance we have at happiness.
Lancelot and I don’t have the most money of the people we know, nor do we have the least. There are times that we wish we had a guest room so friends and family could stay overnight, or that we had a separate playroom so we didn’t have to give up our dining room so our kids would have a space to play. We could very easily say that we want or even need a bigger house so we could be happy. Looking at the same situation through different lenses, though, I can see quite clearly that though we may not have an extra bed for overnight guests, we do have loved ones who like to spend time with us – and though we may not have a dining room to eat our Easter dinner on, we have a space full of wooden train tracks and LEGO creations and Hot Wheels cars, where our two healthy young sons can create and imagine and play to their heart’s content. What are we missing?
I don’t know what my next career will look like, nor do I know if I’ll even have another career. That has caused me some stress recently, as unknown situations are bound to do. I’ve thought, “I need to know what I’m doing next so I can be happy.” That’s a load of hogwash. I don’t need to know what I’m doing next to be happy now. Right now, I’m a stay-at-home mom with an extremely full plate and an overflowing heart. I don’t need a book contract or a new professional job title to make me happy. I have enough to be happy right now.
I don’t have every piece of clothing I desire, nor do I have a perfect body to put the clothes on. I give a second thought to each extracurricular activity I sign my kids up for, because money is a real thing we need to consider. I don’t have the latest model of my car. I don’t have the biggest house or the newest iPhone. I don’t have time to do everything I want to do right now (but maybe someday I’ll get to each of those everythings I want to do). I don’t have everything. But I have enough to be happy.
Jim Carrey recently said, “I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see it’s not the answer.” This is a man who “has it all” – fame, fortune, success, love – and who realizes that all that stuff is not the key to happiness. His advice cuts to the heart of the issue for me. Life is not about getting rich and doing everything we’ve ever dreamed. Life is about growing, loving and living in each moment that we have.
Happiness is not something we have to wait for. It’s a mindset. It’s a choice. It’s something we can choose to have, or choose to be unworthy of.
This morning, at 6:42 a.m. on a snowy Monday in April, I decided I had enough to be happy.
What will it take for you to make the same choice?