When I was in high school, I drove an Oldsmobile Delta-88. It was a boat (which made parking a bit of a challenge). My friends nicknamed it “Titanic.” It was far from being the “daddy bought it, but I got it” car in the parking lot. It had no air conditioning, no heater for almost an entire winter, and a very temperamental stereo system. On top of that, the eight-cylinder engine literally drained every cent out of my tiny student budget for gasoline.
It was far from the perfect car in my mind. I couldn’t wait for the day when I could pick a car with options, had good gas mileage, and of course a way to play my favorite music. In my young eyes, happiness was gauged by the car I drove.
To my surprise, when my high school days ended and it came time to “upgrade” I suddenly realized just how much that big tank had grown on me. When I looked at it I didn’t see the defects and little annoyances. All I saw were the memories and great stories that car had given me. I remember running out of gas on a date, cramming eight+ friends into it to go to a high school dance, getting pulled over because the speedometer didn't work and clearing my windows with a PEZ dispenser because I couldn’t find my ice scraper. Those experiences — though in the moment seemed insane or frustrating — were what actually made my $500 car priceless in my eyes.
I am now married, blessed with two beautiful children, and have a nice home. I also have two vehicles that not only provide me with climate control but are much easier on the eyes and bank account than the old “Titanic.” Am I happy? Absolutely. Most of time. Depends on the day. OK, I can admit that just like my 16-year-old self, I still fight with the case of the “somedays.”
Right now, you may feel restless with your current situation constantly comparing your home, car, or financial situation to your neighbors or friends. Many of your sentences may begin with “Someday when the kids are older; someday when I am 100 percent debt-free; someday when I get that promotion, then I can be happy. Then life will be easier and worry-free.”
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get nice things, looking forward to your last child being toilet-trained, or finally getting some recognition for all your hard work with your employer. We all need things to look forward to and be excited about. But don’t let those future moments rob you of some of the fleeting and precious moments of today. If you feel you have a mild-to-severe case of the “somedays” here are some remedies:
Professor Harold Hill from the musical, “The Music Man” put it beautifully when he said, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you're left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don't know about you, but I'd like to make today worth remembering.” It’s the little moments during the day and the people you share them with that makes life happy and rich and worthwhile.
Just the other day my son said to me out-of-the-blue, “Mom, you are awesome!” I relished those four little words and held onto them for the rest of the day, no matter what transpired. I let myself be truly happy now and didn’t hold it hostage until my house was completely clean, the kids behaved, or when I finally got some “me time.”
Develop an attitude of gratitude (at least twice a day)
Before you roll your eyes at such a corny, motherly saying, let me explain its power. Thanks to my mom’s encouragement, I have kept a journal since I was 6 years old. I not only love that I have a handcrafted life history for my children to enjoy (and laugh about), but I am so grateful that I can see and remember the blessings in my life. I can flip to almost any year or month in my life and see the challenges as well as what made me happy.
If journal writing is not your thing, I challenge you to make a short list each day of what you are grateful for or what makes you happy now. It could be anything from your baby’s smile, the birds chirping outside the window, or a new favorite song on your iPod. Remembering and relishing your daily joys will shift your gaze from what you lack to what you already have.
How do you spend your time and energy?
Could your current obsession or addiction be robbing you of living or loving what you have now? I recently read a book where the author recounted the words of a hospice worker who described what most people said right before they died. Not one of them worried about how much money they made over a lifetime, how big their home was, or wished they spent more time at the office. No. Most of them reflected on the relationships in their lives and the sweet memories with the people they love. Make each day count with your family and friends because at the end of your life, what else really matters?
As I recall the good times in my childhood, it doesn’t include what kind of countertops my parents had in their home, the car they drove me to school in or how many presents I received for my birthday, but the little moments created over a lifetime with the people l love. The sooner we stop putting our happiness on hold and open our eyes to what we already have, the sooner life will become richer and sweeter and worth living for now.