Overall, this hasn't exactly been a red-letter year for our family. There's been a lot of stress and a lot of bad news. So I've had occasion to get a bit mopey at times. Now, I personally think that occasional self-pity wallowing isn't a horrible thing. It can even be somewhat therapeutic, particularly if accompanied by some comfort food and “me time.” But too much indulgence in the “why mes” is bad for you. Too much comfort food, for one. But mostly because you end up with this almost palpable black thundercloud hovering over your head wherever you go, and people start not wanting to hang around you. A friend's recent blog post reminded me of the need to manage my expectations in order to keep the storm clouds from gathering.
We recently moved. The new house is wonderful, but actually getting into the house proved to be a nightmare in all sorts of unexpected ways (mostly due to a lot of apathetic corporate foot-dragging). Gorgeous Wife and I earned a bunch of gray hairs from it the hassle and occasional, genuinely frightening oh-my-gosh-what-do-we-do moments.
During that time, it was easy to think “If I could just get A, B and C to happen, then I'd be happy.” The problem with this kind of thinking is that happiness doesn't come from what happens to you, it comes from deciding to be happy. Then A happens, and you don't feel happier, so you assume it must be because of D. And the cycle continues, where you forever push off the time when you will allow yourself to be happy into the future instead of waking up, looking around and being grateful for and happy with your situation now. C. S. Lewis summed it up pretty well in his book The Screwtape Letters. The following quote from the book is instruction on temptation from the devil Screwtape to his nephew:
We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.
When I really stop to think about it, life is good. I am married to a beautiful, wonderful woman. I have two amazing kids and a great new house. I have everything I need and a lot of what I want. Watch out for the “why mes” and “if onlys.” Decide to be happy now.
Wise thoughts, my friend. Unfortunately, we all have to learn it the hard way. It just sounds like a cliché until you've experienced it.
I learned about simple abundance the year we were unemployed and broke ('03). It was hard at first, but then I learned to appreciate what I do have, and I felt wealthy.
And now I'm not afraid of what the economy does, so much, because I have my house, my family, my garden, my friends... we'll have everything that matters, and community that can work together to survive and thrive.
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