|Photo by trubluboy|
I am a recovering longer. Many people who know me will find this amusing, since I am shorter than most people. But by “longer,” I mean I habitually long for things I don’t have. In no particular order, right now I’m longing for cooler weather, health for my patients, a to-do list that gets checked off each day, more disposable income, a new car, to feel comfortable and close with all my talented friends, to finish my book, organize my home and office, and to buy new clothes. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Many of those things are worthy, or at least not bad goals. But reaching for them has not left me fulfilled and happy. Instead, this continual list of wants, needs, and “should-do’s” leaves me ill at ease, and feeling I can never just let down and enjoy myself.
Somewhere deep in the ole noggin’ I once decided that being comfortable with your here-and-now equates to not taking life seriously. So when I try to have fun, it must also serve some “useful” purpose. Meaning even my fun was a burden.
There is a song, Knee Deep in a River, and Dying of Thirst, about only appreciating what you have when it’s gone. I didn’t want to look back and see I was living that song.
So I decided to go radical. If cornered, I will readily admit that my life is pretty sweet. I work for myself, set my own hours, and have more control over my time than most people, even if I don’t use that control as much as I’d like. I have a fine husband who understands me, appreciates my sense of humor, and likes having me around. He cooks for me! I live in a convenient place that is attractive to pull into at night, and have a short commute. What if instead of constantly trying to improve where I am in life, I start wanting what I have?
So I’ve been at it for about a week. Surprisingly, (or not, if you are wiser than me), I have:
- slept better;
- felt more equilibrium;
- gotten several “to-do” projects I’ve been putting off done;
- made more money; and
- enjoyed my days more.
I recommend gratitude all the time, to patients, my husband, friends, and anyone who will listen. I did not realized until this week, though, that I saw gratitude as a duty. “Better be thankful for food, or maybe you won’t have any” is not really wanting what you have. It’s trying to appease some angry god who in no way resembles the God I believe in.
Wanting what you have is real gratitude. It is also a choice. I was surprised to find I look at everything from the lens of how I can improve it. My poor husband has a checklist by his face in my mind, as does my cat, my office, my writing, my time management, any good deeds I perform–and raising the bar on my accomplishment is always a goal.
Last week I started the process of letting that go. This week, I am simply enjoying what is there. My husband is a blessing just as he is. My cat loves me more than anything else on earth. . .except fresh chicken, but I can live with that. My work is aimed at helping others, and I love doing it. And while I suppose doing good deeds because you feel they are expected is better than none at all, I am focusing on enjoying the ability to serve others rather than looking for the “goodest good deed” I can find to do.
It’s a little scary to let so much pressure off myself. But it’s also exhilarating! When I feel the need to beat myself up for something that isn’t done, or done the way I want it, I simply pull back and remind myself, “This week we’re trying out wanting what we have. This situation/interaction/experience is something we have. What can I do, or how can I think about, so that I want it?”
It’s all part of my growing in aggressive positivity. Optimism creates zeal and joy, and zeal and joy are what I’ve sometimes been missing in my relentless pursuit of improvement. What I have in my life is positive, and focusing on those positives will allow them to grow. Please let me know in the comments what strategies you use to stay grateful and want what you have.