Why is it that we postpone what we want most in life? Why do we save the “good things” for a rainy day that never comes? Recently, several events in my life have jolted me to a startling conclusion: that I am not allowing myself to be as happy as I could be, that I am postponing my own joy.
I don’t know exactly what jolted me from my daily reverie- I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty happy person. Perhaps it was my parent’s talk of retirement. Could they really be old enough to retire? Or perhaps it was the realization that my time with my kids is flying by so quickly. There are so many things I’ve been planning to do with them, but I never get around to it. I find myself asking, “If not now, then when?” If I wait too much longer, it might be too late.
Looking back, I realize that I developed this habit of putting off happiness when I was dirt poor and full of worry. To get through the hard times, I’d make deals with myself. “I’ll be happy when…” Just fill in the blank- “when the bills are paid” or “when we have a nicer home”, “when I’m thinner”. These became my mantras. They got me through the day, and to the next payday- they were my survival skills.
But whenever I met the goals I had set for myself, the happiness didn’t come like I expected it to. It seems that I was storing my happiness away, like fine china that’s only used on holidays. I waited so long to take my happiness off the shelf, that when I finally did, it didn’t feel right. I had waited too long.
Being happy in the here and now is an art form. It’s certainly not easy. The memories we make now are the ones that will last a lifetime, but we’re often too busy looking ahead of us to stop and enjoy what’s around us. We’ve all heard about the overweight woman who loses a ton of weight and becomes a knockout, only to find that she still isn’t happy. She had what she wanted, but still felt empty inside.
Happiness is not always found when we finally reach out goals, but along the road, in the daily, mundane business of living. It’s found in the stillness of an early morning sunset, before the rest of the household awakens. It’s found in the profile of a mighty mountain but also in the curves and lines of a delicate flower. And it’s found in the contagious smile of a small child as you hold his hand and walk with him, taking in the world together.
These ARE the best days of our lives. We should treat them as such- by rejoicing in the time we are given, and living every day as if it’s our best and only day to live. When we are old, will we really look back on our lives and wish we had worked more or kept a better house? Will we have regrets that we didn’t achieve our hearts’ desire because we were afraid of failing? I know that I do not want to have those kinds of regrets.
We need to bridge this distance between ourselves and our dreams, as well as ourselves and our loved ones. Perhaps our heart’s desire requires us to take the chances we fear. It may require us to open parts of ourselves that we have learned to protect out of feelings of rejection or failure. But only we can give ourselves wings to fly. Only we can set our hearts free and give ourselves permission to feel joy.
So what to do? I plan to get reacquainted with myself, to silence the daily noise of life and look within, to listen to the soft, still voice inside of me.
There is a saying: “Follow your heart, it knows the way that you should go.”
If we learn to tune out the distractions of life, we will hear the words we need to hear. But we can’t put it off another day. We have to resolve to face our fears and dreams sooner rather than later, and ask ourselves: “If not now, then when?”
Some day soon we may find that we have acheived our heart’s desire, and fulfilled our inner wishes. And that is where each of us will find true wealth- not in the things we postponed being happy about, but in the things we rejoiced in every day.