Life 101: Joy is to be achieved, not stumbled upon

Will anyone ever feel like they’re caught up; even on top of things? Over and over, I hear people (especially mothers) saying how overwhelmed they are, how they feel like they are running a losing race. I get this. I feel this. I’ve even gone so far as to try to eliminate the word “overwhelmed” from my vocabulary, because it is almost cliché now.

Life is hard. I’m not convinced that it gets any easier, or slower, ever, no matter how much we wish for it or will it. How often do you catch yourself saying: “It will be easier, or everything will be fine, once I’ve finished this week/project/month/year?”

Throughout my life, I’ve heard myself thinking that “I’ll be happy when I …” and the dot, dot, dot, just changed over the years. The ellipses went from: have a best friend, win the sporting event, have a good turnout for my birthday party, get good grades, have clear skin, get invited to prom, have a car, go to university, graduate, get a job, buy a house, find a good man, get married, have kids, pay off the mortgage, have a boss who values my contributions, travel the world, and see my well-adjusted, independent kids leave for college or university … all the way up to … I’ll be happy when I retire.

Sadly, none of these events nor things create happiness. Not my diplomas, my possessions, my career, my marriage, becoming a parent, nor taking a vacation flipped a switch in my life from “unsatisfied” to “perpetually happy.” Many of those events also added more items to my to-do list.

Now don’t jump down my throat and say that your spouse or kids are the best thing that ever happened to you and that they are happiness embodied. We all have hills and valleys with every relationship; and I have learned by the recent cheese-grater-over-my-skin method that the key to my happiness is not in anyone else’s pocket.

Overall, we take on too much. We expect ourselves to be flawless. I was convinced that people would think I was “less good” if I didn’t do it all, and all by myself, and without complaining or even whispering: “This is hard.”

Take school lunches as just one of dozens of weekly activities some of us do for others. I know parents who count down to the last day of school with how many lunches they still have to make. Sure, there were days that I did enjoy it, tucking a little note into their lunch bag. On those days, I smiled all morning as I thought about them reading my note.

Therein, is a clue with how to deal with the trap of worrying: “Is this it?” in life. Perspective is everything. If we accept every “now” as something we choose to do with delight, instead of dread, the “overwhelmed” feeling begins to dissipate and the happiness factor increases. There is no medal if you don’t ask for help, nor is there an award for not admitting that life can be really hard.

Instead of waiting for something or someone to happen in my life to make me happy, I now choose to be happy and go happen to life. Join me… when you’re done your to-do list.

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