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When we are kids we have fantasies of: “when I grow up I’m going to be a teacher, astronaut, president, firefighter etc.” As we grow older those dreams change and turn into either more practical ones or more in tune with the person we have become.
Most of us will achieve some version of our “dream” and then settle in life. We become attached to our victories, friends, and things. But are we truly content?
Recently a friend of mine told me she was selling her home in Florida, leaving her relationship, and then taking a few months off to travel and figure out where she wants her life to go next. Her email shocked me – not in a bad way – and so I asked myself why.
My friend is in her early to mid-forties. She is neither a hippie nor new age. She is a responsible “normal” looking woman.
Sometimes it seems to me that the last few years of my life have been mostly about overcoming obstacles and stress. This big cycle started in 2006 with my late husband’s cancer diagnosis. From that point on I dealt with a transplant, health insurance, losing Chris, losing my savings, my father’s serious illness, and family turmoil. So to me all those years were sink or swim. I chose to swim.
In choosing to live, to thrive and find contentment in very tough times, I’ve had to change the way I dealt with feelings and situations. I’ve learned to:
- Take deep breaths throughout my day. It helps release stress energy and it grounds me.
- Be fully in the present. Thinking how life used to be or thinking ahead doesn’t help any. It only creates more stress. I focus on now.
- Deal with one thing at a time.
- Realize although my difficulty and pain are unique to me, they are not unique to human existence. Every single one of us goes through difficulties in our lives. That helps me stop feeling like a victim.
- Step outside the situation at hand and realize that everything that happens in our lives – whatever it is – creates the opportunity for change and wisdom. So what can I learn from what’s going on?
- Rely on myself. I’ve learned to listen to my own voice. I have a better idea of what matters to me, what I can tolerate, and what brings me contentment.
- In solitude, I’ve learned I’m never alone. I have always myself and with that knowledge I can create situations that bring happiness and sooth the struggle.
Of course difficult times are just that; difficult. But if we can find ways to better navigate them, we don’t have to lose hope and despair. Keep the other side in sight and the journey becomes a path to wisdom and contentment.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Posted below is an interesting post about the meaning of life. The central idea is there is no meaning out there to be found, but only the meaning we make.
I fully agree with the post. You can give two different people a set of circumstances and they will feel and react differently. One person might find meaning in the situation. The other may not. So what makes these two people feel differently? Who they are. What they bring to the experience.
Meaning is a very personal experience. I may find meaning in writing while someone else could experience it as sheer hell. That is why no one can tell another how to live their lives in order to find meaning and contentment. Actually to me meaning equals contentment.
One of the great stumbling blocks for being content right now is our constant need to wish we were someplace else or that our lives were different. How many of us have said or thought: “I’m going to be happy when I get XYZ” or “I’m holding off experiencing XXX for when I have XYZ.” Here’s a news flash: we may never get or have XYZ or at least in the manner we dream about. So does that mean we give up on being content? Absolutely not; we give up in not living our lives today for a future which may or may never happen.
Felt a real kinship with the post below. First because like the author I too live in Los Angeles, and second because I too work in Hollywood. But that is not the point of the post. The point is as a nation we have lost our ability to unplug and relax. We have actually convinced ourselves that the more stressed out and tired we are, the more needed and important we become.
I’m here to tell you those assumptions are untrue. If we are tired and stressed we are just that; tired and stressed. We are no good to ourselves and to anyone else.
Not a great fan of Dr. Drew – for people outside of the US who may not be familiar with his work, Dr. Drew is board certified in internal and addiction medicine. He is also the host of the TV show Celebrity Rehab and the radio show Loveline. While I find him to be very smart and insightful, it bugs me that he uses his knowledge to expose others for his own gain.
Anyway, in the clip below Dr. Drew discusses our obsession with celebrities. In it he is really clear, well spoken delivering great insight on the subject. He discusses our loss of understanding of what really brings us happiness and contentment – relationships and not money or power. He adds because as a society we model after narcissistic behavior of people that are not healthy, we feel empty and in pain.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post, Building Contentment With Real Values that addressed the same theme.
This is very important.
So much is going on in the world these days. So many of us loosing so much. And so many putting their community ahead of themselves.
Fame, money and power are the qualities we have chosen as a people to measure worth and accomplishments. We read and watch news about celebrities with excitement. “He is dating her and she is dating him. She has a baby and he is no longer with her.” We would take the opportunity to shake the hands of a celebrity and consider it to be a milestone in our lives. We know nothing about them as people, but we are impressed by what they represent. And what is that? A film written by a writer in their home and produced by men and women who either believe it to be of critical importance or that will make them loads of money?
As we approach Valentine’s Day the world – at least the countries that commemorate the cupid’s day – gets divided into sections; people that are enthusiastically planning and shopping for a grand day , and others who hope this day goes by as quickly as possible.
I talk a lot about love because I truly believe connecting to this powerful energy source is the ultimate quest to living a life of wisdom and contentment. But unlike many, I don’t equate love with just romantic love. I actually think that many people who believe they have found love when they are in a relationship are actually unaware of what love really is and its life changing power.
Below is a very good post from O Magazine. It talks about 10 misconceptions about life that causes us pain and turmoil. But, the greatest message is; we all march to the beat of our own drums. No matter how hard we try to be and to live like everyone else, we fail. And the reason is, we are all unique. We are the sum of our own experiences, and the way we process them. Yes, we all want to be loved and to love but how we go about it is our own unique path. The same goes for being safe. So why do we put ourselves at the mercy of a set of life rules created by our society when we know they don’t apply?