This is month 11 of my 1-year journey to figure out what I want. I’m on a mission to be happy and content every single day.
Life: It Goes On
Ob-la-di, ob-la-da … (For some reason, this is full of random song references. It just came out and I don’t know why.)
No matter what has happened in the past year, I go to sleep at night, and I wake up the next morning. Life: it goes on. I’m sure there are other constants and certainly other lessons, but this one feels the most comforting to me. Why? Because it’s simple and certain. There is no nuance to it.
Work can be stressful, relationships tense, money tight, future uncertain. (There can also be a global pandemic that upends everything.) But we are all turning the page on the calendar every day and each morning presents us with a choice. We can sit in the pain, which is worthy of doing now and then. We can give in to feelings of despair, which is unavoidable sometimes. We can choose to focus on the good little gifts in daily life, which is never time wasted. We can actively fight for happiness, on both the days that is easy and the ones it’s hard.
I have felt zero control over anything in my life lately. You too? I’m not surprised. But the fact that life goes on reminds me of what I do get to command: my thoughts, my responses, and my actions. Those are all my responsibility and privilege to execute. I don’t always do the best job, but reminding myself that it is my job and only mine helps me do better.
I’ve Got 99 Choices And Control Over Anything Ain’t One
Speaking of things I don’t have control over …
“We are just not set up for this as a country.” My husband said this to me this morning as we were, yet again, discussing what we are comfortable with during this season. Should we order takeout? Should we go to the store? Can we go on walks? Should we wear masks when we are out and about?
When he says we aren’t set up for this, he means that our lives as Americans are centered around being “out.” Around convenience, efficiency, driving, productivity, and action. It seems like everyone has a very strong opinion about what needs to be done and the best way to live right now and I feel crushed by them all.
This has become so oddly political. I understand, intellectually, why people are bringing their political leanings and inclination into it. But in my heart, I just don’t care. Perhaps because I’m about to have a baby and that feels more important to me personally than all the other stuff. Self-involved? Sure. Honest? Always.
Do we listen to our state’s governor who extended the Stay At Home order until June 4? Do we fully quarantine ourselves per my midwife’s instructions until after the baby is born? Do we listen to our many friends and family members who are simply done with social distancing and think this is not a big deal? Do I shut down all news forever and ever?
Should I care much less what everyone else is doing and trust my (non-scientist, non-doctor, non-epidemiologist, apolitical) gut?
A lot of this journey to find contentment for me centers around caring less what others think of me. I know they are inextricably linked. Because a lot of my struggle in life—perhaps the majority of my unrest—comes from my fear of being judged for my choices. I want to be kind, but also noble. I want to be empathetic, but also seek justice. I want every single person I know to feel understood, which is honestly just impossible because I don’t and can’t understand them all.
I’ve battled this within myself for decades and I have shone a spotlight on this weakness this year. So it seems fitting, and eye-rollingly poetic, that in the final months of this self-induced discovery for contentment, my need to be liked and for my decisions to be validated would be challenged so much. It’s as if God is saying, “Oh, you figured out how to be content? Let’s really see about that …”
Even if I can’t say I DID IT, I FOUND CONTENTMENT, I am getting closer.
I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore
Have there been tough days the past month? YES.
Have a cried more than I ever have? Maybe.
But there is this small little fire of hope that has also been present too. And I don’t really think I had it before. Maybe it came from the literal life I’m growing inside of me: that’s pretty darn hopeful. But I actually think it came from what I’ve learned and accepted about myself over the past year. Let me explain …
I started this year trying to figure out what I want. Maybe I thought I would make a grand plan for “what’s next”? But I’m an Enneagram 2, which means two things. One, I really wanna be liked (see first rambling paragraphs of this post). Two, my feet are firmly planted in the present:
What is expected of me today?
Who needs help this week?
Have I missed an opportunity recently to make someone feel appreciated or to find love/affirmation for myself and how can I remedy that in this exact moment?
I have daily anxiety about the future because it feels impossible for me to envision it. Setting future goals or making a 5-year-plan instantly makes me lose my breath. It’s not that I’m afraid of it, I just literally can’t envision it. It’s too far away, I don’t have enough information, and there’s too much going on right now for me to be able to focus on it.
So maybe the angst to even start this little project came from waltzing through the world without a vision. I think I watched other people plan and scheme, set goals and dream. And I wanted that for myself.
But part of the contentment I’ve accidentally found this year came from understanding that I’m really doing fine without the plan. I’m able to enjoy my daily life because I’m living in it, paying attention to what’s happening, and responding accordingly. I don’t think it’s perfect, but it’s who I am. So why fight to change that if I can accept the limitations of it and revel in the positives that exist in it too?
I have less than a month left before I hit the one-year mark on this project. Contentment still feels like a lofty goal, but these small steps of acceptance help it feel more attainable every day. Life goes on and I have the privilege to choose how I live it.
My Round-Up of #LifeGoesOn Resources
A life book I loved … You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfield. I fell in love with Curtis when I read her book, Prep, several years ago. This is a collection of essays you can literally finish in a day (if you ignore your children/job/responsibilities). I loved every single one and her writing is as good as ever.
A business book I liked … Surprise! I didn’t read one this month. I devoured fiction and I don’t have single regret about it. I finally got around to Where The Crawdads Sing and A Place For Us and What Alice Forgot and The Dearly Beloved and Mrs. Everything.
A nonfiction book/faith book that made me think … Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker. I love Jen more and more each year. She is everything this title describes and her faith inspires me endlessly. I loved listening to this audiobook because she gives the reader fun asides and glimpses into what she thinks about the words she wrote. So worth your time.
Two podcasts I loved //
The Daily … The news can be depressing, but at least this packages it in a way that doesn’t make me cry (usually).
The Popcast … The antidote to depressing daily news.