"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - Allen Saunders
When I was in my early twenties, I would look so forward to the night, to go out, to let loose and laugh, to have the best night ever - because then I was really living. I would ignore what was happening in the day, constantly focused on the evening plans. But then it was over, and I was no closer to my anticipated fulfillment. In fact, I just became more empty. It continued like that for some time. Sadly, I was missing my days. I was so focused on the next party, I missed my present life.
That’s how it can be for me to this day, despite not caring so much about parties anymore. I thought recovery, yoga, being an adult - even the desire for it to be different - would all magically cure my continual wait for the next big moment, the life-changing event that completes me. But I’m still me. So, while I've grown up and found a little more grounding, I still find myself looking forward to the next “thing” in my life. Whether it is a paycheck, a child’s success, a holiday, or just the perpetual anticipation of something better coming around the corner, I still am missing my days.
Whether it was waiting for graduation, a promotion, for my wedding day, to the birth of a baby, to my baby walking and talking, I am always waiting for the next thing. Sometimes, it has to do with the belief that when ‘x’ happens, then I will be satisfied. Or happy. Or financially independent. Or more in shape. Or whatever I think will fit the fill-in-the-blank descriptive to make my life complete.
And while there is nothing inherently wrong with looking forward to things, I have to be careful that I have not already shifted all of my focus and expectations to something that may or may not happen.
Ugg, but I want it now!
All of the years of practice and knowledge that things take time, yet, this spiritual mumbo-jumbo just isn’t satisfying my need for things to happen NOW, when I want it.
It seems as if this is one of the human conditions that causes such strife. It detracts from our ability to enjoy what we have, always waiting for the next big thing, the next small thing, or simply, whatever is next and not what is right in front of us.
The hard part is, constantly focusing on what the future may bring or should bring, is just setting ourselves up for frustration and discontentment. We may feel fear if things don’t line up a certain way. Or sadness of impending doom. Even more common is anger or irritation with everything happening in our present lives, simply because it is not what we want to be happening.
How can we stay focused on the goals of the future, keep our wisdom from experiences of the past, and yet not forget that all we are really guaranteed is the present?
Living in the moment is incredibly hard for me. My brain operates at incredible speed, often too fast to really take in the input around me. So, I have to consciously bring myself back. This has taken practice, and years of getting to know myself, and how my perspective on life influences how I react to what happens in my day.
So, how to beat The Waiting Game?
1. Talk with (and listen to) others - As much as we are different, we can really learn from the wisdom of others. Chances are, when we open up, someone else has a similar story. Their experiences are not mine, but I learn about how they handle their problems (and happiness). While it doesn’t always happen at the moment, I often remember their story sometime down the line and can use it to help get through a tough situation or even reflect on how I want to do it differently. Even more important, we may even make a connection, bringing us a little momentary contentment.
2. Do something for someone else – Getting out and helping others is an incredible tool. When I was a few weeks into recovery, I became a volunteer at a local animal shelter. There is something about helping someone or something else that works magic on getting us out of ourselves and our anxiety over situations in our own life. It helps us remember it's not all about us. It is distraction at the very least, and truly soul feeding at the very best.
3. Make a gratitude list – The more we realize we have, the less it feels like we need anything else. Even gratitude for hot water (our hot water heater recently went out) is something. It doesn’t mean our desires go away (or should go away), it just makes them seem less of a priority.
4. Breathe – Yes. Breathe. Breathe like your life depends on it, because it does. Second, breathe to connect with yourself, so you’re not just a body running around aimlessly, auto-performing tasks. Focusing on the breath forces us to actually feel the moment. It can even be uncomfortable sitting in that silence, but it gives an opportunity for connection.
5. Pray – Pray to your God, to your Higher Power, to the trees, to the stars in the sky, to something greater than yourself. Even setting the intention that you cannot do it all yourself and that you need guidance through a period of time, is still something. Taking away the expectation that you have control over everything allows an opening for limitless possibilities. Whether or not you believe in a God, simply putting an intention, an acknowledgement that you wish for strength and patience, is an amazing power in and of itself.
These days, the expectations for what constitutes a happy life or what you should be, have, or do to be considered successful is quite honestly ruining our connection with ourselves and ironically, our ability to be happy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t need to wait for that promotion, that baby, that degree, that weight loss to be happy. We just have to be willing to step out of the waiting game, throw those rules and expectations to the wind, and make our own rules for how we will live our life.