When my husband and I first started dating, we texted with T9 word, John Mayer had just dropped Battle Studies, and watching YouTube videos was still a novelty.
So I vividly remember the first time he showed me a YouTube video. It was called "Life and Music" by philosopher Alan Watts. (You can easily Google it if interested; I don't link videos since they show as attachments.)
The premise of the video is this: LIFE IS A HUGE SCAM. :)
Okay, that's not entirely it. The video hones in on the ever-elusive "point of arrival." The trap of thinking that, as Watts says, "The thing is coming! It's coming!" It's coming after high school, then after college, then....etc. It's always coming, but never here.
Essentially, society tricks us into thinking we will only experience joy, peace, and fulfillment in the future. (I'm not even getting into religions, some of which preach: Don't worry, life sucks, but you can have peace after you die.)
Even the U.S. declaration seems ominous: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Is pursuing what we truly desire?
Despite seeing this video at age 21, I do think I lived most of my twenties falling into this trap. Until recently, when I started monitoring my thought patterns (through meditation), this seemed to be my brain's default programming.
On the macro level: When I'm done with basketball, I'll be happy; When I get a raise, I'll be happy; When I quit this job, I'll be happy; When I move, I'll be happy.
And the micro level: I can't wait for spring; I can't wait for vacation; I can't wait for Friday.
I was constantly living with one foot out the door.
In Sara Bareilles's song Vegas she sings:
"It's always just around the corner, oh, you're on your way to somewhere. That is bigger, better, if you could only get there."
But you never get "there" do you? Because even if you did, you've been subconsciously trained to create a new "there" the second you arrive. Thus, you make your old ceiling your new floor, and, JAY Z style, you're On to the Next One. (Ceiling, in this case.) You unthinkingly sabotage yourself by delaying access to your full expression of positive emotions, because deep down you believe they only exist in the future.
[Aside: I realize the JAY Z quote was not very cohesive but, more importantly, I realized my letters up to this point were starkly lacking rap lyrics (!) Also, there's a thoughtful JAY Z interview on Letterman's Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction I wanted to recommend.]
But here's the thing I'm starting to believe more and more: you have it within yourself to experience joy, peace, and fulfillment right now. I do not mean to suggest it's easy, but I do think it's that simple. Rationally: any emotional state you'd in theory have access to in the future, you'd also have access to this very instant. Your emotions aren't tied to "that thing." They are tied to you.
The natural counterargument: but I don't feel positive emotions now! My response, which I say with kindness and gentleness: then you won't feel them in the future, either. Unless you can shift something in the present. Which you can!
[Note: I am absolutely not suggesting you make zero positive changes to your current life situation. (I believe getting in touch with your true desires is of utmost importance.) But I am strongly advocating you don't perpetually delay satisfaction just because that seems to be the default life approach in our society.]
I don't claim to know how to live this out fully, and I acknowledge it's a radical shift: to live not like you are going somewhere, but, rather, to live like you have arrived.
As a "first step," I've been monitoring the time I spend in the present vs. the time my mind swirls over the past (regret, shame, guilt) or future (stress, worry, anxiety), and trying to increase my time immersed in the present. The short but profound book How to Relax by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh contains solid present-centering methods.
In this beautiful poem, Rumi says:
"This is enough was always true. We just haven't seen it."
What if there is no "next thing"? What if you've arrived?
After all, you are here. And you are made of Light and Love.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. Another Rumi quote from his poem There's Nothing Ahead:
"The miracle of Jesus is himself, not what he said or did about the future. Forget the future. I'd worship someone who could do that."
p.p.s. Get. that. dirt off your shoulder.
p.p.p.s. JAY Z and Beyoncé have a daughter named Rumi.