In the true fashion of most Western Millennials I’ve encountered, I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to live one full of meaning and happiness. From the deluge of posts on social media, I see us all calling out to one another, manically searching for this Holy Grail of Happiness. Like I imagine many of those in my generation, I have read my fair share of articles and books, attended many a promising lecture or sermon, and have even times futilely attempted to force an experience that was ‘meaningful’ and could ‘make me’ ‘truly happy’.
The days grow shorter.
The years go by faster.
In the blink of an eye, I am no longer an angsty teen nor a restless young adult.
I see society around me shift. I am now viewed as a full-fledged adult. Not just an adult, but a somewhat wise, responsible adult- worthy of teaching children and having a mortgage. I accept this new role apprehensively and continue on with my ridiculous search for happiness and the meaning of life; knowing I am not alone in this seemingly never ending quest.
The A-Ha Moment
So it came as a surprise that the most profound discovery on my quest thus far would come how or when it did.
I was sitting on the couch with my husband one evening, and we were watching Office Space. Mind you, this is not my first time watching this 90’s classic, and it most certainly will not be the last; but this is the first time I soaked in the following dialogue between Peter, a disgruntled IT worker, and his hypnotherapist:
Peter Gibbons: So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.
Dr. Swanson: What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
Dr. Swanson: Wow, that’s messed up.
Yeh. TOTS messed up.
The movie continues on (in a rather sardonic and hilarious fashion), as Peter begins living his life as if the opposite were true: as if every day was the best day.
What began as a little spark of insight during that dialogue, became a full blown paradigm shift by the time the movie had ended.
It was as if everything I had ever seen, heard, or read about the meaning of life and happiness just clicked.
I am not alone on this never ending quest.
And not only do I exist, but I am life and love, and I exist amongst all the life and love that surrounds me.
And not only do I exist as life and love, and am amongst all this life and love, but I exist with a purpose: to be life and love.
I exist right here and now, in this moment, as life and love, surrounded by all this life and love, with the sole purpose of being life and love… with all of this, how could this not be perfect happiness?
With this knowledge, today, made up of all these happy moments, could easily be the best day… or at least a good one.
Bit of a Throwback
There have been countless spiritual and philosophical teachings that discuss the importance of being aware and making the most of the present moment.
Although, they are all true and brilliant; like many other adages of wisdom, they can be hard to internalize and follow.
I myself have always had a rough time staying in the present. So much of our present lives are spent either recounting the moments that are past or worrying about the future, instead of living and celebrating life that is now.
Five years ago, I had a similarly profound paradigm shift that resulted in many substantial, positive changes in my life.
I began documenting these changes and wrote a blog post about the idea of living in the present… how we experience a mini rebirth every time we inhale… that, with every exhalation, we are able to put the past to rest, and with every new breath, we are able to choose our own new amazing life.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”- Henry David Thoreau
However, I still had a rough time staying in the present, so I began to regularly stop and ask myself the following questions:
- Are you living for the now?
- Are you ready to stop reliving the frustrations of the past and worrying about tomorrow, and fully embrace this moment, right now, today?
- Are you fully aware of the beauty that surrounds you this moment, with all its overwhelming, and often confusing, glory?
- What if this is your last exhalation… would your time be well spent?
- What does your new life have in store for you?
Back to the Future… (or the Present?)
It is with these realizations that today, this moment, right now, I have decided is pure happiness. Maybe not total elation or perfect bliss… but definitely pure happiness.
Right now, my ‘right now’ consists of being a tad bit bloated from breakfast, petting my lovable smelly dog, looking out the window at the sun shining down on the trees, and listening to jazz, while writing for my rather small blog.
I know my life is nowhere near perfect.
It has its ups and downs, like everyone else.
But it’s my life, and it’s probably the only one I got. I have no idea how much longer I have left, so I plan to make every moment count, to the best of my ability.
Nothing will ever be perfect. There will always be awful, ugly things going on. But life is still pretty beautiful… and the beauty, it seems, always outweighs the ugly.
And if I pay attention to all the sights and smells and tastes and sounds- it’s actually fairly easy to see the loveliness of life.
I could choose to plan and wait till things are perfect (which they will never be.)
Or dwell on the good ole times (which had its downs, though often conveniently glossed over.)
Or I can decide to be as content as possible in this moment right now, to do my best to enjoy today, and this moment, while also sticking by my values to help make a better tomorrow.
It was renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who said “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
We cannot change what happened in the past and we cannot be in control of everything in the future.
The only things we can be in control of, the only things we can definitively change are our actions, and perception and attitude towards life.
There is nothing truly exceptional about my life… but it is one of meaning and beauty and love… and in this moment, it’s still mine.
I am life. I am love. And I am happy.