“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.” ~Mandy Hale
As a child, you imagine (with much excitement!) the life that you are determined to have as you grow up.
The life that you are meant to have.
We have expectations. Lots of them. Only reality doesn’t always quite match up.
Life twists and turns, changing direction to forge new paths, and things happen that don’t match the idealized playbook in our head.
Some of these things are good; some are not so good.
So how do you cope when the unimaginable, the undesired, happens?
How do you react when you wake up and realize that your life is not at all how you imagined it would be?
Understand that it is okay to mourn the loss of the life you had planned for yourself.
Critical illness. Disability. Chronic pain.
We all have circumstances in our lives that are not ideal.
These are just a few of mine.
I never imagined I would find myself at times living through what I can only describe as my own personal hell.
My life wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Many things I never imagined or wanted to happen in my life, and yet they did and they have and they are.
It can be difficult to let go of the life we think we are supposed to have.
There is a sense of entitlement, a sense of “Why me? Why is this happening to me? Why can’t I have/do/be what I want?”
Whether they are lifestyles and material items you no longer have, or were simply hopes for the future, know that it’s okay to mourn what once was or what you hoped would be.
And then you get back up on the horse.
There has to come a time for acceptance.
When things aren’t going well, when we are really struggling with life’s curveballs, it’s all too easy to spiral down the path of despair and assume tomorrow will bring just as much pain, as much fatigue, as many imposed limitations, as today.
To feel frustration, anger, and disappointment at the unfairness of it all.
These emotions are natural when we experience adversity, but they are not helpful to live with long term.
There has to come a time for acceptance. Only then can we start to move forward and find happiness.
I live with a chronic medical condition. There is more pain, fatigue, and limitations in my life than I ever thought possible.
It hurts to not be able to do all the things I used to be able to do, or want to be able to do but can’t.
And yet I still live a very fulfilled and happy life.
I actively search for ways to live well in spite of my chronic illness, to expand my life and find my purpose, to find my joy.
It comes down to the choices I make—balancing treatments, diet, and lifestyle with chronic illness management—to assist me to live beyond the medical conditions that could so easily define, so easily limit, who I am and all that I can be.
Expressing my feelings through my writing, fueling my body with nourishing food, working to the extent that I am able, sitting outside in the sunshine—they all add up to help me to find my happy.
To help me accept the reality of what is and minimize the lamenting, the agonizing despair, of what isn’t.
To move forward in the best way I can.
What are you holding on to right now that’s holding you back? What joy might you be missing out on while lamenting things that never came to be? What would you do to enjoy today if you accepted your reality just as it is and decided to make the best of it?
Celebrate the beauty of right now.
Learning to live in the moment can be one of the most difficult things to master.
I still have times when I wish my life were different (pain-free would be a great start!); where I struggle with letting go of what “could have been” and how life was “supposed to be.”
But if I spent all my time focusing on everything that was wrong in my life, then I wouldn’t see the good that is still very much present.
The love and support of my family and friends.
The personal growth that only my (extreme!) experiences could teach me.
Chronic illness has brought me to my knees but it has also led me on an expedition of self-awareness and improvement, survival, love, and empowerment.
It has taught me to enjoy life in all its guises, the small pleasures as well as the big ones.
Taking positive steps every day to create a healthier, happier existence is key.
Focus on what is good in your life because there is always something if we are prepared to look hard enough.
Still can’t seem to find the good? Ask yourself: Who’s been there for me through this journey of acceptance? What have I learned about life or myself through this experience? What opportunities lie within this challenge for renewal or transformation?
Also, be proactive to create good things in your life. Take up a new hobby, pursue the things that matter to you, learn a new skill or go on that weekly coffee date with your bestie so there is less room to indulge idle, and oftentimes destructive, thoughts about things you cannot change.
Celebrate your life for what it is right now, warts and all.
“Because we only have one life. We get one shot at making it worth living. We took our shot and ran like hell with it.” ~J.A. Redmerski
Now it’s your turn! What have you had to let go of to find happiness? What have you fought hard to keep?
Photo credit: Mateus Lunardi Dutra