“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” ~Paul Coelho
My husband had been unemployed for more than two years before it hit me that I was dealing with it all wrong. During that time, I kept thinking that any day he would find a new job. And every day that went by I was disappointed, frustrated, unhappy, and even angry at times.
For two years I felt like we were in limbo. I was always thinking, “We’ll do this or that after he finds a job.” Everything seemed to be put on hold.
But the thing was, it wasn’t on hold. That was my life, and I needed to accept it as it was.
I finally realized that my life was going on every day, no matter what was happening at any particular moment. My life was not waiting for my husband to get a new job or until our finances were in better shape. Time was marching on.
Besides just accepting my life as it was, I wanted more. I also wanted to embrace and celebrate my life and be truly happy.
But how do you that when you feel like you are just barely hanging on? Our biggest problem was financial, and we honestly struggled to pay our bills and sometimes to buy groceries. It was an extremely stressful time. I felt sorry for my kids, my husband, and myself.
I knew I needed to get away from thinking about money all the time. And I knew I needed to focus on my life as it was in the present, not as I thought it might be in the future. I longed to be happy within the reality of our situation.
Three steps helped me to rethink my attitude and create a life I loved in that moment, as it was right then and there, instead of always hoping for a better future.
If you’re also resisting what is, these steps may help you make peace with it and find happiness again:
1. Take stock of what you have instead of what’s missing.
When I made lists of what I had and what was missing, it became clear immediately that I had so much! My list included two beautiful daughters, wonderful friends, a roof over my head, a supportive family, a career that I loved, a cute cat, and much more.
Two things really stood out about my lists. First, my “what I had” list was much longer than my “what was missing” list. And second, I noticed how different the things were on each list.
The things on my “what I had” list were much more important than what was missing. What was missing tended to be centered on material things. For example, vacations I wanted to take that we couldn’t afford or buying new furniture.
But what I had was about the things that really mattered in life. Taking stock made me realize that I needed to shift my attention.
Looking at the list of what I had made me feel like my life was abundant, and I suddenly felt a sense of gratitude.
Taking stock of where you are and what you have at this very moment can be eye-opening. Chances are you’ll find, like I did, that your “what I have” list is not only longer but also more meaningful than your “what is missing” list.
2. Focus on what really matters.
All my attention on our financial problems made me lose focus of what is the most important part of my life: my relationships with family and friends.
It doesn’t cost any money to cultivate our relationships with others. Cultivating relationships comes down in large part to communicating authentically, engaging in conversations that really mean something and are marked by deep listening and honesty.
With my daughters, who were both nearing their teens, this meant slowing down and listening to whatever they felt like telling me. Each little morsel of news about friends or school or how they were feeling was a gift that I treasured. And I discovered that the more I slowed down and listened, the more they talked to me.
I am also fortunate to have a very tight circle of friends who mean the world to me. They cheer me on, listen when I need to talk, and make me laugh. I realized what a precious gift that laughter is. To laugh so hard I cry was another thing to treasure.
3. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
Instead of thinking about the vacations that I couldn’t go on, I thought about the morning walk I took around a nearby lake where I saw two bald eagles, a crane, and the mountains reflected in the water.
I focused on my creativity—I played my guitar more and I started a new creative endeavor, collaging, which I absolutely loved. I continued to write and to experiment with painting. Through these creative outlets, I started embracing my life.
Shifting your attention to simple yet joyful activities is another way to gain a whole new perspective on what you have in your life. Being creative and enjoying nature are two great places to start exploring life’s simple pleasures.
Once I started thinking about how to live my life to its fullest in the present moment before it completely passes me by, my attitude changed.
That’s not to say I don’t still have stressful financial moments or a longing to take a family vacation to a distant place, but I am no longer missing out on what is happening in my life. I am embracing the life I have and I am genuinely happy!
It is possible to embrace your life and find happiness in the midst of crisis.
When we look at our life with a wide lens, instead of just focusing on financial and career success, we can see opportunities to embrace all of life’s abundance. These can be opportunities to slow down and think about what really matters, what we value most in our life.
Appreciating the most meaningful gifts in your life may just be the surest path to authentic happiness, no matter what your circumstances are at this moment.