I just got back from my first ever visit to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. The scenery is breathtaking and spiritually moving.
One morning, we had a 9 AM horseback ride at Hell’s A-Roarin Ranch in Gallatin National Forest, Montana (which I cannot recommend highly enough). I found myself thinking, “OMG. This is so peaceful, so amazing. If I lived here, I would surely be so happy. I wouldn’t have stress because it is so tranquil here. I would also be thin because I would be very active. Perhaps I would even look and feel younger.”
Get the point? The more I thought about it, the more detailed the fairy tale became until it was a complete lie. Luckily, I’ve been practicing mindfulness, and I caught that shit mid-story. I came back to the actual beauty around me, and I breathed it in deeply because I knew it was an ever-fleeting moment.
Truth is, if I lived there, I would become complacent. Seeing the beauty daily would eat away at the awe. I’d bitch about the stress of cold weather and having to drive long distances for a Target run. I’d find excuses to be inactive.
The grass always looks greener over there because we don’t have to mow it. For example, I tell people who are thinking of leaving a marriage for another person that other relationships are so enticing because they don’t yet have the baggage, but they will. I don’t care if people decide to end the marriage, but I want them to do so based on self-honesty.
These are the fairy tales we tell ourselves — if we could just _______ (go there, be with that person, have this job), our lives would be complete. In fact, our lives will never be entirely complete until we are dead. There will always be another stress, another problem, another bill, another want. We can trade one set of problems for another, but at least acknowledge that. Otherwise, it is a bait and switch lie that we tell ourselves, and we end up feeling disappointed yet again.
The trick in life is to be where we are while we are there. It is to be honest with ourselves. If there is something in need of repair, fix it. If we just want to escape, let’s be honest and acknowledge that the escape will be temporary. There is much that is beautiful in the world, but none of the beauty will erase the problems that we run from and bring with us no matter where we go.
Happiness is a matter of adjusting expectations — we won’t be on top of the world at all times. We will have stress. We will have problems. Happiness is being mindful of what is happening around us and playing an active role in creating our own surrounding beauty. It is about having boundaries so we are protected as much as possible. It is about owning what we can do in our lives to create tranquility. It is about calling out our inner motherfucker who is telling the fairy tales and lies that only prolong our misery by making us chase all of the shiny new objects.
Perhaps if we take a moment to force ourselves to look around where we are with awe — at our strength, at our family, at our friends, at our freedom, at a beautiful day, at our lives — we might learn to appreciate what we have while we have it even if it isn’t a day in paradise.