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So, you want to know about one of my favorite guilty pleasures?
You might have a similar one.
I love watching “House Hunters” on HGTV!
There’s nothing better to do on a lazy Sunday morning, coffee in hand (or, let’s be honest…a homemade mimosa), than get curled up on my couch to watch TV, shout at it, and tell the clueless couple to go with house #2 because they can just repaint the damn walls instead of making the horrible decision of going with house #1—the one the husband wants that’s $75,000 over budget but is big enough for him to build a custom brick oven for his artisanal pizzas.
But lately, I’ve noticed something after watching.
Instead of feeling relaxed from binge-watching a silly show, and being grateful for not having to work, I started to feel a little resentful.
I started to think, “Wait, why can’t I have the opportunity to buy a big fancy house? Why am I here instead, in this small apartment?”
And that resentment got me thinking about something that many of us do as we recover from trauma, like a divorce. It’s a nasty habit that keeps us from being happy and able to love this new chapter in our life.
So, let’s take a look at that slipup and learn how to overcome it.
The big obstacle in our face: we focus on what we lack.
When we’re learning how to get our lives back, it’s an easy trap to fall into. Once we start feeling bad about where we are, instead of being happy with it, we forget all the awesome stuff. And the roadblock only gets worse, because then we start telling ourselves things like this:
“I’m too old to be single. I should have a partner right now.”
“I should still be happily married right now.”
“I should be as successful as the family and friends I have on social media.”
“I should have as much money as all those news articles say I should…”
This way of thinking is dangerous as we move on because it relies on some external force to dictate how our lives should be. Only we have the power and control to do that.
The next obstacle: we compare ourselves to others.
Ever heard of the Facebook and Instagram effect?
It’s that trap we’ve all been guilty of falling into. It’s the one where we spend our precious time looking at the heavily-edited representations of other people’s lives on social media and we start to compare our own lives to the illusions they post.
You know what I’m talking about. The one where the old high school classmate has uploaded a picture of her million-dollar beach house and puts #blessed in the caption.
Or the one where a distant relative has posted a picture of their feet in the sand by the beach with a tropical drink in hand and writes, “So lucky in my life,” or some crap like that.
How about the one where someone brags about their job promotion or the fact that they’ve won the lottery? Or bought a new car. Or the picture of their business class seat. Or the VIP seats at the reunion tour of your favorite band.
We have all been guilty of thinking we need other things in our life in order to make our lives how we want them.
We forget just how much good we have in our own lives.
I like to think of this as the “psychology of abundance.” When we are going through divorce, or recovering from it and trying to figure out the rest of our lives, we forget that we actually have the world at our fingertips, and that we actually have an ass-load of things going for us.
Sure, your life and stability have changed.
Sure, your financial situation may seem shaky and you may be worried about supporting yourself.
Sure, your identity may be in existential crisis and you may be lost, not knowing who you are now or what you want as you start the next chapter of your life.
Nobody’s denying the shake-up. But guess what riches that shake-up represents?
The fact that you are still alive.
That you are here.
That you are given a second chance at life.
That you have the opportunity—the gift—to reframe life in a different way.
Do you have any idea how rich those gifts are?
Do you know how wealthy those things make you? Screw the pictures on Facebook. To hell with society’s expectations of where you “should” be. You get to control that with what you have. You are the rich one here.
I remember when I was going through my own divorce. I was floored and stressed and reeling from all the things I thought I’d lost—a comfortable financial situation, a partner in life, and a future I thought I knew.
One day, as I was mourning my losses and not focusing on the abundance of things I actually had (my health, a decent job, my dogs, good friends, and a supportive family), I got a kick in the ass. I was flipping through an old literature book from my college days, and a quotation popped out. It was written a world away and lifetime ago, but it was like it was written just for me.
“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” ~ Ranier Maria Wilke
That last part woke me up—for the creator there is no poor indifferent place.
You see, when it comes to moving on after divorce and taking control of our lives, we are the creators. We are the ones who have the responsibility—the gift—of taking what we have now, and seeing it in a different light. And once we change that mindset of, “Oh, I lack (insert whatever you think you lack) and can’t possibly feel complete without it,” to something along the lines of, “Because I already possess what I have, right now in my life, I am lucky and I have what I need right now.”
Once we start celebrating what we have and not bemoaning what we do not, we become free. Our stress levels decrease. Our anxiety goes away. Feelings of jealousy and bitterness start to disappear. And we become grateful, recognizing each new day as the gift that it is.
So, want to begin thriving with what you already have and not what you wish you possessed?
Do these four easy things.
Number One: The next time you feel bad because you think you’re lacking something, stop and explicitly state what you feel it is. Take a look at my example below.
Ugh…I don’t have enough money for a down payment on a nice condo!
I am so frustrated that I’m not living some bohemian life right now, going foreign city to foreign city.
Number Two: After pinpointing your perceived lack of something, reverse that way of thinking. Explicitly state why your lack of what you have is actually a good thing at this time.
Wait…that nice condo is going to have some super-high homeowner association fees! Geez—that actually means I will have to pay even more money a month than what I pay now, money I currently put in savings. Maybe a fancy condo isn’t such a good thing for me at this time.
Martha, you get bored after being on a vacation for a week! And you can’t wait to get back to the United States where you have your dryer. And your peanut butter. And you know you can’t live without your American peanut butter.
Number Three: Acknowledge something you actually have for which you are grateful.
Well, I don’t have a fancy condo, but I do have a delightfully cozy and affordable apartment that is super easy to clean and helps me stay within my budget—two things that many people do not have. Dang. I guess I am pretty thankful for that.
I may be based in my current city right now, and I may not be a bon vivant living one week in Paris and the next week in Dubai. But I do live in a pretty great city that I am comfortable in and miss when I am gone. Grateful for where I am right now, in a place I love.
Number Four: Make a habit of acknowledging those things you have.
Do it often. Do it every day. Heck, write it in your gratitude journal if you have one. You will find that the more often you divert your way of thinking about the things you lack and focusing more on the things that you have, you will find that the previous feelings you had of being hard on yourself, feeling jealous, resenting others for what they have, and feeling bitter start to decrease, and may even just disappear.
When done regularly, we then start to notice all the great things going on in our lives. And once we notice them, little by little, we will find ourselves grateful for them. We’ll realize just how rich we really are and how abundant our lives really are.
Because we have enough. And we’re doing great with what we have.
But you can still watch “House Hunters” if you want.