If I’m really honest with myself, I haven’t fully embraced my present life.
I’ve examined and reconciled the past, and I’m making plans for the future. However, I’m finding it hard to honor where I am, right now.
There are countless reasons why we resist accepting our present circumstances. For many of us, our lives tend to unfold (or unravel) in ways that contradict the neater version we had envisioned.
While I know that 46 percent of marriages fail in the United States, I’m ambivalent about my divorced identity. I’m a woman with two children, but sometimes when the kids are at their dad’s house, I want to pretend that I’m just a regular 30-something without major responsibilities.
Though I love the rental apartment complex I live in, I’m furiously stocking away money because I feel pressured to buy a home again.
I spend too much time berating myself for things I’ve done and wishing for things I don’t have. My need for more is a monster I must manage daily.
I spent years as a dutiful wife, mom, and professional and though I wasn’t happier then, those identities were easier for me to philosophically live with. These days, it’s easy to get lost in a future fantasy. At times, I notice I’m waiting for something outside of myself to sweep in and change my circumstances so I can finally accept where I am, right now.
That way of existing is problematic. As we sit still, waiting for an outward something to change our lives, we delay our own chance for real fulfillment. As we suspend reality for a magic that doesn’t exist, we suppress the magic that lies within us, waiting to be excavated.
What if I told you that your present life is perfect as is? What if I took this a step further and told you that your life won’t change drastically or get better anytime soon? Would this depress you or set you free?
I find this reassuring. It gives me permission to make the most of what’s right in front of me.
Even when our life circumstances are idyllic, we as humans are not hardwired to live in the moment. The human experience is oftentimes filled with this unquenchable desire for more. This isn’t always a bad thing. If you think about it, artists are born from this deep longing. Their endless searching allows them to create beautiful songs, paintings, and writings. Even spirituality is born from this searching. All of our ideas of God rest in the absolute trust and faith that there is more to life than what’s directly in front of us.
Much of our seeking leads to finding, but when do our efforts become futile, or worse yet destructive? I’m working toward embracing my present life, and here’s what’s helping:
Elevating what is.
There are countless ways to improve our present lives, but to do that, there has to be complete, radical acceptance of what is. For me, radical acceptance had to do with something as small as decorating my apartment. For months I hesitated to do so. I saw my location as transient, and not worth sprucing up. Each night, I’d walk into a living space devoid of colors, pictures, and the personal touches. I was literally putting off enjoying my own home.
I can provide other, countless examples that seem so small but have a huge impact on how we experience our everyday lives. Maybe you are waiting to dress nicely until you achieve a certain body weight. Perhaps you don’t want to date until you reach a certain socioeconomic status. Possibly you have encountered your dream job, but you won’t apply until you think you surpass every job qualification it requests. All of these things are different yet the same. All of these things put you in a state of waiting for something that may never come. All of these things can be accessible to you now, if you could simply adjust your perspective.
Returning to gratitude.
The process of acceptance made me confront a ton of loss and emotion that I had been hiding from. When I decided to redecorate my apartment, I felt a sad longing for my marital home. When I realized that I needed to escape the isolation of single mom-ness, I found myself with other couples at kiddie events, feeling a bit awkward. When my children were away for weekends with their dad, I’d find myself talking more about them, but feeling disappointed when single friends or potential lovers seemed bored or disinterested in that part of my life.
I was finally integrating my new life into my everyday actions and it was uncomfortable.
Though all of these feelings were initially a little painful, it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I learned that absence does make the heart grow fonder—and especially when truth has been missing from your life for so long. Accepting what we have lost can help us see what we have gained.
There are so many things to be grateful for. It’s actually clinically proven that when you feel gratitude, your brain gets a needed dopamine rush. With this natural high, you are more attuned to the beautiful things around you.
I’ve often overlooked the gorgeous sunsets, kind gestures, and meaningful connections I’ve experienced because they didn’t come to me in the ways that I expected at the ideal times. However, I think I’m ready to open my eyes to all the ways in which I’m blessed.
Holding the vision.
I’m working toward living life in the present, but I will never stop striving to make my life better in the future. I want an amazing connection with both of my children. I want a long, successful career in service to others. I want a life partner whom I can love in the healthiest way possible. I want to own a home again, tucked away in nature, decorated beautifully.
Yet I understand to achieve this vision, I have to honor the present.
All my future goals start here, in this moment.
I want to be proud of what’s real and in front of me. In this moment, there’s single silliness and opportunities to experience new freedoms. There’s an opening for me to parent my two adorable toddlers on my own terms. There’s a chance to let romance show up in new, unexpected places.
I can reinvent myself, over and over, and honor the uncertainty, beauty, and unlimited potential that every moment has to offer.
I’m lucky, really, and I’m ready to accept that.