“If only” may be two of the most dangerous words in the English language.
I spent much of my 30s burdened by “if only.” If only I could pay off my debts, then I’d be happy. If only the twins were a little older and less challenging, then I could relax. If only I didn’t have to travel so much, then I’d feel more rooted.
Such pining for things to be different than they are leads to nothing but constant frustration, resentment and potentially depression.
I don’t remember when or why (I’m sure a good book or a dear friend strongly influenced me), but at some point in my late 30’s it dawned on me that “if I can’t be happy now in my present circumstances, then I can’t be happy ever.” This was at the same time both a terrifying and freeing revelation. Terrifying because if happiness wasn’t situation-dependent, then it’s all up to me. And freeing because...since happiness wasn’t situation-dependent, its all up to me.
“Pursuit of happiness” is a trick that ensures its opposite. If we can’t be happy now, we can’t be happy ever. Happiness happens when we stop pursuing. When we accept what is, and that it’s okay.
Perhaps we fear acceptance of the here and now because we fear settling for mediocrity? If we are content with the now, then things will never change or improve, right?
Wrong. The only constant is change. Things will change even if we want them to remain the same. Contentedness with the present doen’t influence its persistence. In fact, once we drop resistance to what it, change accelerates if anything. Our resistance interrupts flow. Acceptance releases it. And the real key to happiness is to be okay with that too.