When I was a child I read a lot of books about the past. I obsessed over Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. My dresses from that time are a direct reflection of my tastes in literature. One is a brown dress with a peter pan collar and a small pattern of white flowers and small green leaves. It has long sleeves and goes well past the knee. I could have walked off the set of Little House on the Prairie or Road to Avonlea.
I longed to live on a farm, washing my clothes on a washboard and reading by lamplight. I used to sneak in to the bathroom and wash my shirts in the tub, pretending it was a washboard. I would dry them over my register and pretend it was a clothesline. One time I went as far as to attempt making a feather pen. I found an old crow’s feather in the backyard. I took it inside and washed it, sharpening the tip with scissors, and began to think about ink. I found an old jar to use for the ink but had no ink! Thinking fast, I grabbed a half dozen ballpoint pens from my mom’s pen jar. I hurried in to the bathroom and took the pens apart. I grabbed the scissors and starting cutting open the insides to get to the ink. I think I was around ten years old. Tongue sticking out, I brandished the scissors and tried my hardest to cut that round plastic apart. I finally got it! Ink sprayed everywhere! Everywhere but the jar. I had ink all over the sink and partially on the counter. I tried to reign it in but when no more would come out, I tried to squeeze it out. I couldn’t get the angle right, which made more ink spray all over. Just as I was wondering how to clean it up and hide my mistake from my mom, she knocked on the door. I was caught. I tried to explain but it looked like a train wreck, not just a failed experiment. All to have a feather pen and ink jar. All because I wasn’t happy about the TIME I lived in, not just the place. (Although the place I lived didn’t stand up to my standards either- I wanted a farm life, not to live in a small town.)
This memory made me think-
What else do I yearn for that makes me live in a fantasy rather than live in the moment? We live in a culture that has us always asking for more….but the more we have been trained to want is not of a health or spiritual fulfillment, but of a materialistic nature! How does that fulfill us? Wanting more is the way we better ourselves, and is part of our survival instinct, but not the more we reach for now. More stuff, more money, more fame are all types of the more we are talked in to these days. I feel like I am missing a puzzle piece. I am always thinking, “As soon as I get the perfect couch I will be happy/as soon as I lose ten pounds I will be fulfilled/as soon as I have…”
The list could go on and on. I am trying to re-write my brain. I am trying so hard to be fulfilled in the smiles of my kids instead of money or things. I am trying to think of what I do have instead of what I don’t. I am trying to reach spiritual fulfillment in the making of memories and doing of activities instead of sitting on the couch and fantasizing about the perfect life. I have stopped living in this “perfect” future and living in my fabulous imperfect present.
And you know what? I am succeeding. Slowly but surely.
Steps That May Help You:
- Start a journal and focus on the positive. Record simple successes (“I let myself leave an unfinished to-do list”, ” I paid my bills on time today”) or record things you are grateful for (“My two strong legs”, “My children’s smiles”, “The warm meal at the end of the day”). Writing down your imperfect present may lead to full appreciation of where you are in life.
- Do something for you every day. I take ten minutes out to have a short solo dance party, colour, meditate or read every day. It helps to center me. My two kids are told to play quietly in their rooms for that time- at 7 and 4 they (almost always) can stay quiet for that time.
- Don’t impulse buy. If you see something you want, come back in 24 hours minimum. If it is still there ask yourself: “Why do I want this? Where would I put this? How will this be useful or beneficial to me in my life? Can I picture this in my life years from now or will it become another thrift store donation?” If it seems a valid purchase, and you can afford it, get it.
- Distract yourself. If you are feeling restless, unfulfilled or down, do something to engage your brain. Dust off that workout DVD in the basement, go for a walk, make a collage, journal, read, put on music, colour, bake, go out and take photos of your neighbourhood- anything that will get you out of your head. I find that if I leave those feelings for too long I get in a mental rut and that leads me to bring back bad snacking habits, comparing my life to those on social media, or impulse buying. All of those things are quick fixes and do not leave me feeling better long term.
- Mantras. Find a mantra that works for you. Repeat it in your head when you are starting to feel unfulfilled, or say it to yourself in the mirror. You will feel ridiculous but it may start to help eventually. We believe what we hear over and over, and if the message is always from negative people or the bombardment of TV, billboard and radio advertising, it is no wonder we feel inadequate. Make your own positive voice the loudest with a repeated mantra (but make sure you do it with sincerity rather than cynicism).
These are all things that have worked for me, even if I do them sporadically! Good luck and have a great weekend 🙂