This morning I had one of those grounding moments.
It was the kind of moment when you realize that something, that has overwhelmed your thoughts and drained your energy for months on end, is finally no longer doing so. We are all faced with those situations that seem to grab hold of us and shake our foundations. We can either let them crumble or build them stronger, but either way, they are shaken. So the mending becomes a process of indefinite length. Sometimes this process seems never-ending, but we persist. Until, to our surprise, it's over as quickly as it began. This morning I finally felt that no longer was my particular situation happening to me, but rather it was something that had happened to me. I no longer feel consumed by a seemingly repetitive cycle of thought. It just is. I just am. I feel at peace with this struggle. I feel at peace with the idea of struggle in general. It seems like a simple concept, but just getting to the place of realizing that there will always be struggle throughout this journey, makes me feel prepared for future encounters. It is also important to note that although we will never have power over the actions of others, we will always have power over our mindset. We control our own perception, actions, and reactions, and just knowing that is a huge comfort to me.
It is so easy for us to default to looking back at the past or toward the future to "find happiness". For a long time, I always thought that it was something you had to find, and now I realize that it's something you must create. The whole idea that happiness is not a destination, but a way of travel, has given me a lot of pause lately. Until recently, I was the biggest offender of trying to pursue happiness. It always felt just out of reach. I thought that if I just finished school, or if I just got a new job, or if I just moved to a different state, etc., that then I could start living the way I had always hoped, and then I would reach this ultimate fulfillment. Even writing this now, it seems like such a strange concept. I think as humans, we have a hard time focusing on the present. It's understandable. The future holds the unknown. It is exciting. It is scary. It is forgiving. It is anything we want it to be. The present is an acquired taste. It takes a while to decide that, "Hey, it's not so bad" and, "maybe I'll get that next time", but really the present is the best tasting thing that life offers (just not everyone realizes it). The future is an old favorite. It's the flavor you order because you know you like it, so why would you get anything else? I think the past is more one of those things on the menu that if it's gone, you're definitely not going to get anything else in place of it. That's the only one you like. It's so familiar, predictable, preserved. This is a strange analogy, but it definitely makes sense to me, and it's nice to think about as ice cream flavors or something.
Anyway, for me, I've been trying to focus on the present. It's always easier to go back to that familiar future focus, but I've been pushing myself to find the beauty in the here and now. That's all we have anyway, so why not dive in? The trick is that the beauty is always there, but sometimes you have to use all your energy to seek it out, and other times it is undeniably surrounding you. Sometimes we get so used to it staring us in the face, that we forget we must make an effort to find it when it's not. Personally, I've adjusted my way of thinking from, "When I'm out of school I'll have so much fun" to, "this weekend is going to make this entire week awesome". Instead of looking four months out, I'm only looking four days ahead. I still have a ways to go, but I'm making progress. It's a constant perspective shift, and I often find myself slowing down and reevaluating.
I am striving for gratitude.
Gratitude for this world, and this day, and this moment, and my reality, and my friends, and my family, and myself, and my talents, and the talents of my friends and family, and my body, and my senses, and my feelings, and the ability to work toward what I want for myself. I will never stop reaching for it, and as long as I don't lose focus, that is what matters.
*This actually happened on February 3rd, after a grounding talk with my brother Ben. I've been having a lot of conversations with my family lately, that have brought me a greater sense of clarity, and for them I am thankful.
**All photos taken by me in 2010 and 2011. All quotes from the book I'm currently reading: Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan.