good life by rachael sheedy
Part of cultivating a good life means learning to live in the moment.
This is not easily accomplished, but I have learned so much about identifying and embracing the “little” joys. I believe this perspective makes a tremendous difference in my outlook and quality of life.
I have definitely found myself in the usual trap of expecting happiness to come at some future point. In high school, I was convinced that true happiness would be mine once I finally graduated and moved out on my own. Of course, once I was in college, I believed happiness would come when I got married. I had an idea of the perfect life and sincerely thought that once I achieved this objective, all my anxieties and emotional struggles would be resolved.
Well, life had different plans for me, and the picture I had developed of true happiness was never meant to be mine. As I slowly came to realize this, I simultaneously began noticing how much the concept of happiness was subjective and somewhat within my control. First and foremost, I had to accept that my emotional well-being requires pharmaceutical intervention. This was something I fought for a while, but eventually the evidence became too compelling to ignore. Just as a diabetic cannot talk his or her way into producing more insulin, someone with depression cannot willfully make him/herself happy just by thinking about it. Without medication, my thought patterns would make little difference in my overall outlook.
However, even with proper treatment, I still found myself perpetually chasing the concept of joy. It wasn’t until somewhat recently that I started realizing the fleeting moments of peace and satisfaction have been there all along and just needed to be recognized as such. For example, when I was in high school my alarm clock would go off and I would find myself in the shower before I had time to process what was happening. Inevitably, I would curse myself for not taking a moment to savor the last glorious moments of being snuggled in a cozy bed. Now, when my alarm hollers at me in the morning, I take a few minutes to appreciate the fact that I am existing in a perfect moment. Sure, the perfection is about to be interrupted by reality, but for the moment, I am experiencing something that I consider a great luxury: a perfectly comfortable bed with my sweetheart beside me.
It’s not easy to recognize those joyous moments while they are happening. Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone, but for me it is far easier to see what is wrong with the current moment or what it is I am waiting to have happen. It seems that something better is always around the corner, whether it’s lunch, sleep, the weekend, or even just anticipation of a favorite drink.
I used to spend the weekend with my cherished nieces and nephews, only to return home wishing I had better appreciated my time with them. I realized my favorite activities, such as crafting with my nieces or holding a sleeping baby, were usually overshadowed by the immediate physical or emotional concerns of the moment. Instead of focusing on finishing the craft so I could take a nap or grab a Dr. Pepper, I needed to realize that this exact moment with my nieces was the future joy I had been looking forward to all week and needed my full attention and appreciation. Once I started paying attention, I found that I was better able to focus on what was right with that moment and truly appreciate it for what it was.
I am happy to say that I am now so much better at appreciating the small things. As someone who lives with depression and anxiety, I still have a long way to go. There are plenty of times when I forget to focus on the here and now. However, I have come a long way, and I can definitely say that I am so much happier when I take the time to live in the moment.
Rachael Sheedy is a member of our 2015 Creative Team. She and her husband currently live in beautiful San Diego.