One of my clients was sad. “Something has gone wrong every day this week,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be this way. Life is not supposed to be this hard.”
I asked what she thought life was supposed to be like.
“Smoother. More effortless. It shouldn’t be so hard. I should be happy.”
Interesting to think about. My thoughts always go back to immigrants–people who left everything that was familiar to them and traveled (not without danger) to a country that was new and different and probably frightening. Because they wanted something better and were willing to risk. They hoped for a better life, but never expected happiness as a requisite life in their new home.
When my parents were young, they worked hard, studied hard, and created a life that created respect and work they loved. But a few years after they were married, their world fell apart. A war wiped out their house, took their possessions, took the lives of relatives and friends. They arrived in America with a few wooden crates with what was left of their lives and started over.
In my entire childhood, I cannot remember hearing my parents complain about having to work hard or wishing they were back in Europe. My father believed that you built your own happiness, that the effort you put into being happy determined how happy you were.
Martha Beck, the life coach and author, has a wonderful quote about how we view life:
As long as we are breathing, the conditions of our lives will always be in flux, our ships still sailing in, the things we already own potentially dissolving (or disappearing). To accept that fact without anxiety is
to enjoy the process of living. Anything less, and we are simply suffering until we die.
–from Enjoyment in the waiting
I’m not much for suffering. I think we are here to enjoy life. How much we enjoy it, and how we feel about our life, depends largely on how we look at ourselves and our experiences.
Bad things will happen. We will lose those we love when we are not ready. We will make choices we regret. But for all that, we can still enjoy our lives, balancing the joy with sorrow, for neither one can exist without the other.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Not every day is a bowl of cherries and ice cream, but very few days are cactus spines, either.