The morning’s chapter out of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.
Sadly, many of us continually postpone our happiness – indefinitely. It’s not that we consciously set out to do so, but that we keep convincing ourselves, “Someday I’ll be happy.” We tell ourselves we’ll be happy when our bills are paid, when we get out of school, get our first job, a promotion. We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough – we’ll be more content when they are. After that, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire. And on and on and on!
Meanwhile, life keeps moving forward.
The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when? Your life will always be filled with challenges. It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. One of my favorite quotes comes from Alfred D’ Souza. He said, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness.
Happiness is the way.
From grade school on, education is a fearful enterprise. As a student, I was in too many classrooms riddled with fear, the fear that leads many children, born with a love of learning, to hate the idea of school. As a teacher, I am at my worst when fear takes the lead in me, whether that means teaching in fear of my students or manipulating their fears of me.
– Parker Palmer
Being in Thailand has been a challenge.
The community in which I live is so different from what I am used to, with its bucket showers and squat toilets, loud calls to prayer from the mosque, tiny children driving motorcycles, students in classrooms with no supervision, lady boys that hoot and holler as you bike by, but I have learned to love the strangeness and the painful awkwardness of it all. I have learned to lean into my fear and search for the courage to carry on. I have learned to stop always trying to control the things around me and to instead, become a living, breathing part of the present moment. There is so much out there that I don’t understand, and, to be honest, a lot of it scares me. But I’ve come to realize that being afraid is the first step towards being brave – or at least learning how to be brave.
I have also come to realize that even though I may not be perfect, I am still worthy and always have something to give, to offer.
Imperfection is the fuel that keeps us striving for something more – a better, brighter future, not only for ourselves, but for everyone around us. Knowing that I have so much more to learn from the world and from others makes me gaze out at the unknown with a curiosity and wonder that I refuse to let fade. There is a light that shines, I think, in all of us that must not be allowed to go out, and so, I am here to continue to stoke the flame. My goal, my mission in life is to help make school more than just about learning, but about experiencing a relationship between conscious individuals that care about what it means to be human, to ride the ups and downs of life with a smile and an open heart.
And that, I’ve learned, is the real challenge.