Several mornings ago I opened my eyes to the sun peering through my tiny camper window at me. I saw it, felt it, I breathed it in and felt it’s warmth from the inside of my being to the outside. I felt light and fresh. My eyes still blurry with sleep, I reached for my phone and mindlessly scrolled through my Instagram feed. I stumbled right past another RV mom that I follow and saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a picture of their “new to them” house they were in the process of renovating, and her announcing that their year on the road was coming to an end. Her feed was filled up with pictures of large, spacious rooms and the unloading of all the belongings that had been packed away in storage and placing them in their proper spots. In that moment, I could relate to her joy and felt legitimately happy for her new journey.
And then in happened, I felt it happen. Almost like something heavy had taken perch on my chest. In the midst of sharing her joy, it was as if a dark cloud had suddenly blocked the sunshine from my view and something had stolen mine. For the first time since we left our normal life behind a year and a half ago, I felt the first twinges of deep discontent.
The truth about everything in life is, eventually the new wears off and it’s up to us what we choose to see and believe about the lives we live now.
Nevertheless, I needed to let myself feel the way I felt, without shame. I needed to be honest.
And in that moment of celebrating with her, I had been reminded just how much I miss certain things about our old life. And in that, I realized that it’s okay, maybe even healthy to get honest with ourselves, sometimes maybe even admit that we miss or even long for things to be a bit different.
Truth is, I miss having one place to always go back to that is ours. I miss the routine. I miss working and making my own income. I miss spacious rooms. I miss the bright morning sun beaming through the large windows of our school room where the kids and I spent our mornings together listening to classical music, burning sweet smelling candles and learning. Mostly, I miss having a house to decorate, make home and invite others into…the holidays serve to remind me just how much I miss that part.
Truth is, we all have things we miss or long for in life. And I’m still not convinced that’s always necessarily a bad thing. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or what you do, unfortunately it is human nature to notice all that we don’t have.
But one thing I do know is that comparison is for sure the greatest thief of our joy. It is when we begin to compare where we are in life to another’s journey that our longings for our best life stop being a healthy force and threaten to pollute our hearts. And when that happens, we and everyone we are connected to, lose.
It took me a day or two, but eventually I realized the pit I had fallen into. Truthfully, I didn’t like the way it felt to be there. Once a spark of discontent enters our heart, it all too quickly becomes an ember with the potential to set our heart ablaze with envy and resentment. Causing us to live life with blinders on to all that is good and wonderful about our present life.
It’s impossible to live with contentment in the present moment when we are too busy comparing, living in the past or wishing for a better future.
And so I spent some time looking back over my own pictures of our last few months and all that we had done and experienced and I realized that yes, there have been sacrifices in exchange for the life we live right now. But two years ago I had all the things I was looking back missing and we never had the opportunity to do any of the things we get to do today. Our life appeared big then, yet the truth is, it was so small. I realized that we’ve spent the entire year and a half taking trips, having experiences and hanging out with people we love most. It’s very much like we exchanged the security of a house for the freedom to live.
Do I miss living in a house? Do I miss all the familiar and living near those we love? Truth? Yes. In 20 years would I have traded a more sure, settled life for these few shorts years of experiences we would have never had otherwise and life on the road with my family? I doubt it.
Life will change and we’ll settle down somewhere again wherever the road lands us, our address will stay the same and I’ll have plenty of lovely rooms to decorate. But If I’m not careful, I’ll miss what matters. I will look back far too much and allow the past to appear much more glamorous than it actually was. (You know we humans do that a lot right?) And If I don’t keep a leash on the wonderings of my own heart I might allow comparison to do exactly that which I fear most. I will look back and realize that I missed all the beauty that is now.
All the wonderful that is mine today.
And the perfect gift of today is a price much greater than I am willing to pay in exchange for a little brick and mortar security.
Let us refuse to allow even a little comparison to steal all that is ours for the taking this season!
Mental Habits of Happiness:
While a happy mind has positive patterns of thought, negative patterns are implicated in conditions like depression and anxiety. Toxic patterns of thought include:
- Perfectionism, where we strive for perfection and almost always find ourselves lacking. Being praised in childhood for intrinsic traits (like intelligence) rather than changeable traits (like effort) can promote perfectionism.
- Social comparison. Comparing ourself to those who are better off than us leads to lower self-perception, while comparing ourself to those who are worse off than us makes us look down on them.
- Materialism. In fact, research has shown that buying experiences gives us much more of a happiness boost than buying things.
- “Maximizing” rather than “satisficing.” Maximizers try to make the optimal choice (a form of perfectionism), while satisficers pick the first available choice that fits their criteria. Maximizers tend to feel more regret over decisions, and be less optimistic, more depressed, and less satisfied with life and with any success they do achieve.