In the mockumentary The Office, Andy Bernard once said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” We often don’t realize what we have or the opportunities that are right in our grasp until it’s too late. The grass always seems greener on the other side.
I often wonder why that is. Sometimes the only green I see on my side is envy. I don’t want to complain about life, and often only in hindsight do I realize that experiences weren’t so bad, or that what happened was actually meant to be! Why is it so hard to experience every moment for the amazing time it is?
The reality is, most of us just don’t realize the good that’s right in front of us. Like Father Moon once said, “Instead of being thankful for all the universal gifts, which God has provided, people are many times impatient, cursing nature and cursing God’s work when something interferes with their desires,” (The Way of Tradition Vol. II, 204).
Here’s how to see beyond the shadow we put over ourselves and appreciate the very green grass that lies just beneath our feet:
Recognize Your Strengths
One way of breaking through the cloud of doubt is to write down our top three qualities or the most amazing aspects of our life—and ask someone else to help! Often the people closest to us can see things about us that we have become nearly blind to ourselves.
Accept Your Life’s Uniqueness
We constantly measure ourselves against the others around us, gradually losing perspective of who we are. Sometimes I compare my life with that of my friend or a celebrity, thinking, “Am I as confident as they are? Am I as strong, smart, witty, affluent or lucky as them?” It’s like I willingly overshadow myself and blame it on others’ good fortune, instead of realizing that one person’s gift is simply different from another’s. Through accepting that each of our lives is on a unique path, we can begin to recognize the unique divine value of our own lives.
Talk about the notion of perspective with someone—an enlightening conversation might ensue! A plain rock to one might be a useful flint stone to another. Imagine what we could do if we altered our perspective on a relationship: we might recognize the potential for a simple acquaintanceship to become a real friendship in which we show deep, genuine care and respect for each other.
We might accomplish this by inviting someone out to a coffee (or tea, or burger) date, deciding to talk about the deeper, more intriguing issues of life and trusting them with our personal story. We might have overlooked an opportunity to make more of what we have.
Some distractions are healthy, because they bring us into the now. Whenever I go out and play Frisbee or toss a football in the park with my friends, I feel my mind and body moving in unison. Blood pumping, heart thumping, fists bumping—engaging in sports or physical activity is a great way to bring our entire being into the now.
Exercise the Reflection Reflex
I’ve always found journaling to be a great way to develop my “in-the-moment muscles.” Try writing in a small journal, reflecting on thoughts, feelings or experiences. Take it from me: a little book is the way to go if you’re pressed for time. Once we get this habit down we can become more aware of the things happening in our lives because we are actively reflecting on them.
Focus on a Particular Moment
Choose one thing in your immediate surroundings and focus on it for a moment or two. For example, as I sat next to my husband this morning I focused on the chocolate chip cookie smell on his sweater (from the batch I made last night). Those few moments made me feel grateful to be in his presence and that he enjoyed my cookies. I could feel a genuine smile spread over my face as this thought centered me in the now.
We can even go so far as choosing something positive about a person we struggle with. The focus on that one thing—even if it’s just the cool t-shirt someone’s wearing—brings our attention into the present and facilitates those feelings of appreciation and gratitude.
There are so many ways we can choose to see and feel not only our blessings but those of others, the green grass that grows everywhere. What are some other ways you can realize “the good old days” while you’re in them?