It is easier to love the life you have than live a different one. This is not to say that loving one’s circumstances is always easy to do. It is also not to deny the importance of working toward goals and improvements. But in the process of imagining a better future, and building it, one is well advised to enjoy the present moment. Embracing what is gives one more energy to develop what might be.
By no means does this imply ignoring injustice, or cruelty, or the need to escape unhealthy relationships and lifestyles. But if we see or experience such things, they are our present reality. We can deplore them, and work to change them, but still do our best to love whatever is good in the present moment, and enjoy the simple fact of living. Maybe the best we can hope for is to appreciate a beautiful sunrise blossoming over a polluted city. But one will find greater happiness by relishing the exuberant and glorious colors, than by focusing only on what they imply.
If our personal sphere is relatively free of injustice and the like, we are in an even better position. In the past it was far too easy for me to hate a life that was basically comfortable because it didn’t meet all my expectations. When young I looked toward the future, and seldom savored the present. I remained locked in careerism and striving, so obsessed with where I was going that the beauty of where I already was had little effect on me.
As I got older, and the dreams of glory faded, the future began to look less promising. Still, rather than settling into a basically pleasant life (my situation held many problems, but was still relatively comfortable moment to moment), I refused to accept my fate. It seemed as if, in some magical way, despising my circumstances with enough vehemence would change them.
I don’t know the source of this delusion. Perhaps after my mother died when I was six, her absence felt so overwhelming and impossible that I learned to wish really hard with the hope that my wishing would bring her back. Raised without religion to speak of, I used wishing as a substitute for prayer. But even prayer would have failed to bring my mother to life. It might have helped me endure the pain of loss, but it would not have changed my fate.
Wishing never makes it so. It has been surprisingly hard to learn this lesson, but it has finally sunken in. These days I try very hard to enjoy my life, and not judge it. What I’ve found is that this simple effort works. Whereas wishing for a better life is likely to fail, embracing my current one works quite well. I find myself feeling grateful for circumstances that just a few years ago felt intolerable.
Fate is stronger than me. It may also be wiser. When I quit fighting fate, I find that my life is better than it seemed. There is more to enjoy than I realized, and I learn it is possible to tolerate considerable discomfort and still feel basically happy. The best thing about this new approach is that nothing needs to change besides my attitude. There is no dependence on getting the right job, or living in the right neighborhood, or even having perfect health. Fate will always win. Why not accept it? Why not enjoy it?