In my 20’s when I was single in a small apartment in downtown Chicago, in a career that drained me, and with a financial picture that looked bleak, I recall how much time I focused on what could be better.
When I look back at that time today, I can’t help but think how delightfully SILENT my one-bedroom apartment was. How freeing and simple it was to run my life on my schedule without four other schedules to integrate. I could stay out late and sleep in even later.
I had unfettered time to hang out with my friends from work and gather to watch a new episode of Friends every Thursday night.
But here’s the thing and maybe you can relate…
There was so much joy to be had, but I missed it because I was only focused on what could be better.
In short, I robbed myself of joy!
Recently as the days have gotten colder, my opportunity for direct, face-to-face exchanges have waned, my Christmas traditions completely heisted, and a trip I’ve planned for a long time foiled, I felt myself go there again. In noticing all that wasn’t, it was keeping me from enjoying what was.
Long ago I vowed I’d never do that again. I promised I’d stay awake. I’d know I was in the good ‘ole days when I was in the good ‘ole days.
But here I’d gone and done it again. I was noticing what could be better and, therefore, missing what is.
The good news is I’m kinder to myself these days. After I had my latest tantrum when a trip I’d planned was officially hijacked for this January, I gently took the hand of my small self and sat her down.
I thought about what my future self might say to her.
“Stop looking at what could be better and what you are missing in this pandemic. There is a lot going really well right now — you just don’t see it. Those changes you made by redesigning your days and approach in your work, they go on to make a life-changing impact for decades on you, your family, and those you serve. You ended your fourth decade of life very healthy in mind, body, and spirit. You were consistent with your new habits. You saw what your kids needed because you were more present and despite some of the challenging moments, they are fine. No permanent damage was done from the crazy time. They got a chance to slow down and look at things from a new natural angle which goes on to change their choices, interests —even their majors in college and what they want to do in life.
Oh and Christmas 2020 — it topped the books! You put some new traditions and interesting twists on it that you continue for another decade. Your relationships are forever positively changed from this time. It’s quite a joyful time, Rita…if you receive it. By the way, later this year, you’ll go on that trip you missed…and it’s better than it would have been.”
And there is was. My future self reminded me that I am the grand architect and author of my life.
I can CHOOSE how I want to design it.
It made me think about that day in the future (which will come) when I’m in a rocking chair with a blanket on my lap and my grandkids ask me about the pandemic of 2020.
I imagined what I’d say to them.
What will I remember? What will I have wished I’d appreciated more? What will I have wished I’d spent less time worrying about? What will I be the proudest of doing, starting, and sharing? Who will I say I grew closer to? What were things I tried and experienced that I never would have, but did because of this once in a lifetime experience?
At that moment I decided, what I’d tell them. “You want to know about the pandemic of 2020…that’s the year I let in the JOY.”
Regardless of whether it’s been an AMAZING year or one that has been deeply challenging, we still have more time to write our own ending to this.
I encourage you to consider a chat with your future self. It’s simple. It doesn’t take much time. Simply sit back. Get silent. Then ask the question, “Future self, what is it you want me to know?”
You’ll recognize the Voice by its gentle and comforting sound. The Voice is your wise, better self. It’s likely been trying to talk to you for a while. It has some good insight to share.
Well, I’m off. I’m going to live this rarer than once-in-a-blue-moon-day, the way I‘d want to talk about it with my grandchildren.
Because this we know for certain…we will be talking about it. What remains open is the story we will tell. Be the author of that story today.
Be well. Be JOYful. Then be the light.