We Did Our Best While We Were At It

We’re always trying to escape. Never content of where we are, never appreciative of the phase nor the season we’re in.

Just like that. A light bulb moment.  

I watched a short interview of Bjorn, Agnetha, and Benny on youtube, three of a four-member Swedish pop group called ABBA. They were really big in the seventies and eighties and have earned awards, die-hard fans, and tributes from artists especially in the West. To most of us, they are a legend.

I grew up listening to ABBA’s music among others. I remember back in grade school, Chiquitita, one of their popular songs was my winning piece in a singing contest. I didn’t follow much of their story but knew they broke up in the early eighties after 10 good, solid, successful years in the music industry. As lights went off, the members thought, “That’s it”, and resigned to the idea of being forgotten after a couple more years.

Fast forward years later, and here we are still remembering them. Hearing their songs on the radio would make any fan say, “Oh I love this song, I wonder what’s up with the ABBA these days”. That same thought led me to a few articles and videos which satisfied my curiosity. Turns out, all four are still pursuing music on different levels, and are still humbled by the love and respect they’re continuously getting from fans all over the world. But there’s no denying that all of them have moved on.

I wish we could say the same thing. “We did our best while we were at it”.

Too often though we are too caught up with the next big thing.

You’ve heard it often.

Children can’t wait until they become teenagers.

Teenagers can’t wait ‘till they become young adults.

Young adults can’t wait ‘till they have families and build successful careers.

Adults can’t wait until they retire.

To me, it seems like we’re always trying to escape. Never content of where we are, never appreciative of the phase nor the season we’re in. If we could only be fully present and just give our best.

Mind you, it doesn’t stop there. This “wanting to be” drives our “wanting to have” too.

The bigger house, shinier car, more expensive clothes, sophisticated gadgets, fancier vacations, you name it. Inherently there’s nothing wrong with wanting more. It’s the motive behind it. As we become aware of what’s happening in the world, I hope we’re beginning to realize that getting more or getting somewhere doesn’t necessarily make you happier.

What’s Missing

Contentment.  

Appreciation.

To bloom where you’re planted.

To give every ounce of energy and wits to whatever work you have in your hands at this very moment.

Doing that would spare us regret. Not needing to look back as we wonder what could have been or should have been.

You will no longer wish to have done better because you already did.

You will no longer have the desire to go back and enjoy something one last time, because you lived that moment with contagious vigor and passion.

Your heart will no longer ache for something more dashing or luxurious because you’re making the most of what you have, it serves its purpose, and you revel in it to your heart’s content.

“I did my best today. I have loved and lived like it’s the last time. I made Somebody up there proud”.  

If you can say that tonight as you go to bed, I think there’s no other time nor place you wish you’d rather be. Why? Because right there, at that moment, is where and when you’d be the happiest. You did your best while you were at it. And if the sun graces you with another day, you know you can get up and move forward, not occupied nor attached to anything of the past or the future, rather, you’ll find yourself basking joyfully in the glory of the present.

Owning Your Story

I always believe in the power of intentionality. It’s ideal but not as easy as we think.

On Christmas eve last year, I was still working till about 10 in the evening. I know what you’re thinking. Mind you, it’s not the job. There have been few things here and there that we’re put on hold ‘till 24th because I was on leave for a day. But what made it a long night for work was simply because I chose to. 

You see, I could have decided to pick up the rest of the things the week after, but I didn’t. Choice indeed shapes the kind of experiences we get in life. Here are a couple of things I began to reflect on.

We reap the consequences of the things we put up with.

Take for example the way people treat us. When somebody disrespects you as a human being or disrespects your time, for instance, it’s worth asking yourself:  

Am I contributing to this experience? 

Have I shown him disrespect? 

Have I not made a request for us to respect each other’s time?

Am I experiencing this from this person alone? If yes, this whole thing might not be about me but about him.

Can I change something around this?

Put in reverse, we might have to take a look at how we treat ourselves too. Do we tolerate our laziness, our lack of motivation, our lack of commitment, our being irresponsible, or us not learning lessons from our past mistakes? What are the instances when we might have disrespected ourselves and failed to hold ourselves high up the moral curve? 

How we treat others is reflective of how we treat ourselves. 

The way we show up to the external world around us gives a glimpse of how we show up in our inner world.

We get what we give.

I always believe in the power of intentionality. It’s ideal but not as easy as we think.  

Say you are intentional about designing a balanced life. There are several routes you can go with this, but it all starts with defining what for you is a “balanced life”.

For every person, priorities are circumstance-specific. Meaning, they get arranged according to where we are right now in our life. A student will have different priorities than a wife who just had a baby. Someone whose health is failing might have a different priority than somebody who got his first job. We can never compare and we can never judge how a person designs his own life.

There’s the catch though. I mentioned “design”. You see we have to actively participate in our own story. If we give out crap, we will surely get crap. When we do something good, there’s a big possibility it’s gonna come around like that too. Yes, in reality, bad things happen to good people. But even in that, I believe something good could still come out of it. At least that’s what I’ve seen in my own life.  

Life is what we make it.

There’s really not much we can do about things beyond our control. My faith is in what we can do, to things that are within our control. There’s no point complaining about our experiences and our circumstances. We can choose to stay stuck with what’s undesirable in our life or find ways to move forward. 

So how does this circle back to my Christmas eve story? Well, yes I finished work late but I slept soundly like a baby and enjoyed the 25th without wishing I was somewhere else doing something else.

Choice. It is really powerful. 

We can be pushed around if we allow to.

We can define boundaries if need be.

We can drift through life and not make a call, or,

We can exercise the inner muscle of being intentional and design our life like “We own our own story”. 

Because truth is, we do.

Where There Is Discontent

We all walk around like we’re rock solid and strong when most of the time we are but fragile, broken beings. We go out there with our shields up.

The sweet, strong, aroma of brewed coffee at six in the morning.  

The feel of winter breeze. 

The sweet melodies the birds make.

The warmth of my pink sweater and green pajamas.

Contentment.  

Where does it come from? 

How can one have it?

These are sort of the questions you kind of ponder on in the quiet hours of the day.

Insights from a friend or a loved one would prove invaluable. But processing your thoughts and emotions is a big deal especially if you look at areas of your life where there is discontent.

Personally, at first, I thought I’m good. I’m sorted. I don’t have any complaints. I’m taking responsibility. I’ve chosen pains I wanted to endure. I’m living up to the choices I made.

But I took another hard look at my life and lives of people I know and saw it. Like bubbles surfacing on deep waters.

Excessiveness.

Obsession.

Possessiveness.

Sometimes discontentment tries to hide behind those three things.  Talk about excessive eating, partying, social media, commitments, entertainment, or sleep. It can be on the edge of obsession. Too much desire for power, money, accolades, fame, and validation, or perhaps possessiveness when it comes to love and relationships.

Where there is overindulgence, addiction or unhealthy desire for something, there is discontentment lurking in the deepest part of us. It’s insidious. It creeps through areas of our life unknowingly, and to be able to overcome it, I believe we need to heal. 

As I look at areas of my life where unhealthy excessiveness is present, I realize it’s rooted in some deep childhood hurt. A wound that’s still open, likely ignored, or worse, denied.

I think it’s the same for all people. We all walk around like we’re rock solid and strong when most of the time we are but fragile, broken beings. We go out there with our shields up. Unbeknown to everybody and even to ourselves, that we are hurting people, and keep hurting ourselves, because that little child in us, is hurt, in pain and still needs to heal. Our failure or neglect to attend to that wound just allowed it to bleed out as it does so until now.

How do we heal?

Few things come to mind.  

We can either change the past or change our perception of it.  

Most of mistakes in the past cannot be undone. So the only way to accept it is change the way we see it. We can’t attach ourselves to a perception that doesn’t help us become better human beings. It’s counter-progressive.  

Grace is helpful too. It translates to acknowledging our past, forgiving ourselves and other people who we believe may have wronged us, regardless if they ask. We didn’t know better then and so did they. Grace sometimes means knowing the past may have left us some scars, and that’s okay. We’re okay and we will be okay.

Finally, acceptance. To me this means, recognizing the hurt as a part of my past. But, it doesn’t have to define my present. We are capable of change, of evolving as the people around us are. We just need to give ourselves that chance, that permission, to rise and become a new and better person.  

Have you recognized some discontentment in your life? You are not alone. We are all a work in progress. Why don’t we go back to the root of it all and help ourselves to heal? It won’t happen overnight but progress is possible if we show up for ourselves day by day.