Charlie gave me a wonderful gift for Mother’s Day – a hike in the hills for just the two of us. It was a glorious day. Perfect temperature, perfect terrain, perfect company. The birds were singing their spring love songs and the clouds were amazing. And it was sooo incredibly green; that new spring green so bright with life and possibility.
It often takes awhile for my mind to unwind from the busyness of life and on that particular day, as I began to unpack my mind, I found myself singing If I Only Had A Brain/Heart/Nerve from the Wizard of Oz. That wasn’t too surprising since my daughter’s high school drama department had just finished an incredible performance of the Wizard of Oz a few days prior. However, the tune became one of those annoying broken record pieces I could not shake out of my head. No matter what song, thought, or mindfulness technique I used to replace the annoying tune, it was persistent. Finally, with a sigh of understanding, I chose to stop my attempt to avoid this obvious message, turned into the annoyance, and started to wonder about the “if onlys” of life:
- If only I had more time
- If only I had more money
- If only I had….
- If only there were…
- If only I hadn’t…
The reward for choosing this path of thought was the opportunity to recognize the chaotic storm of longing and resentment created by “if only”.
Longing and resentment will not get me closer to what I desire. Just like longingly looking up a steep hill wishing I were at the top will not magically transport me to the top. If I choose to get to the top of the hill (and I always have choice), then I must take that first step, then the next, and then the next. I will feel my lungs burn and my thighs protest. I will give myself permission to stop for rest (and curse the hill). Sometimes other hikers pass me with ease creating self-doubt about my inability to easily climb a hill. And I will keep going, one excruciating step at a time, over fallen trees and through difficult terrain.
Sometimes I make it to the top and other times I choose to turn around with the intention to try again another day. Occasionally making it to the top is not all it is cracked up to be. The view was better from lower down or there is another bigger climb to really get to the top (yep – that’s frustrating).
While taking each step is vitally important to ease the “if only” storm, I have also learned that longing and resentment are only extinguished when I can appreciate each excruciating step, stumble, reward, and accomplishment. It is truly necessary to stop along the trek to take in the surroundings and give gratitude to Mother Nature for the beauty that is in front of me. There is truth in the saying, “take time to smell the roses”, because only then can you really appreciate their beauty. Even if I do not make it to the top, or the top was not what I thought it would be, as long as I took time to appreciate the journey along the way, I feel more fulfilled, wiser, and experienced (because I always learn how to do something better, different, or not at all).
Notice I also said to appreciate the excruciating steps, as well. When the focus is on what you do not have or how miserable the circumstances, there is a greater chance you are missing joyful moments or the opportunities staring you in the face. This does not mean that I liked stubbing my toe on the rock, or tearing my pants while climbing over a fallen tree (they were my favorite pants!). But I can appreciate the reminder to walk with more care or watch for the small sharp branches that are waiting to snag me. Walking with more care helped me to see the easier or more beautiful and rewarding hidden trail I would have otherwise missed in my haste to get to the top. Taking time to consider the rip in my favorite hiking pants allowed me to notice the deer standing several feet away from me. Stubbing your toe, ripping your pants, climbing over the tree fall, and cursing the hill is a crucial part of the journey. Learn to appreciate (not necessarily like) the not so good, too.
You can fill in the blanks of your “if only…”. I’m sure you know it well. And ask yourself where has this thought process gotten you? Life satisfaction or more misery? Are your “if onlys” inspiring or frustrating? What steps have you taken to reach your desire? What is your focus?
Start today to quiet the storms of longing and resentment by opening your soul to experience, celebrate, and savor every step taken in your journey.