Today at the beginning of yoga class my teacher told us a story. She said that all of her life she had wanted to go to Costa Rica. Not too long ago she bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. A couple days in to her life-long dream she asked herself a question: what’s next? This perplexed her. She had waited all of her life to take this trip and once she was there she was already wondering what was next.
It is human nature to want more and set goals and wonder how we can plan our lives out so we can feel fulfilled and secure. When we have everything we always wanted, sometimes we are left feeling empty or scared that it isn’t what we thought that it should be. In the book A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, Tolle says that people want to want more than they want to have.
I have a very good friend who taught me a similar “what next?” lesson. I love telling this story even though it may be a little cliche. This good friend had been heavily pursuing the “American Dream” for years. She was married and had her children but she wasn’t happy. She thought that if she bought that dream house with the dream yard it would bring her that final piece of happiness that she was looking for. She and her husband bought a mouth dropping home that was large and had beautiful wood floors with a mosaic entryway. Then they put in a $100,000 backyard. My friend finally had fulfilled that dream that was going to make her happy. One day she was floating in her $100,000 pool when she had an epiphany: she had her dream home and her dream yard and her dream family but she still was not happy.
I am no Dalai Momma. This is merely information I have gathered in my 37 years of life. I have a lot more to learn. What I do know is that things cannot make us happy. People cannot make us happy. We can only be happy when we have found peace within ourselves. When we have contentment knowing that there will be negative times in our lives, just like there will be positive times. We will have days when we think we have it all and then there will be days when we feel sorry for ourselves that things aren’t going our way. All of these experiences will balance out over time to bring us a general contentment. Most importantly, we all must actively find our own paths and not just wait for something better to show up on our doorstep.
Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones and Thrive, has traveled everywhere researching what makes people happy. Buettner said two thing that intrigued me (this is coming from my memory, so I am paraphrasing):
1. Material possessions only provide fleeting moments of happiness while traveling or life experiences are good for 9 months of happiness.
2. Are people with children happier than people without children? In Western societies, he found that children actually made the happiness level drop.
My friend realized #1 through personal experience and made major changes in her life. Today she finds happiness in her every day experiences. She does not own a house or have a pool anymore. She is a mom and a wife, but she also makes a lot of time for having fun with her friends, exercising, traveling, and pursuing personal inspiration and fulfillment.
I have been struggling with my own periods of “what’s next?” I have my house and husband and children. I have my minivan and my friends and family and yoga. I have a lot of good stuff that I am grateful for. Yet I am feeling like something is missing. I am feeling like I need to find my “what’s next.” Do I want to get a job? Feel powerful and make money? Not really. Do I want to go through a yoga immersion teacher training and become a yoga teacher like my mom thinks I should? Sometimes it sounds great and other times I just want to remain a practicioner of yoga.
Lately I am feeling an overwhelming need to travel; to see other countries and cultures, eat their food and meet their people. I want to write about it all. This feeling has been creeping up on me for about a year and now this idea is a constant whisper in my ear.
But my sweet little children are young and my family needs me and I need them and I don’t think it is my time to travel to exotic lands quite yet. I have already done a lot of traveling, which is probably part of the problem because along the way I caught the incurable travel virus.
Then again, what ever happened to Carpe diem? Is that just a catchphrase or an ideal that is more attainable before you have kids or after they are all grown up? As moms, part of our requirement is to take care of the family logistics and there is no time off from family logistics. In other words, it is not part of my lifestyle right now to say, “okay kids, mommy’s going to Australia and New Zealand for three weeks and while I’m gone I expect you to get to and from school, make your breakfast, lunch and dinner and be good for daddy when he is home from work.”
Alas, I will not give up my dream. I will not altogether ignore the whispers. Perhaps there is a way to travel more often, write, be a mom and a wife. That will be my personal exploration.
We must be careful of the “what’s next” trap that we will all find ourselves in at one time or another. Perhaps before we try to move on to the next great thing we desire in our life, we can stop, look around, take a deep yoga breath and say I HAVE ARRIVED AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL HERE.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.