Something that wasn't on the list but that I just "accomplished" as I tried out a new oatmeal recipe - I finally finished rereading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. I started re-reading this book in September, when Marc and I had just gotten back from seeing the babies and we were still very new to our beautiful new apartment. I thought I'd follow along with the book, dedicating my own resolutions and changes and goals, making our home the happiest, most organized home EVER. Of course, work and life got in the way, and my massive plan was put off. But I still very much enjoy her writing and the entire concept of her Happiness Projects. (In fact, I wrote a book report - I should start doing those again - on her first book, back in September of 2011)
Reading as I was cooking/eating this morning, I realized I had nearly unintentionally finished the book. As one might expect, the last passage is particularly interesting and struck a chord with me - something that Marc and I had been talking about just this past weekend.
The notion of "being present" is so very challenging for so many of us because we tend to be focusing on either the past and the future, and most people tend more toward one than the other. I am much more of a future-oriented person. I have a pathological tendency toward planning. Planning, daydreaming, anticipating, worrying - and I've lately gotten into a lovely habit of preparing for and imagining entire arguments or debates with people before they've even happened. And of course - they might never happen.
In the last passage of her book, Rubin discusses the notion, one of her personal Splendid Truths, of, "Now is now." She explains:
"One of the persistent follies of human nature is to imagine true happiness is just out of reach. The "arrival fallacy" describes our tendency to believe that once we arrive at a particular destination, then we'll be happy. People generally expect the future will be slightly happier than the past; in one study, when asked where they thought they'd be in ten years, 95% of people expected their lives would be better in the future than in the past, and people already satisfied with their lives believed they'd be even more satisfied."
I can very much relate to that, as I think a lot of people can. Regardless of how you'd describe your current state of happiness, there's so often with people a feeling of "Once I've accomplished this" or "Once I'm making this amount of money," or fill in the blank - then we can rest and bask in the glow of our happy present.
Rubin mentions a couple of times the idea of nostalgia, and pining for the "good old days," when in fact at some point, we will look back on right now with that nostalgia of it being the "good old days." It makes me think of high school and college, which I so desperately loved, and being baffled by my friends who were so deeply anxious to graduate and get the hell out. I, on the other hand, had to be dragged kicking and screaming across the graduation stage so badly did I want to stay in my comfort zone with my friends. I had a strong sense that I'd look back and pine for those days, and I wanted them to last as long as I could.
Luckily, I can confidently say that as much as I loved those years, they were not the pinnacle of my life. The happiest day of my life, still, as cliche as it might sound - was my wedding day. And the reason for it is because - it was the most consistently present day of my life. It was a day that had been so incredibly anticipated, with excitement but also a lot of angst and family drama surrounding it, that once it arrived I truly enjoyed every single moment of it. And I didn't want to rush time, either - excited as I was to see Marc and for the getting-married part, I loved everything leading up to it as much as during and after.
Like high school and college, I don't want or expect my wedding day to be the pinnacle of my life. I should hope I still have several decades of living to go beyond that one day, and how depressing would it be if it were all downhill from there? But the biggest reason for why that day has been the best, outside of the friends, family, new husband, dress, cake, dancing, etc - it was because I was 100% immersed in every moment as it was happening. I've had days where I've come close to that level of presence, but nothing's equalled it just yet.
I don't think life has one particular meaning, but for me, I live by the philosophy that, "The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment." As Gretchen Rubin puts it, "Now is now." If what's happening in this moment is good, bad, painful, joyful - it's still what's happening now, and it's meant to be felt and experienced to the fullest.