Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Enjoying the Journey

One of the reasons I'm undertaking a life reorg right now is that being unhappy isn't just an unpleasant thing for me. It actually goes against my beliefs about the meaning of life. I think the purpose of life is to enjoy it.

I've thought this for a long time. I remember trying to articulate this world view as early as high school. Anytime I try to explain it, though, I end up coming across as a hedonist, which isn't true at all. I believe everyone in this world should have the same chance at happiness, and am willing to work quite hard to bring the world closer to that state. I delay gratification as well as anyone- in fact, probably better than most. I went to graduate school, after all. I take a long, inclusive view on being happy. Something that makes me happy now but makes me miserable later isn't really a good deal. Something that makes me happy but makes someone else miserable probably isn't a good idea, either. But I don't really believe in an afterlife, and despite my frequent invocation of karmic retribution on drivers who cut me off in rush hour traffic, I don't really believe in reincarnation, either. I believe that this life is all I have, so I should make the most of it.

I believe in goals, both long and short term. I love writing to do lists. But I think that the path to those goals can be- should be, even- enjoyable. I want to enjoy the journey. This makes my husband snicker a bit, since I am not really that good at enjoying actual journeys. I love to see new places, but I often struggle to enjoy the process of getting there. In my defense, sometimes the process isn't that much fun. I had no problem enjoying the ride down the river to Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia. It was a three hour ride in a longboat with hard wooden seats and it was awesome.

 Those are Hubby's hairy legs, not mine.

It was hard to find much to enjoy in the ride from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok in the back of an old minivan with malfunctioning air conditioning. (Mercifully, I don't have a picture of that.)

So maybe it should be no surprise to me that I sometimes struggle to enjoy the more metaphorical journeys in life, too. I look at my daughters and can't believe how big they are getting (Petunia will be one on Saturday!) but at the same time, find it hard to raise my eyes above the daily routine to really enjoy these years. An incident from earlier tonight illustrates this perfectly. Hubby was holding Petunia who was reaching out for me. I reached for her, and he ran away. She giggled. No, chortled. Pumpkin tried to chase him, but slipped and fell and started crying. So I picked Pumpkin up and chased them down the hall. Both girls (and Hubby) were laughing. I was annoyed because Hubby kept stepping on my toes. WTF? He was wearing flip flops- it didn't really hurt. I think I was actually bothered because there were dishes to do and bathes to give, and this wasn't going to get those things done. But  that scene in the hallway- it is the meaning of life.

I love my girls, my husband, my life. But I need to enjoy these things more. This is why we took the trip to Coronado on Sunday, and it is why I'm posting Zenbits every week again. Zenbits are photos that make me smile and make my shoulders relax. They remind me that it really is a wonderful world, and any journey through it is worth enjoying.

Tomorrow, we're going to pick the girls up from day care and head to a playground instead of driving home. Then we're going to go out to eat instead of doing the usual Dinner during Dora routine. My life isn't perfect, and I'll keep trying to make it better. It certainly isn't as carefree as it used to be. But overall, it is pretty darn good.  So it is time for me to enjoy the journey.


  1. Anonymous9:31 PM

    "I delay gratification as well as anyone- in fact, probably better than most. I went to graduate school, after all. "

    That made me laugh - I went to graduate school too, and know precisely what you mean.

    Happy Birthday, Petunia and congratulations to you on your first year with her!

  2. Closer and closer every day! I believe our capacity for joy is part of what makes us divinely special -- and our decisions weather or not to exercise it is part of what makes us so very, very human. You are far closer to mastering it than I, Cloud.

  3. It really is all about the journey. But it's also in how you define the journery, right? Especially thinking about life in general. The destination is just the place, the location. The journey is all of it. Not just getting somewhere, but what you do when you are there. At least, that's how I like to look at it.

    We had a similar hallway incident yesterday evening when I got home. My hubby did the same thing with my daughter--moving her away when I reached for her. I started to get annoyed because I just wanted to hug her already and move on to the next thing that needed to be done (eat, cause I was hungry)! I try to enjoy all of it, but sometimes I just don't find certain parts enjoyable.

    But I just keep trying to focus on the enjoyable parts. And try to find humour within the frustrations. Isn't that all we can do?

  4. We paid a college student $9-$12/hr (we kept giving her raises b/c she was so wonderful) to pick our kid up at school, schelp her to activities, run errands, feed and bathe her.

    That gave us 1 day a week we could both work late and date night. A few times, we worked through date night, but very seldom.

    If my husband went on travel, about 1/3 of the weeks, she came 4 nights a week.

    It was the best health care investment I ever made.

  5. I've just started reading The Happiness Project, about a woman who essentially has a really great life but still is not happy and trying to figure out how to increase her level of happiness. I'm finding it really interesting. I'd recommend it if you have time for reading.

  6. I'm with you. What's the point if you are not enjoying it? I think a lot of it is reframing how you think, once the basics are dealt with. Easier said than done!

  7. Beautiful! I had no doubt the hairy legs were not yours!

    You're right! It's all about attitude. Sometimes the most memorable and hilarious moments in life are dealing with some kind of hardship with humor and taking time out of the mundane to just stop, breathe, gaze and hug.

    I am so lucky that was my upbringing. We had so many fun weird adventures and yet we also learned to recognize beauty and satisfaction in the little things right in front of our faces or over our heads twinkling in the night sky.

    Since we've had kids, we haven't had any real wacky crappy adventures yet (I am not counting all those cancelled and delayed transcontinental flights...), but I can't wait for the day we go camping and canoeing in the Adirondacks or even just climb more mountains around here.

    I think I get too stuck enjoying the moment and then neglect planning and committing to an uncomfortable unpredictable adventure somewhere. Ok time to make a list!!


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