By: Martianne Stanger
The other day, a meme popped up in my Facebook feed which said:
Don’t wait for things to get better. Life will always be complicated. Learn to be happy right now, otherwise you’ll run out of time.
The meme, of course, struck me.
Not because it was a new thought.
Not because it was that profound.
But, rather, because it was so well timed for me to see.
It was almost as if God was reminding me not to wallow in the frustration, sadness, and fear I was facing at that moment, but to, instead, look for and embrace whatever good there was – and if there was none, to quickly create some or to, at the very least, combat the bad.
In fact, that meme reminded me of something I always have: choice!
I may not always be able to choose the circumstances that surround me. I may not be able to stop a sickness in its tracks, prevent the loss of a friend’s loved one, keep a car from dying, fix problems that someone is having at work, make money materialize, take back ugly words that have been spoken, change the weather, make OCD disappear in a child, magically help someone with dyslexia read a chapter book that she so desires to read on her own, break through years of clutter in top speed, move through a mile-long to-do list… but I can choose how I accept, act, and react to internal and external factors that affect my life.
Instead of going all “woe is me.” sitting immobile and stewing, lashing out, losing hope, or otherwise letting negativity undo me, I can ask myself a question that has long been a fall back for me during times of trouble or chaos: What can I do right now to make the next moment better?
Then, after asking myself this question, I can act on the answer, because, for me, making things better is directly correlated to happiness.
I find contentment in knowing I am living with purpose, seeking to improve what is not so great and to appreciate what is.
So, I ask: What can I do right now to make the next moment better?
Sometimes the answer is something totally unrelated to whatever issues are boggling my brain and ruining our routines: go puddle jumping with my child, drop everything and head out for a jog, hug my kiddo, do something kind for a friend, thank my husband for something, throw in a load of laundry, drink a glass of water, take a deep breath… Yes, sometimes the simplest things make the next moment better.
Other times, the answer has some direct correlation to troubleshooting or accepting whatever is afoot and the answer I get can be taken care of in short order. Other times, the answer becomes a series of one thing to make the next moment better, then another, then another, that, when strung together, truly begin to turn things around.
Sickness invading the house? I can accept that we all have needed some rest anyway, cancel our plans, blow up the air mattress, get some fluids, and turn on an audio book.
A friend lost a loved one and due to aforementioned sickness and other things we cannot make the services? Send a note to the friend, offer prayers, and make a notation on my calendar to do something special later.
Car dead? Change plans to accommodate lack of wheels and give thanks for the kindness of others. Order groceries online if need be. Reach out to find out about junking one car and purchasing another. Then, wait with trust that it will all work out, giving thanks for the convenience the dead vehicle provided for so many years.
Someone I care about miserable at work? Thank him for working for his family. Listen and encourage. Pray for better work ahead. Try to do a few things outside of work to cheer him.
Making money materialize? That’s not going to happen right now, but I can go through the cupboards and see what I can make out of what’s already there so as to put off grocery shopping a bit longer. A penny saved is a penny earned, right? And creative cookery can be fun.
Taking back ugly words that have been spoken? None of us can do that, but, I can overcome evil with good by speaking love and life into my home and hoping everyone follows suit. I can also apologize for any part I had in prior eruptions and keep my lips sealed if things begin to erupt again.
Change the weather? Again, no power to do that. But, I can embrace whatever the weather is and whatever opportunities it offers.
Make OCD disappear in a child? Once more, not in my bag of abilities and skills, but I can offer tools for managing things. I can encourage the child to walk or go for a bike ride to remove himself from a situation and put the fight-or-flight instinct into something positive.
Magically help someone with dyslexia read a chapter book that she so desires to read on her own? I cannot do that, but I can offer a lesson in decoding skills or make time for more read alouds. I can be encouraging and compassionate.
Break through years of clutter in top speed? History proves that’s not happening, but I can set a timer for 15 minutes, pick one spot, and make a dent. Traction makes change.
Move through a mile-long to-do list? It just takes one step, right? So, I can choose one task and work it to completion, then take a fortifying break, and go on to the next. Or, I can triage the list to see what is most urgent and most important and work on those things. Or, I can set the list aside for a bit longer while filling my proverbial tank and the tanks of those around me with enough rest, connection, refreshment, or joy that we can motor through more tasks later.
You get the picture, I think.
No matter what is happening in life—no matter how trivial or complicated—there is always some choice that can be made right now to move things toward a better end.
That choice may not erase challenges nor be cause for immediate jumps for joy, but it can direct you towards contentment, shifting you from stress to smiles.
Time is too short to let life’s complications stall you or undo you.
Don’t wait for things to get better. Instead, choose happiness. Ask yourself: What can I do right now to make the next moment better?
Then, act on your answer.