Photo by Alistair MacRobert on Unsplash
Around this time of the year I lose access to contentment – I get the “July blues”, it happens every summer. There is no reason for it, in fact the conditions in my life are never better than they are in summer to relax; my workload is lighter, the weather is often beautiful (always beautiful if you compare it to the weather mid-January in Canada). My family is happy and healthy, having fun summer adventures, and a vacation is right around the corner. So what gives?
I look for patterns and trends to “diagnose” my rut. There must be a problem somewhere in there that I can solve; these things don’t just happen for no reason (right?)! And that is what perpetuates my fugue…an attachment to there being a reason. Whether there is one or not is less important than my ability to be open to what is happening in the moment and letting that guide me into what is next. In other words, we cannot find our well-being and contentment in the same place where we lost it. Albert Einstein probably illuminated this best when he said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Ruts beget deeper ruts if all I focus on is “diagnosing what’s wrong”.
So what to do? Remembering that my contentment is always available to me, that it is a constant stream that threads throughout my whole life with perpetual access, is the key. It is the same for each of us. I often write about the difficulties of the human way of being, the struggles we each face to be our best, etc. Here there is a beautiful benefit to being human, for while we may often focus on the things that are not as we want them, the human way of being is a balanced equation. We may not always get what we want, but we always have access to what we need, as long as we are willing to get out of our own way to access it.
Getting out of my way meant not putting so much emphasis on striving to wring every last bit of gratitude and pleasure out of our very short summer season. To stop comparing my summer to the photos of other people’s summers. To recognize when I put conditions on my enjoyment, like having the “right” summer weather, everyone in a good mood, or a fun, new activity planned (with easy parking). To be better able to be in the moment, feeling the sunshine on my face, enjoying my garden, listening to the cicadas or tasting the rain. Counting the stars at night. Not eliminating my expectations, but recognizing when I have one and checking to see if it is serving my well-being in any meaningful way, and when it doesn’t, giving myself permission to let it go.
In a healthy life, peacefulness resides in each of us, but only if we have the courage to embrace it. Go on, run through your sprinkler, I’ll bet it’s been years since you’ve done that!