As I continue to contemplate aging and wrangle with acceptance, I often wonder which feeling is predominant. People often ask if happiness is the goal of life and I wonder what happiness truly means. In truth, I have always had trouble with that feeling. It feels too polar – either you’re happy or sad or floating somewhere in between in an age of dissatisfaction.
If being happy always means getting what I want, then it becomes too elusive, material, and greedy. After all, one never truly gets everything they want. As I age, I prefer to be in a state of curiosity; interested in whatever is happening and open to what comes next, trying not to label it as either good or bad. When I’m free of hopes or expectations, I can also let go of fear (that things won’t turn out as I’d hoped) and disappointment (when they don’t). This is critical in both my professional and personal life. Not every caller becomes a client, not every client goes my way. Not every family interaction is perfect, and sometimes it is my imperfection that railroads them.
I am trying my hand at Buddhist philosophy and the core message I get from it is that if we move beyond being attached to things turning out a particular way and focus on accepting things as they really are, we can appreciate what actually happens rather than being upset when things go “wrong.” This acceptance gives me a nice sense of calm – when I can find it. There really is nothing to worry about if I’m open to accepting whatever happens and am committed to finding it nourishing in some way.
Sometimes we hear from people who have not only survived, but thrived and grown through a terrible disaster, even expressing gratitude for what happened. They teach us that it’s how we respond to what happens to us, at least as much as any plans we make, that determines the kind of life we’ll have. This means that with practice, we can decide to accept whatever comes our way or passes us by without self-condemnation.
The teenage tennis star, Emma Raducanu, recently explained her approach with beautifully simple wisdom when explaining her state of mind during the U.S. Open final (that she went on to win.) She said she took it one point at a time, with no thoughts other than to play her best moment to moment.
That’s the way I’d like to live my life: not worrying if I’m doing “enough,” or doing it “well enough,” or if I have the biggest practice, the cleanest room, the prettiest smile, the best of the best, but instead taking each moment, each detail as it comes. I may not always do things right, but if I can maintain an aura of curiosity, I am achieving what I set out to do. I am leading a life that lives moment to moment, embracing each day, being grateful for what comes my way, what we create together, what falls through, what kindness I can show to others, and relishing what experiences I have. This way, I gain peace from knowing I’m doing the best I can, and I think that is the best feeling.