Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Life Would Be Perfect If Only...

When I was a kid growing up in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, we lived in a solidly middle-class neighborhood. Our home was a single story, three-bedroom tract house built in 1953, and for its day, was considered quite a step up from the inner-city neighborhood where my parents and older sisters had lived. 

I can remember, however, as we would drive through the newer, more affluent subdivisions, feeling a mixture of envy and low self-esteem as I gazed at the stylish, modern homes with their landscaped and manicured lawns. As I began to expand my circle of social acquaintances beyond my neighborhood friends, I was sometimes allowed to go inside some of these seemingly ideal domiciles. Unlike where I lived, they were always neat and well-organized, and reminded me of the kinds of homes I would see on TV shows like "Leave It To Beaver," or "My Three Sons." I used to think to myself, "My life would be perfect if only I lived in one of these houses."

Little did I know that each and every one of these families had their problems. I would later hear of alcoholism, abuse, absentee parents, divorce, juvenile delinquency, and other horrors that took place behind these beautiful walls. I now understand that we can move anywhere we would like to live, but that we should not be surprised when we find that our problems have moved along with us. It is what is known in 12-Step parlance as "pulling a geographic" - relocating in an effort to try to fix our lives or to start over again.

Apparently, we cannot accurately predict what will make us happy. By the same token, if we are always existing in a "my life would be perfect if only..." mentality, we are missing the beauty of this moment just as it is. We are also missing what is causing this "if/only" mind in the first place, which, if were known, could allow us to understand the true meaning and experience of happiness. Nisargadatta Maharaj once offered a perfect solution for this kind of "if/only" syndrome: "Want what you have, and don't want what you don't have."


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