Recently, my husband and I stepped back in time for a few hours on a date that was both nostalgic and present-affirming. Although most of our fellow date patrons, having a median age of about 60, were probably not affirming the present so much as reliving the past. The date consisted of a matinée movie on an old and rather pixellated projector. It was shown at the local planetarium that has most likely not been updated for decades. They were serving locally brewed beer and classic candy in the lobby as they waited on us to take our seats before starting the movie. And to top it all off, the movie itself, ‘Midnight in Paris‘, was directed by none other that Woody Allen. If that doesn’t inspire nostalgia, I don’t know what will. But the irony of the whole experience was that the message of the film was about not living in the past. So many of us tend to view our own generation with the opposite of rose-colored glasses. We eye each other with a cynicism that loudly exclaims how much worse we have it now than they did back in the day. How many of us have sighed and thought to ourselves that we were just born in the wrong era. If only we could experience the golden age of (fill in the blank). Or perhaps it’s not a time period that you covet so much as a location. If only we could live in Paris! The air is pink there and music fills every street. Inspiration would flow freely and unabated and life would be so much better than it is here in (fill in the blank). But the truth is, as the film so beautifully illustrated, life is what we make of it. Despite how it seems sometimes, the grass is not always greener elsewhere. Generations prior to us also believed that they had it much more difficult than the generations prior to them . . . and so on and so on. If we are constantly envying people for their position or place, then we fail to see and experience the things that people will envy us for later. This is the central theme of my blog. Learning to appreciate and really live now the things we’ll reminisce about later. And then, when we do reminisce, it will not be a wistful longing for what might have been, but a happy remembrance of what actually was. ‘Midnight in Paris’ was such a beautiful illustration of this idea that, although I could never claim comradery with such a brilliant man as Woody Allen, I felt it was to the world of film what I aspire this blog to be for its genre. If you haven’t seen it, make every effort to do so. It will make you smile and appreciate your life for what it is and not for what it might have been or could be.
Balance. This word . . . this idea, is so crucial for understanding and attaining happiness. It is a significant part of the reason that I am writing this blog. So many of us find it easy to highlight, ponder, dwell on, and magnify the negatives in our lives until they become radically out of balance with the positives that are all around us. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But, by the same token, the bright, happy, light, fun, and beautiful things, although often overlooked, would not retain their majesty without the contrast that pain provides. I am struck lately, by many such examples of this balance in my life and they move me to gratitude. They are the building blocks of my contentment.
In accidentally stabbing my hand, I discover over the course of the following week, the immense relief of allowing someone else to take control and help with the simple everyday things that often bog me down. In being consistently frustrated by the window-rattling, base-thumping music of my rear adjoining neighbors, I am afforded an opportunity to connect to another neighbor I might otherwise have never spoken to. While exhausting myself trying to finish a book for my book club, I find myself refreshed by the stimulating discussion of friends that follows my accomplishment. Because my sitter’s daughter became ill, my son was able to spend some much needed time with his daddy and friends. In lamenting the loss of certain friends to my husband, I am reminded of poignant examples of the depth of the friendships that remain. While on the verge of letting my frustration overcome me at the unfathomably slow pace of my toddler on a walk around the block, he brings me a stick with dead leaves hanging off of it and proudly declares, “A flower for you Momma! It’s special!” Indeed it was.
The key, I suppose, is remembering, while immersed in the difficult moments, that they too will find balance. There is always another side of the coin. But don’t wait for that balance to happen too you. Seek it out. Mine for the joy that accompanies sorrow and most likely you will be able to find it. Create moments that will surprise you . . . you might be surprised what you’ll find.