a little over a month ago, a dear friend’s father died. about two weeks ago, i went to her dad’s house on the day they were clearing out furniture and everything else so the house could be prepared for the market and sold. i stopped to see my friend and maybe give her a spot of good cheer at a hard time. we shared some conversation and some laughter. i enjoyed being there. and i think it helped my friend a bit for me to stop by for a while.
as they were wrapping up the last few details, i tried to keep out of the way by wandering around the house and the yard. it’s a cute house—built in the 50s; big picture windows with a wonderful window seat; quirky architectural details; a door jamb recording decades of a family’s growth; a wonderful berry patch and fruit trees in the back yard. and i knew i could make that house a home—a perfect place to raise a family; a yard brimming with growing things to nourish the body and the soul; a home full of love and joy and strength when life gets hard. and i was filled with wanting.
a couple of days later, one of my best friends moved into a new little house after living with a family member for a couple of years so she could save money. i was thrilled for her that she could be on her own. and when i went to see her new place, i was even more excited. she’s found a perfect little place—a one bedroom stand-alone apartment on the back half of a property in a historic part of orange county. not only is the apartment cute, it has its own yard with gorgeous fully grown palm trees and flowers and the rent is unbelievably low and includes utilities.
i was so happy for my friend. but i was also incredibly jealous. i live at home with my parents at the moment in my own effort to save money (the joys of living on a grad student income in southern California). while it’s wonderful in some ways, it drives me crazy in others. i would be beside myself with joy if i could have my own little place all to myself—a little home that i could make my own with my books and my dishes and my own sense of style; a little home for myself where i could do what i want with no explanations to anyone. but it’s something that will simply never be a reality while i’m a student. for days after helping my friend get settled, i was filled with wanting. again.
i feel a certain amount of shame that my reaction to one friend’s difficulty in settling her father’s affairs and to another friend’s happiness at making a fresh start was self-absorption—longing for my own fresh beginning; wanting what i cannot have at the moment. i’m not entirely ashamed. i think the desire to build a home is a good desire. i think the desire to create my own home for myself now—to be independent and to provide myself a refuge—is a good desire. but i don’t like the way i fixate on those desires to the point that they can become disruptive to my own state of mind and interfere with my ability to relate to others, instead focusing me on myself.
my understanding of the gospel has led me to believe—deeply believe—that we are to live life fully in this moment. that we’re supposed to find what joy and beauty and goodness we can in the life we have now. a couple of qualifications: 1. i understand that the conditions of some people’s lives are simply unacceptable, but in this post i’m talking about people like myself—richly and wonderfully blessed with incredible opportunities, living a generally comfortable and secure life. 2. i know that many people respond to this problem by referring to promises of future blessings—either later in this life or in the next life. i believe god has promised us blessings in the next life. and i know that thought comforts some people. but i’ve found it cold comfort. and i firmly believe that even if we should acknowledge that god’s goodness will continue beyond this life, we’re supposed to recognize his goodness now. more importantly, i think we’re supposed to build on that goodness—to live this moment fully and beautifully, which we cannot do if our eye is fixed either on what we desire but don’t have OR on what we think god will give us in the next life.
so here’s my question: how do you deal with such desires? how do you make peace with the conditions of your life now? more importantly, how do you do so without looking forward? how do you live in this moment, fully and joyfully experiencing the gifts it brings? feel free to share scriptures, thoughts, practices, behaviors, etc. maybe i shouldn’t say this, but i’m going to ask you not to share reassurances that depend on future blessings. not because i believe they’re utterly meaningless; i know such reassurances can bring peace. but i’m looking for ways to live in the now because i believe that’s the key to peace and happiness. so let’s save advice about future blessings and the next life for another post.