Monday, September 15, 2008

Inner turmoil

I just read a quote from Albert Einstein. "A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future." I'm not sure I agree with that statement. It's not that I think a happy person wouldn't be satisfied with the present -- that part of the statement is obvious -- but I don't think being happy with the now would preclude thinking about the future. Especially since I know that someone who is depressed doesn't think much about the future either. In fact, part of depression is a hopelessness about the future, and so one thinks about it as little as possible, searching instead for something to alleviate the sadness right now. Part of being happy with oneself and one's situation is having a plan for the future -- something that implies knowing one's path and purpose in life, which a depressed person certainly doesn't.

Perhaps Einstein just meant that a happy person isn't going to let worries about the future detract from enjoying the present. A nice idea that taken to extremes means an aimless wandering through life with no achievements, no aspirations or accomplishments. How do you find a middle ground in that? How can you make your life meaningful, knowing you've done something important with it and still be content enough with yourself and situation to enjoy the now without worrying about the future?

Yes, I know, my "all or nothing / black or white" mentality is showing. My biggest problem is that I understand things in black and white but all there really is out there are shades of gray which means I don't understand anything. This whole searching for happiness thing really sucks. Is it the journey? The destination? What's the point of the journey without the destination? That whole school of thought has never made sense to me. And then there's the "happiness is not something you find, it's something you are" school of thought which also ticks me off, because when I try to just BE happy, something in my life suffers and causes me more heartache and self recriminations down the road. In fact, almost everything I do to just be-happy-in-the-moment comes at the expense of some long term goals.

I have a picture on my wall captioned "It's sad when we give up the things we want the most for the things we want right now." I've tried to remember that when I want to do something stupid like eat a whole bunch of bad for me food, or put off doing work that needs to get done. But living like that puts me in a state of constant resentment. How can I find contentment with living in the now while doing the things I need to do instead of the things I want to do?

Hmph. Rhetorical question, by the way. This is just stuff that's been on my mind lately, trying to find a balance.