There’s been a running joke lately with my family and some of my friends that I talk to about my Sunday walk. It seems as though over the last couple of months the weather on Sunday has never been great. I’ve had to walk through snow, wind, rain, and dreary cloud cover, with not a Sunday in recent memory with sunshine or blue skies. These last couple of weeks when Sunday would roll around and the weather would inevitably not be ideal, I’d make jokes about the awful weather to them then and just put my headphones on, go for the walk, all just hoping the next week would bring good weather. There was this mindset in my head to just endure the weekly walk with bad weather and then I’ll wait to actually enjoy it once the weather gets better. Obviously it’s much more enjoyable to walk during beautiful weather. It’s more comfortable, my spirits are higher, and I feel my entire attitude is lifted. And even though I always joked about it, it really wasn’t until my last walk, when it randomly snowed on the last day in March, that I realized just how much I let this affect my overall happiness toward what should be a relaxing walk. Now I know the weather on a walk isn’t actually anything to get upset about, but the real point is, in life, there are going to be stretches where the weather won’t be great. Maybe its days or even months where you feel there is just this constant cloud over you and its affecting your ability to just enjoy that day. When you’re in those stretches, it’s easy to just try to make it through every cloudy/stormy day and wait until the sun is finally shining to feel happy again.
Usually at some point on my walk I’ll listen to the weekly podcast by Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church. On one of his sermons, he talks a lot about the path to happiness and the path to peace. He denotes one of the most common reasons he sees for people struggling is this idea that happiness or peace means that there must be an absence of struggle/pain. When he talks with so many struggling members of the church, he says he commonly gets a response like “I just need to get through this period of time and then I’ll be good”. Or, “Once I get this new job, graduate college, move to a new city, find a spouse, etc. etc.. then I will be happy”. As if they’ve already written off the idea of happiness in their current situation because the weather isn’t clear in their life.
How many of you are in that period of your life right now? Maybe it’s working through depression and anxiety or maybe it’s just your current situation with life. Whether that be a relationship, a job, school, sickness, or whatever else. Maybe you just feel lost on your current path and are waiting for something to change to get you back on the right course. When my anxiety starting getting bad in college, I was out with a concussion at the time. I remember just telling myself, “Once I get healthy, get back to playing, this’ll all go away and I’ll be okay again”. Then I got back to playing, football ended, and nothing changed. Then I remember just saying, “Once I find a job and figure out what I am going to do after college, then I’ll be okay again and be able to breathe”. I finally found a job… nothing changed. I remember one night that Spring walking up and down the football field late one night just telling myself, “Just get through this last month at school, get back home and start your job, then this’ll get better”. And it did. For a short time. And then all the mental health issues just came right back until I finally decided to do something about it.
Looking back on these days, how much did I miss out on during that time? It was almost as if I was just living my life on auto-pilot waiting for that next beautiful Sunday sunset walk. Sometimes life is challenging. And people struggle. But I encourage you, as tough as the struggle may be, to not allow those cloudy days to keep you from living everyday. Because it can be easy to look at your life or your current situation, see the rain cloud hovering over you, and just write off that day as a potential of/toward happiness. When the struggle gets tough, we can get so caught up in this daily routine of just trying to “make it through” each day, that somewhere a long the way we forget to just live.
I’ve talked about my road trip I took after college in a previous post and in between national parks we would have to drive hours to get to the next one. Usually after a day of hiking or an early morning wake-up, if you asked me before we left on the drive if I would just rather sleep and wake up at the next place, I probably would have always said yes. It would have been a lot easier and more comfortable for us to just cruise along, one of us sleeping during the rides in between, and then just enjoy the parks. But we never just did that. (Alright fine, we both took turns sleeping when we drove through the night from Phoenix to San Fran, but that was out of safety, but besides that..) We always both stayed awake, blasting music, singing, talking about life for hours until our next destination. And looking back on it, obviously the hikes and the parks were unbelievable, but some of my best memories and happiest moments of my life came on those car rides. It would be easy to complain or to just think on these long car rides, in a hot car with no A/C for hours, we wouldn’t have been able to find that happiness or peace in our lives. That it was mostly just going to come at our next destination. At our next park. On our next beautiful Sunday. If we just allowed one of us to sleep, the other just driving on cruise control, we would have missed out on so many amazing memories that brought so much happiness before we even got to where we wanted to go. And I know that a drive between national parks doesn’t compare to the struggles that you may be going through right now, but I think so many of us have this feeling that, during this struggle, there’s no way to find happiness or peace in our daily lives. That it’ll come once we get to the next point.
I know there may be some people reading this and thinking, “It’s easy for you to write this message because you don’t know what I am going through”. And it’s true. It’s what makes writing these blogs so difficult because I know that so many people reading this have it 1000 times worse than I ever will. I really want to make clear that I know that the weather on my walk or a car ride between hikes are both very minor inconveniences, but these are merely the events in my life that help give me insight into deeper meanings. The goal of these blogs is to try to hopefully inspire you or instill hope in you. Because I know there is someone out there that may feel like they’ve been struggling for so long and really needs to grab onto some sense of hope to keep fighting. And maybe that’s you reading this now. And maybe through no fault of your own, you’re in an incredibly difficult situation right now. It’s not fair. And you have every right to be mad or upset or angry with the world that some of these things are happening in your life. I, and I’m sure your family/friends, would love to take all of this struggle away from you if we could. But the unfortunate thing is that there are some things that we just can’t control. As unfair or difficult your struggle may seem, the unfortunate truth is that you’re in it. Charles Swindoll says that he is, “convinced that life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. So in the midst of all the struggle, all the heartbreak, all the depression/anxiety, all the confusion, how do you make the most of today? It can be scary or hopeless feeling lost on this path hoping that something will come along to knock you back on course. But even in those dark moments. Even in those hopeless places on your path. I truly believe that somehow, someway, there’s a way to find happiness, or strive toward it, every day.
Life’s too short to go through the motions and wait for something. Life’s too short to just put yourself on cruise control and hope for something to change. And when I say don’t put yourself on cruise control, I don’t mean to work extra hours, change jobs, or not to relax. I mean to allow yourself to just live everyday and try to find the piece of happiness in each one. Because I’m not saying that these destinations won’t bring a sense of happiness for you when you get there. That the parks/hikes won’t be unbelieveable. But it’s finding your happiness on a daily basis along the journey that will make those destinations that much better. Sometimes when the journey ahead is so daunting, we can just put ourselves on cruise control, hoping that we don’t crash before we get there. It can be difficult to allow yourself to think that things can change and that you can find that happiness today. Maybe you think reaching out is a sign of weakness or that your struggle is hopeless. But I’m here to tell you that it is one of the most courageous things you can do and to try to encourage you to keep fighting every day. I’m not saying you have to be the one always driving the car along the way. Just don’t put yourself on cruise control. Let a friend drive for you. Let your family drive a part of the way. Sit in the passenger seat. Grab the aux, blast some music, and try to enjoy every step of the way starting right now.