Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Searching for Serenity: The Beginning

I’m sitting on my patio, lemonade in hand, watching my new waterfall fountain, a mother’s day gift, pouring steady streams of water into the basin below. On my left, our hammock swings gracefully between two trees. The air is filled with peaceful silence interrupted only by the chirping of birds and the steady trickle of the fountain. Yet, somehow, among all of this beauty surrounding a home and a life beyond my wildest dreams, I am troubled.

I should start at the beginning. I have always led a stressful life. I was a straight A student all the way through grad school. Then I was planning a wedding; then I switched jobs; then I got pregnant; then I quit my job against my better financial judgment; then our family started to outgrow our tiny house. I always believed my stress was warranted, my worries were real. I was plagued by terrifying “What if’s,” many of which were neither foreseeable nor preventable.

Beginning exactly one year ago, a series of amazing blessings propelled me into the life of my dreams. Matt was promoted to a job that would allow me to stay home indefinitely and six months later we bought our dream house. Finally, all of my problems are solved, I told myself, and I truly believed it. A month after the move, I sat alone on my couch staring across the room at our stone fireplace with tears soaking the front of my shirt.  All of the worry, doubt, and anxiety had followed me right into my new life, and a whole new set of “what if’s” forced their way into my daily thoughts. My mind instantly entered guilt mode, “How can I not be happy with all of this? Am I really that ungrateful? Don’t I realize how blessed I am?”  Once I realized that a verbal self-beating wasn’t going to help me, I pulled myself together and resolved to find the root of my sadness.

Over the next few weeks, I came to a troubling conclusion. I imagine it is the same conclusion reached by those who find themselves in an endless series of bad relationships: It’s me. My worries were never about the external circumstances in my life. Rather, they were generated from an unsettled place deep inside me, and my ability to calm them relied not on solving my problems but on tapping into the internal sense of peace that calms the storm regardless of the problems in its wake.

Possibly the most bothersome aspect of my plight is that the concept of internal peace is not new to me (although the pursuit of it certainly is). I’m familiar with all the famous quotes about how money can’t buy happiness and moments that take your breath away. Live, Laugh, Love, right? For some reason, though, I always thought my situation was an exception. I believed peace was waiting right around the corner if only I could reach this goal, solve that problem, survive this busy week. It wasn’t until I had it all on the outside that I realized how much was missing on the inside. That’s what I should have been pursuing the whole time. Imagine my devastation as I thought back on all the years of my life that weren’t enjoyed to their fullest because I was plagued by worry, doubt, and a million what-if’s that never came to fruition.

Although it has taken me a long time to give my problem a name and a voice, I am now in the beginning stages of what I believe will be a life-changing journey. If you are bothered by worry, doubt, or anxiety; if you feel lost in your life and confused about your purpose; if your faith has been shaken by your inability to find true peace; then I invite you to join me. I don’t know that I will find definitive answers to all of those uncertainties, but I’m determined to try.

Today, as I sit on my patio and sip my lemonade, I am still troubled but I am filled with a new hope. I still worry and my anxieties still take over more than I would like to admit, but I am slowly working to change the way I process their presence. Each day is a miniature journey toward the ultimate goal – complete peace and serenity despite the many uncertainties of life. Many people say it isn’t possible. I say, let’s see.

Look for future posts titled “Searching for Serenity” for updates on the realizations, challenges, and discoveries that come my way as I work to grow a more positive mind and create a more peaceful life.

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