When The American Dream Becomes The American Nightmare

Two little things I’m grateful for every day.

Just finished a long phone conversation with my youngest sister, the kind where you talk about life on the grand scale, where you are, who you’ve become, and why. I like to have conversations like that every once in a while, a little come-to-Jesus meeting with myself where I take a good hard look at my life and figure out where I’m at. My sister is a person for whom “bored” is a four-letter word. On some level, I think she’s unintentionally sought out drama in her life because she simply doesn’t know how to live with dull, humdrum, it-is-what-it-is life. But, that is the stuff life is made of. Life is not always parades and fireworks. Sometimes it’s leftovers and dirty diapers.

I think that we Americans truly mess ourselves up with an unrelenting focus on the fabled “American Dream.” We’ve come to believe we’re entitled to life in the highest order. We expect that we will be able to have it all. It’s a tall tale. You can’t have it all. There’s not room in life for it all. It’s like trying to cup running water in your hands; you can only hold so much and what you don’t have room for will fall away. Most people on this planet pass quietly through their lives, and their names don’t go down in history’s annals like DaVinci or Aristotle. Most people touch only the lives around them. That’s it. Somewhere along the line that stopped being good enough. It’s too bad.

We should have dreams and plans. We should pursue them. But, we should also accept that life is beautiful even without parades and fireworks. We’ve lost the ability to treasure the little things because we’re waiting for the next big thing. When was the last time you sat down in a forest and paused to hear the wind in the trees and to smell the pines? When was the last time you watched a ladybug in your hand and wondered at it and appreciated its small life? When was the last time you stopped thinking about what you were missing out on and honestly marveled at how much you have? I think, for most of us, it’s been far too long since we last took the opportunity to be grateful for the down times. What we’re missing in our run-around, 24/7 active lives is the peace that comes from being still and not asking anything from life, but simply existing momentarily in it without demands.

The happiest people in this world aren’t the ones who have it all. They’re the ones who are sincerely happy with what they have. When we keep looking for the next big thing, we’re missing the myriad little ones that are given to us daily…the parking spot close to the store on a snowy day, the first cup of coffee of the day that someone else pours for us, the unexpected hug. It’s only when you stop expecting big things to fulfill you that you can let the little things that have always been there fill you up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s