When I was a young mother, I lived in England for three years. I stayed home with my kids and spent most of my time taking care of the family and our home. One of my favorite pastimes was gardening in the backyard — which in England they call the garden.
We moved into a very small rental unit with bedrooms the size of bathrooms in the U.S. Each of my two young sons had their own room, and I was pregnant with our third son and nesting, preparing for his arrival. I painted his room, built him a cradle….prepared for our expanding family.
Our home in Bicester, UK
The garden was in shambles and had not been cared for in years. Over the months, I cleaned it up, planted flowers, moved the shed to the back and made it a beautiful place to sit and have coffee in the morning. In England, it seemed like anything I put in the ground grew like crazy. It was a beautiful collection of roses, butterfly bushes, grape vines — an extraordinary view. But it rained a lot in England. It seemed like the only memory I have is looking out through that back window of my living room with raindrops running down the panes of glass. I didn’t get to take advantage of the beauty as often as I would have liked.
Then when we moved back to the US we moved to Phoenix. It seemed like a stark place. There were no flowers in our yard, there was barely even grass. The only thing I was able to grow in the front yard was Nasturtiums. They were beautiful and easy to maintain but they grew in the only place where we had shade in the front yard. In Arizona, we were outside a lot. Imagine moving from a rainy climate to one where there were no clouds or rain. I was so happy to have the sun shining on my face. But my garden, no matter how hard I tried it just looked dead all year round.
The garden in Bicester, UK
When I look back at that time in my life I was unhappy a lot. I felt very isolated living abroad and on my own raising three young boys. My writing career was on its way and I was successful but still so unhappy with my life. I look back at those times and wonder why I wasn’t able to just live in the moment and take the best from my surroundings. What was it inside of me that perpetually found my life so unfulfilled? Successful mother, writer, gardener (well ok, in England I was), wife….for many people it seemed like I had a wonderful life. But inside something was missing.
Now I know why I was so unhappy. My life was about constantly looking forward. What would tomorrow bring? Where could I publish another article? How can I better help my children in school? When would I go back to work? All these burning questions about what was in my future. Yet I never stopped to really just live in that moment.
I have pictures of the garden in England — beautiful pictures of what I created, the life I lived while we were there. All I see now is the beauty I was able to create. I see the beauty in the rain and in the sun, in flowers and in the desert. While I know I cannot go back to those times to fully live in those moments, I can cherish the good memories. I have learned to balance my life. Seek wonderful adventures and new things, but stop and enjoy what I have right now this moment.
For a variety of reasons, many people become depressed and feel unhappy. Whether it is the weather or going to work every day in a job we don’t like, the reality is we struggle. I want to challenge you to find the good in today. If you are constantly looking forward to what you want in life and your career — you are missing some very incredible things that are happening now. January is the month of the year where we set lofty goals of things that we will commit to this year, and by mid or late January most of us will lose focus on those goals. Truth is, every month, every day — we should be making commitments to focus on things that help us improve, learn, be healthy, and connect with our world.
I took the month of December off to paint my house and put in new flooring. It is a long project and I’m not sure that it will be finished anytime soon. But when I rest my eyes now in my bed at night I look at the place I have created, my home — I seek to enjoy every moment. I don’t have the prettiest garden on the block and I don’t even have grass anymore with the drought here in California. But I do have so many riches in my life every day. I want to recommit every day to enjoy now, this moment in my life.
Happiness is not about getting what you want — it is appreciating what you have.