This question was posed to me not long ago. A simple straightforward question, all of four words. Yet, the question is unduly complex for there are multiple factors that contribute to an honest answer.
Before I embarked on this current journey my immediate response to this question was no, I am not enjoying life. My own resistance to enjoying it was the reason for my answer. In moments which I am more present I do enjoy life, but perhaps not thoroughly. However, when I reflected then on the whole of my life I ended up questioning its enjoyment. Likely this is because the elements I constructed to define the proverbial “good life” hadn’t met expectations. Those elements being more heavily influenced by societal values than by my own inward contemplation and need.
I desire better health, improved finances, engagement in meaningful work, and to create new life experiences each day. It is not unreasonable to say the culture we’ve allowed to proliferate prefers I be in poor health, in debt, work 9-5 producing consumable items which have little impact, and leave the creating of life experiences to two weeks a year or confined to the weekend. I was not enjoying life as a whole because I was neither living by my innate design nor by the blueprint society wishes me to follow. I’ve blindly lived much of my life with one foot on each path; one with greener grass but more difficult terrain, the other dulled by conformity but easier by default.
I sit now, and ask myself questions. Am I enjoying the coffee I’m drinking? Am I enjoying the process of writing this post? Did I enjoy the run through mountain trails yesterday, despite the suffering — or because of it? Did I enjoy simply sitting in the van last evening reading a book? Yes. To each question the answer is yes. Why then, when I placed these individual moments into a whole, and defined them as the entirety of life, did I feel as though I was not enjoying it?
On the surface level the answer is as simplistic as the question. One word — guilt. However, that simple word holds much complexity, hijacks happiness and derails purpose. There is a dual, competing guilt within me which dictates that I do not deserve to enjoy life. This belief continues to kick me off the chosen path and back onto the one of conformity, the path of dictated values and expectations. I should not enjoy life because I haven’t that right, I haven’t earned that privilege. It’s selfishness. I don’t deserve to enjoy because others can’t. Why should I enjoy life when others in developing countries and within our own privileged society do not enjoy life because they haven’t the option? They are homeless, ill, poverty stricken, addicted, or lacking control over their circumstances. Then surfaces the guilt of not enjoying life. I am not homeless, ill, poor, addicted, nor do I live in an environment that restricts my choices. My guilt over not deserving to enjoy life splits time with guilty feelings of not enjoying it.
“You don’t deserve to enjoy it, others are suffering and less privileged. You must suffer as well.”
“How dare you, enjoy life!”
To resolve the internal dialog and reside in a space where I can answer the original question with an emphatic yes I need to delve into my obstacles. If in the isolated experiences I believe I am enjoying life, then what are the beliefs that distorted my view? That still distort my view. I’ve identified the mindset which believes I don’t deserve to enjoy, which manifests as guilt. While that is likely the predominant factor, other contributors certainly impact my life enjoyment.
What gets in the way of my wholly enjoying life:
- mindset (perception)
- health / injury (real)
- finances (perception)
- meaningful contribution (perception/real)
- food choices / body image (real/perception)
Next week I’ll dig into these factors more deeply. In the meantime I’ll leave you with some possible actionables which I’ll be considering over the coming week.
- Make a list of the things you enjoy.
- Make a list of what may be blocking life enjoyment.
- Create a plan that prioritizes your life around the enjoyable and takes action toward eliminating the blockage.