Afraid of nothing

(title stolen from this beautiful song by Sharon Van Etten)

For a long time I was always looking forward. I have always been a planner, but a lot more of my headspace used to be taken up thinking about fun or exciting stuff coming up.

Weddings, Christmas, holidays, parties, a new dress. All the experiences or material things I used to spend time planning were really an imagined state of mind - I'll feel better in that moment, I won't have uncomfortable feelings like boredom or stress or anxiety. In reality of course, there is no way to cut out negative feelings or negative events from life, even during ostensibly fun or exciting moments.

I know from my own experience that it's very possible to amend ourselves, to grow and change for the better, but this doesn't mean that we won't ever feel sad or panicky or worried ever again. Wherever I go I have to take myself with me. The imagined future when I'm a superhuman version of myself, when all my feelings are easy and happy, doesn't exist.

But the more I start to enjoy the little things, tuning into when I feel content or happy, the more opportunities there seem to be for finding a more daily kind of happiness that isn't attached to a special day marked in the calendar. I still look forward to things that are likely to be lovely, but I attach less value to and invest less in them being the only times when I feel really content.

And the more I interrogate the hard stuff - anxiety or stress or sadness - the more I recognise that sometimes this stuff snowballs and becomes worse than it really is. If we get more connected to how we feel by sitting with and not raging against emotions, we can sometimes face things in a more philosophical way, and find a way out of the mire more quickly.

What have you got to look forward to, a friend of mine always asks after a fun social event or treat. It sounds facetious or overly optimistic if you can answer, umm life? But for a lot of us it's more true than we consider. Rather than empty striving for a future perfect, there is now.

It's not hard to practice. Notice how you feel right now, and try and keep that going for a few minutes or for a whole work meeting or bus ride or baby class. Feel any feelings without judgement.

Sometimes you might notice the smaller blessings and things to be grateful for, sometimes things feel very hard. It all counts. It's all you, learning to live now, knowing it's better like this.