I have always been a planner—always looked to the future for fulfillment.
As a child, playing house was the game of choice, and if I wasn’t playing house, I was playing school. I longed to be an adult—I would have it all then. At least, that was how my sketchbook made me feel—a notebook filled with floor plans and Pottery Barn clippings—a perfect home for a perfect life (and even then, I was just in middle school).
In high school, I remember coming to school on the first day of sophomore year with one goal: perfection. (Do we have any doubts now that I’m a One on the Enneagram?) To me, perfection didn’t necessarily mean that I wouldn’t make mistakes (though there wasn’t much room for error). Instead, it mean I was organized, I was confident, I was mature. Perhaps I got all of these ideas from my Martha Stewart Living subscription. (This would also explain why I asked for bath towels that year at Christmas.)
I didn’t obtain perfection that sixteenth year, sadly, nor did I throughout the rest of high school. (In fact, I came out a little more broken-hearted than perfection might allow.) But that was okay. I was going off to college, finally on my own. Surely this would be the time when I would finally arrive. Surely then I would feel happy, fulfilled, whole.
That was nearly ten years ago, and still, with each new start, the hope is there—perhaps this is when I’ll finally arrive. (Is it any wonder that I’ve moved so many times and been so many places over that period of time?) Even though I have enough awareness now to recognize this longing—its impossibility to be met and its ability to keep me in a state of lack—the question still remains: when will I ever arrive?
Still today, this longing finds its way into my routine, my home, my relationships, and especially my work. These days, it is my husband who gets to experience the reverberation of this longing and feeling of coming up short, whether it’s seasons of self-doubt, expressions of resignation, or bursts of obsessive striving. For the first time, someone is regularly witnessing and experiencing at least a part of what I feel on a daily basis.
Perhaps this is why what he said to me a few weeks ago as we ate breakfast one morning created such a shift in me.
“Maybe you’ll never arrive like you want to,” he said with conviction as he put his fork down and leaned forward on the table.
I slumped with sadness in my chair, his suggestion weighing me down heavily with its truth. So much of my identity was tied with this longing, and to name it as false and begin to release it would mean to release a part of myself, too. But I knew something had to change. Over and over, for years on end, I’ve had the same longing—hidden or not. And over and over, for years on end, I’ve expected different results—to finally, once and for all arrive.
After a few moments, I suddenly sat erect in my chair, an Aha! moment breathing new life within.
“What if arriving isn’t about achieving success as our culture makes it out to be,” I offered, slowly and with a glint of excitement in my eye, “but instead about arriving in the moment? What if arriving isn’t something we strive for in the future but something we choose in the present?”
With his smile telling me that I was onto something, I then went on with the rapid speed that matched my newfound energy. My hands joined in with enthusiasm as I went on to talk about Eckhart Tolle or someone-or-another who said that the future doesn’t exist and the past no longer exists and the only time that truly exists is the present and doesn’t this all suddenly make sense?!?!?!
Whew. I know.
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that even though in that moment I would have taken my new message to the streets and held a revival, my longing to arrive hasn’t gone away. (After all, perhaps I’ve finally arrived at the answer, right?) It still creeps in daily—sometimes even by the hour—in moments of self-doubt and chaos.
But my Aha! moment hasn’t left me either. Instead, it’s invited me to a new way of being and a new spiritual practice. Now when I get caught in those feelings of lack, I do my best to return and to remember—return to the present moment and remember that by returning to the present I have arrived to the only moment where I can receive peace and fulfillment and connect with my true self and the Divine.
How can you practice arriving today?