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Why Is It so Difficult to Find Happiness and Balance?

by Leigh Shulman Jan 12, 2010
Life on the road can be stressful, mainly because you never quite know what will happen next, but life in one place?

Turns out the switch between traveler and expat hit me much harder than I could have expected.
Now we have a lease on a house, Lila’s in school, and we have work. We are committed. In some ways, that’s really lovely, something I found myself dearly craving after so long without a place to call home.

Of course, I’ve been so busy trying to settle in, work, get the house cleaned and liveable, find my way around, meet people, and locate doctors for the family. I’m pulled in so many directions I don’t even know where to go first.

Then there’s my new job at Matador. It’s quite an amazing experience. I’m meeting creative, interesting people, honing my writing skills. I’m learning loads about search engine optimization, writing articles that bring big hits and producing (hopefully) quality pieces in short time. Matador has opened up my writing and teaching career in new wonderful ways. It’s also my first so-called real job since before Lila was born.

Thus my life feels like triage. I run from one line of my to-do list to the next, never quite paying complete attention to anything and never finding time to properly rest. Ironic, I think, given that what I write for Matador is all about finding balance and thriving when you’re not on vacation. On the job training, I suppose.

So Why Is This and What Can We Do?

As I’ve struggled with all this, I’ve come up with four different reasons why life balance — too often happiness as well — eludes us.

We’re searching for something missing in our lives.

This is how I felt when living in NYC. Not at first, mind you. The city challenged me, but after ten years there, I no longer enjoyed the choices I’d made for my life. I felt stuck, angry, uncomfortable. I just wanted to be free.

We spent the last three years searching and have since found ourselves in a wonderful new city, where the people are perhaps the kindest, most helpful and most decent I have ever met. My work is going well. Lila is happy with school and friends. Noah and I have new projects on the horizon, and all seems well.

I have everything I could want, so why so unhappy little bear?

We’re adjusting to something new.

I recently saw Facebook status update from Paulo Coelho saying: Change is part of life. Friction is part of change. Get used to it.

Yes, change is a part of life, and often the good, happy sort takes as much adjustment as the really hard painful kind. Perhaps the key is to simply, as Coelho suggests, accept it. Let it just exist and eventually, friction wears down to comfort again.

We Need Something New

So it stands to reason, that if change is a normal healthy part of life, if you’re not changing, you’re stagnating and thus will feel friction from that as well. Sort of can’t win on the happiness train, can you? Then again, it’s not really so much about winning as it is realizing that life is a cycle of constant movement.

This is different from my first point in that you can have everything you want in your life, nothing is missing, but you are searching for change. Many times, you simply need to shake things up before going back to your life as it was.

We Always Want More, More, More

You’re thinking of the future and past, what you used to have, what you hope to have. You look at your life, house, career, spouse and friends seeing what isn’t there, what could be, what used to be. Worst of all, when you turn this eye on yourself, the criticism will be the most harsh.

While happiness isn’t something we can expect to have every moment of every day of our lives, at times sadness is necessary, this sort of thinking will leave us permanently dissatisfied. Unless you break away from this cycle, you’ll never find those crucial moments of rest and happiness.

So Where Do I Go From Here?

I sit here at home typing with a gentle breeze blowing through the kitchen, birds of all ilk chirping and still I wonder to why I can’t shake this feeling. I don’t feel myself anymore.

Then I realize, perhaps it is not that I am somehow not myself. Instead, there is a part of me that will always remain off balance until I make the clear choice to shift my thinking.

“How?” you may wonder. Well, first step is recognizing why you feel the way you do. Then you can start making a change.

Community Connection

How do you practice finding balance and happiness? Discover some new tips for adjusting to life in a new home, or learn how some parents keep afloat in a busy world.

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