October is upon us, friends! It’s hard to believe we’re rolling down the backside of yet another year and gaining momentum with a terrifying quickness.
Every year time seems to pass faster and faster until it all has become a colorful blur. One minute you’re staring at your 4-year-old daughter throwing a red-faced tantrum in Walmart wondering how you are ever going to survive her, and the next minute you are looking at your daughter in the rearview mirror as you drive away from her new college dorm wondering how you are going to survive without her. It kind of leaves your head spinning.
When I was a youngster, I never understood ‘old’ folks (by which I mean people of my current age) when they rattled on and on about how fast the years speed by. After all, it seemed like it took forever and a day just to get to grandma’s house (which my parents swore was only a hop, skip, and a jump down the road). But now? Boy howdy do I get it. Time disappears faster than a cob of corn in a pen full of hungry hens! Ya’ll, that’s fast.
Speaking of which . . .
Most of you know I have chickens. Well, okay. All of you know now, because I just told you! Chickens are a funny lot. It just so happens that I threw out a couple of cobs of corn to the girls the other day. How fortuitous, right? When I tossed out that first cob, they ran, waddled, and flapped across the yard as fast as their scrawny little chicken legs could carry them to get to it. Dogpile? Heck no! Canines don’t have anything on chickens. This was writhing, feather-flying, squawking, velociraptor swarm- a chickenpile!
Now I have a dirty little secret to share. It tickles me to no end to make them work those skinny little legs for their snacks. I mean, I don’t care who you are…watching chickens run? That there’s funny stuff!
That’s why I lobbed the second cob in a totally different direction with all my might. Nevermind that they still had a big, fat, juicy cob bursting with kernels already right there in front of them, they all took off after that second cob like thoroughbreds out of the starting gate…
You guessed it! Chickenpile.
All except one, that is. One little red hen hadn’t followed the fickle flock. Instead she had stayed behind as the others rushed off en masse to the next momentary morsel. Probably because she’s older than them. Perhaps there’s wisdom in age after all. That pretty much makes me a genius! Or because she’s simply too tired to run…which is also fairly representative of my lot in life about now. Anyway, as her reward she stood alone with an entire cob to herself, pecking away at her leisure while the other 48 squakin’, flappin’, sassin’ girls all crowded around the other cob squabbling and vying for a single kernel.
That’s when I did the dirtiest deed of all. We’ll call it…an experiment. I picked up a soggy tennis ball lying in the grass at my feet and tossed it in a third direction. Do you want to guess what happened? They all left the second cob and ran full speed towards the ball. Except the red hen, that is, who continued to peck contentedly at cob numero uno.
Here’s the thing about chickens. They always think the next thing you throw across the yard is far superior to what they already have, even if they’re munching on a big, juicy apple and you chunk a boring old, inedible stick. They are so worried about what the other chickens have – that the next thing might be better than the thing already sitting in front of them – that they can’t ever just be happy and enjoy what they already have. They spend so much time chasing tennis balls that they miss out on the rewards of the moment.
You know, I reckon people are an awful lot like chickens.
When I look around, it oftentimes feels like we’re all chasing soggy tennis balls instead of making sure we enjoy the juicy little kernels of joy sitting right there in front of us! There’s a lot of nexts in life, and they can quickly overwhelm our senses and convince us that our happiness lies somewhere ‘over there’ on the other side of the next. The next car, the next house, the next baby, the next reunion, the next upgrade, the next type rating, the next airline. I think you know what I’m talking about.
We become so focused on the could-be that we neglect to recognize the great beauty in the what-is. “Surely my elusive happiness is hiding right behind ‘the next’.” I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
The only thing hiding behind the next…is the next next. That’s the truth. If we don’t recognize our human propensity to chase soggy tennis balls instead of enjoying the fruits of the moment, happiness will continue to be a dissipating mist that always lies somewhere just out of our reach. It’s easy to look at those silly chickens and recognize how utterly ridiculous they are while simultaneously overlooking the same behavior in ourselves!
Two things of note: Firstly, I am not saying that we should sink our roots in deep where ever we get tossed and never move again. Of course not! It’s healthy and smart to prayerfully consider the paths that lie ahead and plan for the future. But running blindly after every moving target is folly. Secondly, learning to seek out the joy and find contentment where we are instead of staking our happiness on ‘the next’ is contrary to our human nature and hard. It takes intentionality and constant self redirection to accomplish, but it is a skill well worth learning.
There’s no magic corncob wand with a chicken feather core that I can wave to magically refocus your joy lens from the next to the now. If I could, I would because I desperately want you to live your absolute best life! However, there are a few things you can do to help shift perspectives.
1. Define your ‘the next’? Take a little time for introspection and figure out what you are inadvertently using as a happiness crutch and why. This recognition will help you determine what cobs (or soggy balls) you are chasing and why they are so alluring to you.
2. Assign your blessings. Get out the ol’ ink and feather quill (a pen from ye olde Holiday Inn will work in a pinch) and make a list of all the amazing, wonderful, golden kernels of beauty sitting on the cob right in front of you. The list is vast! Don’t limit yourself to the huge things. The breath that fills your lungs. CHECK! Food in your belly. CHECK! A flower blooming in your garden, laughter from the next room, a husband that works hard. Check, check, CHECK! If you list everything you have to be thankful for, you will run out of ink before you run out of blessings. Don’t worry! He’ll bring you another hotel pen or six from his next trip. Use it up.
3. Refine your flock. When one of my hens takes off running towards a the next ‘better’ thing, they all take off running. They are wired to desire what everyone else has. It’s flock mentality. After all, birds of a feather stick together. We humans are just as guilty of it as my chickens, yet we’re supposed to be the superior species (I’m still debating that). When we align ourselves with other bitter, discontent, complainy people, we will inevitably react to life the same way. If we align ourselves with happy, positive, content people….ditto. Choose the people, social media, blogs, groups, and other company you keep in your flock very carefully. You will chase their cobs, for better or worse, whether you realize it or not.
Gratitude is the seed from which contentment grows.~Angelia Griffin
4. Incline your thoughts – towards contentment, that is! Gratitude is the seed from which contentment grows. Trend the first thoughts you have in the morning and the last ones you have at night towards gratitude. Whether you do it during your daily prayers (for those of you who pray) or you just take a moment before rising or sleeping, take an intentional minute to list 10 things for which you are thankful. If you feel your heart trending towards negativity during the day, stop and do it again. Place snippets of inspiration or reminders to appreciate the kernels right in front of you on your fridge, in your car, at your desk, or anywhere else that you will see them and be reminded. You get to choose the trajectory of your mental thought life. When you fill your cup to the brim with joy, it doesn’t leave any room for that other stuff.
‘The next’ is a constantly shifting mist that dissipates at our fingertips. It is a mirage destined to disappoint. Constantly chasing soggy tennis balls will ultimately leave you empty and exhausted. I know from experience! Friends, I want you to live your best life now. My hope and prayer for you today is that you will stop pinning your happiness on the next and find contentment in the now…right where you are.
The past is gone and the future is not a promise. All we have for certain is this moment. Make it count.
I love you, aviation family.
Angelia (a fellow Pilot Wife)