Sometimes it feels like I have been chasing happiness my whole life. Like I have everything figured out in my head and if only I can attain whatever the-goal-of-the-day is, then I will finally be happy— consistently happy. More money. A new job. A bigger house. A man who loves me for me. I am in a constant state of longing for or dreaming of – always focused on how life can and should get better. For a long time, too, I embraced that about myself. I am a romantic and a dreamer. I would grow annoyed when others would suggest I stop switching jobs (always looking for better) every two years or that I practice things like acceptance. “That is just who I am and I love that about me,” I would say—and I meant it.
This time last week, I was swimming in the ocean with my 3 kids. We were jumping over waves, riding on Boogie Boards and simply enjoying each other’s company. Our days were filled with fun and there were no thoughts of tomorrow or yesterday. During a surfing lesson, Nora offered me a turn on her board. Who me? Surfing? Don’t get me wrong, it is something I have always wanted to try, but the mom in me gets nervous and quickly says no in the face of fear. But this time, I said yes. I decided to let go of the fears (which were more about my son drowning while I was surfing the big Kahuna than getting hurt myself) and I said, hell, yes, I want a turn! It took me several tries to get up on the board and officially ride a wave, but guess what? I did it! And I felt young, free and athletic.
I was happy.
I quickly recognized that for the first time in a long time, my mind was still: fully present and not chasing a goddamn thing, except maybe waves. Did it help that I was vacationing stress-free at the recently renovated Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island? Yes, of course it did. When you are surrounded by beautiful beaches, luxury pools and palm trees, it’s easy to breathe. When the normal duties of motherhood like cooking and cleaning are off your plate, it’s easy to relax. When you’re kids are their best selves having the vacation of their lives, it’s easy to smile. And when you’re standing on a surf board gliding over a wave, it’s easy to stay in the moment. In other words, it was a dream vacation. It made staying in the moment easy. And it made me very happy.
But this dream vacation did more than that. It gave me something that would last more than a week, something much greater, a valuable lesson to incorporate into my daily life. It taught me that maybe, just maybe, it’s time that I stop chasing dreams. And isn’t that ironic?
While on this beautiful island, I finally knew—because I felt it deep in my soul—that all of my dreaming and romanticizing and all of my longing-for, was preventing me from living in the moment. I realized that I have been so accustomed to living in the future that I miss out on the blessings I have today, which are often the things I only dreamed of having years ago. I realized that chasing happy is exhausting, and that I don’t want to chase it anymore. I don’t want a man or a job or a home or even a vacation to be the end goal. I want the end goal to be today. A mindset. A way of life. A consistent choice to be in the moment regardless of what is going on around me.
The truth is, though, that I do consider myself to be a dreamer and I don’t want to give that up entirely. What my vacation at The Ritz-Carlton (itself a dream come true) taught me is that dreaming and chasing dreams are two different things. Dreaming feels inspiring. Chasing is exhausting. And I don’t want to chase anymore.
When you surf, you don’t chase waves. You patiently wait for them. And when the right wave comes at the right time, you simply become part of it and ride it, for as long as you possibly can. That is how I want to live— patiently and happily waiting for the next wave. In between waves, I just want to be… to experience, enjoy and follow where life takes me, open to the next, actual experience rather than chasing a dream one. As I learned from this recent vacation, with a little help from Kyle, the best surf instructor you could ask for, when you stay open to life your come-true dreams may be even better than you imagined.