Reading the book makes me excited to get started helping people to help themselves. I stumbled upon this quote today…“As long as we continue to look for ways to have a fulfilling life, we are likely to be temporarily filled and constantly hungry.”
It reminded me of how I felt most of last year after I’d decided it was time for me to leave my job. I’d made the decision. I was mentally…emotionally…financially preparing for my retirement but I was still very much physically living in my old life.
Each day was a constant conflict…a paradox of old habits pushing against a new way of thinking. Old thoughts contrasting with new feelings. As the battle raged within, I attempted to fill the void with “things”. I was searching for happiness…for momentary pleasure…for relief…from living a life that was no longer true to me.
And it wasn’t just the job that was no longer providing fulfillment. There was the unconscious realization that I was carrying on a relationship that had no future…despite the desperate grasping to hold onto something utterly unhealthy…something completely contrary to the yogic philosophies I valued. I was quickly becoming aware that I was actually just a shell of the person I had worked so hard to become.
As a result of all that emptiness, I shopped…a lot. So much in fact, I got a special invitation to a private shopping event for my birthday from Anthropology…my guilty pleasure. On an almost daily basis, I’d crawl through the web site. Searching for happiness in a new dress…joy in a new pair of pants…peace in a new shirt…and I’d momentarily find it when the package would arrive. Usually one or two per week would be waiting when I arrived home in between my work travels.
I’d rip into the package…try on the new clothes…feel pretty…experience a brief euphoria. Eventually I’d remember that despite how I looked on the outside…no matter how fashionable or put together…that I was empty on the inside. I don’t think I’ve ever looked as good as those months that I was teetering on the edge…swan diving to my rock bottom…drowning in misery and chaos. I felt awful but damn it, I looked gooooooooood.
I began to worry about the habit I’d created…shopping in search of happiness. Leaving my job…retiring from my career…was about changing my life. It was about having the time to find happiness within. It was about living a more present…connected…genuine life. But there was Anthropology…and so many new clothes to buy…I began to fear that I wouldn’t be able to control the shopping habit I’d created.
I’m thrilled to report that my need to shop…the need to be fulfilled externally…nearly evaporated after retiring. Don’t get me wrong…I still like to look…and I shop on occasion. But I don’t have to shop. In fact, there have been many times when I’ve seen something adorable and wanted it….and that feeling has immediately been followed by the question of whether I needed it and what purpose it would serve. Typically the answer resulted in my closing my browser and moving on to something more meaningful…purposeful…conscious.
For the first time in months I went shopping the other day. It was for yoga pants…something I needed given the amount of working out I do and the anticipation of teaching more. It was a practical purchase to contribute to the direction I’m taking my life….to how I fill up my soul…to compliment my inner quest to follow my path. It was no longer a diversion to offer temporary satisfaction. It was a practical action to support me in my quest.
Perhaps the book stated it best….“Fulfillment is an exercise of choice and not something that will happen someday.”
I am very much living a fulfilled life…making healthy choices…every day.