I grew up directly on the inracoastal waterway. A 3,000 mile waterway along the East coast of the United States. Some sections are artificial, while others are speckled with natural inlets, sounds, bays and saltwater rivers. I could throw a rock to it from a rocking chair on my back porch.
As a child, I treasured watching the variety of boats pass, with dolphins in their wake. I ran to the water every time I heard it churn, in hopes to catch a glimpse of their majestic grey fins, dancing atop the trailing waves of a vessel. When gentle manatees would leisurely float by, I would hurriedly throw a fresh water hose into the brackish water, to entice them to stop for a moment and quench their thirst.
My home faced west, displaying outrageous sunsets. Red, pink and purple would outline the clouds most evenings, mirrored in the tranquil water. Wild palms and twisting aged oak trees lined the edges of the canal. Ospreys and hawks hunted above, beneath the penetrating Florida sun.
Sounds like a small piece of paradise, right?
So at what point did I lose the ability to see the loveliness of my childhood backyard? I woke up one day feeling as if I were wearing black and white contact lenses, when before, the exact surroundings held the most radiant colors.
This is what happens to so many of us in life. We get used to something. We see it day in and day out, and it loses its beauty and appeal. But in actuality, it hardly changes at all.
This doesn’t just happen with a scenic view. It happens in multiple facets of life. Work, friendship, love, hobbies, you name it! What we once appreciated so dearly can turn into something we can simply live without.
When this occurs in relationships, whether it be family, friendship or love, we run the risk of losing another, by not holding onto that love and appreciation we had in the beginning.
So the big question is, how do we start seeing the beauty again? We know it still exists in our mind. But somehow, somewhere along the line, we just filed it away. How do we get it back?
Lets compare this to muscle memory with physical exercise. When something is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task. After a while, it just becomes second nature. So once we have built up that memory in our bodies, it never goes away. Think about riding a bike. You can go a decade without laying a finger on a bike. Then at any given point, you can jump on your beach cruiser for a cycle through the park without a problem.
Muscle memory works the same way in our minds. We may take a long break from the “memories”, but they are still there, and with a little practice, we can get right back to where we once were. So when we lose track of the beauty in what we have, we must go to that place in our brains, and open that file back up.
It sounds simple enough, but how do we actually go about doing this?
A good way to start is to ask yourself questions to stimulate positive memories of the subject. When it comes to my childhood backyard, eventually I took the time out, sat on my dock with my toes in the water, and thought about all of the happy memories I had there. I asked myself how it felt to dive into the warm water from the rooftop, the joy it brought me when I tried to rescue an injured manatee, how it made me smile to look at the deer across the water through binoculars, and so on. Eventually the colors seeped back into the view, and I realized how lucky I was to grow up surrounded by such a special environment.
We all get sick of our jobs. When we are hired or open a business, we are normally overcome with joy. We call all of our friends and family to brag about our most recent accomplishment. A year passes, or two, or ten, but inevitably, the job takes a turn for the worse. We lose that initial joy, and want more, more, and more. When this happens, ask yourself, how did it feel when you got hired or opened your business? How did it feel when you got your first promotion, bonus, or even pat on the back? How did it feel when you closed your first deal, or sold your first product? Go back to that, and bring it back into your daily thoughts.
You can do the same with relationships as well. A love relationship can get difficult. Mainly when you’ve been married 20 years, have 3 kids that are taking all of your time and energy, and you look at your partner as a stranger, or even an enemy. This is when you take the time to go back and remember what it felt like to kiss that person for the first time. Remember how it felt when they took care of you when you were sick, brought you flowers on an anniversary, or wiped your tears when you were sad. Those feelings are still imbedded in the muscle memory of your brain. Just repeat them, over and over, until the love comes back. It’s like riding a bike.
Ok, maybe a little harder, but you get my point.
I am no expert, and I definitely don’t have master’s degree in psychology, but I’ve been through the struggles of life, just as every
other human being, and I try to always find the beauty in what I have, even when I lose track of it for a long period of time.
So take the time, sit back, and think about what you do have. After all, life isn’t about having what you want, it’s about wanting what you have.