“I feel like you’re always waiting for something,” a high school boyfriend once told me, “and then you can be happy. But when that thing comes, you’re not happy, you’re just waiting for something else.”
Knowing me, I probably tried to argue with him.
I eventually forgot his comment, only to have it brought to the surface as I read Dr. Wes Crenshaw’s I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not. “You were born with a great fondness for Somewhere Else,” Crenshaw’s words called to me, “that glorious place, person, thing, or idea that’s anywhere but here.”
Nearly 15 years post-boyfriend, as a far more self-aware ADHD adult, the words felt stark, painful, and true.
This “great fondness for Somewhere Else” really is something we’re born with, though, isn’t it? In the struggle to be content, mindful, even present in any given moment, many of us come to realize, this feeling isn’t about Here. Or You. Or Somewhere Else. Happiness, fulfillment, and love are states that we cultivate in ourselves, not feelings that come to us when we’ve finally arrived Somewhere Else.
Fred Rogers — yes, Mister Rogers — expressed his thoughts on love in a way that really speaks to me: “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun, like ‘struggle’. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
What would it mean to apply this to loving ourselves, our partners, our homes, our lives?
For all the stereotypes (many of them true) about ADHD’ers questing for pleasure and instant gratification, satisfying the now without regard for long-term consequences, some may be surprised that being happy in the moment doesn’t come naturally for us.
In fact, as ADHD expert Gina Pera writes in Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD?, “ADHD often confers a degree of neurologically based irritability, moodiness, hypersensitivity, or outright anger.” In other words, we’re not as much fun as you think we are, and we’re not having as much fun, either.
That’s (in part) because learning to achieve love and happiness in the long term takes a lot of sustained focus and effort. We know others seem to have it, but we don’t know how to get it. Before I sought treatment for my ADHD, I didn’t have a clue what that sustained focus and effort even felt like.
Learning what that work feels like and strengthening the mental muscles that allow us to do it is critical to long-term well-being. Otherwise, we’re just waiting for the right circumstance to come along — or roaming the world in search of it — so we can finally sit down, take a deep breath, and be happy.
Somewhere Else is a dangerous place, mostly because if we keeping looking for it and wishing for it, we’ll never get there. Somewhere Else is Here. We just need to stick around long enough to learn to really, deeply love it.
I’ll leave you with these words from zenhabits writer Leo Babuta:
Many of us can point to external conditions that get in the way of being present (some problem on our minds), or that get in the way of being happy and content. But actually, the things that are stopping us are all inside us. We can’t let go of problems and be present. We are frustrated with ourselves, with others, with our situation, with the way the world is, and we can’t let go of wishing they were different.
The obstacles are inside us.
And so, can’t we let them go?
And can’t the time for happiness be right this moment?