Sunday, March 3, 2013

C'est la Vie!

You Get What You Get and You Don't Get Upset

Making the Most of Every Given Moment

Life is made up of a series of moments- perfect and imperfect. There are no guarantees in life and we can't expect that everything will work out as we have planned or imagined. I am currently on vacation with my Mom in the Cayman Islands. My family has been coming here for over a decade and in our minds it is truly the most fabulous place on earth. My Mother and I arrived arrived yesterday, expecting 5 days of warm weather and endless sunshine. However, our experience has not lived up to our expectations. Twenty minutes after our plane landed it began to torrential rain and it has not really let up ever since. It seems that our dream of laying out in the sun and soaking up the rays for the entirety of our vacation is simply not going to happen. But, what can we do about it? The weather is beyond our control. So are we going to mope around and let the less than ideal weather dictate our mood and ruin our vacation experience? Absolutely not. We are truly living by the phrase, you get what you get and you don't get upset. 
The trip may not being going as we had planned, and the weather may not be perfect, but that doesn't mean that we are going to throw up our hands and call the whole vacation as wash. Instead, we are choosing to make the most of the given moments by altering our expectations and finding different ways to enjoy ourselves. C'est la vie or that's life; it is not always perfect nor is it certain to work out in the way that you had hoped. The best that we can do is make the conscious choice to make the most of it no matter the circumstances. As the rain continues to fall outside my Mom and I sit in the lobby, sipping on cocktails, playing cards, and people watching. When the sun decides to make a brief appearance we rush outside, taking in its lovely warmth for as long as we can. And when the clouds choose to reappear and the rain begins to approach again, we scurry back inside to the comfort of the lobby, picking up our card game where we left off, and appreciating the time that we have with one another. We are together in one of our favorite places in the world. There is no way that we are going to let a bit of rain prevent us from having a wonderful time. We are taking what we are getting and we are not getting upset about it, because in truth, there are far worse places we could be right now. Not to mention, there a much less desirable people with whom we could be stuck. We are on vacation at our most favorite destination. We are not being subjected to freezing temperatures that Philadelphia is currently experiencing. Neither of us need to be focusing on work and consequently are not feeling the stress that work and school bring along. And we are just happy to be together without the distractions of daily life- family tension, academic or work related responsibilities, social obligations, the annoyance of errands, and the pressure of our typical fast paced routines. We are lucky enough to be far away from all of the aforementioned distractions and are thrilled to be able to appreciate this time that we have as Mother and daughter. It is so rare that the two of us are able to escape on our own. What a shame it would be to let some poor weather taint this experience. So we are choosing to make the most of every given moment while we are here, regardless of whether or not it is what we had anticipated. 

I picked up a book recently called, Bonjour, Happiness!: Finding Your Joie de Vivre by Jamie Cat Callan. I have only made it through the first chapter but it has already taught me a lot about living life and maximizing on its endless supply of joy. It describes the French concept of Joie de Vivre or joy of life as-

"[The] ability to enjoy what you have without worrying too much about what you don't."

This idea exemplifies the notion I proposed at the start of this entry, you get what you get and you don't get upset. Let us look at we have, and I mean genuinely look, and recognize the good that exists within it. Instead of imagining how life could be better by playing the "What if..." and "If only..." games, lets appreciate the greatness that lies in our own realities. Why continue to torture ourselves by believing that what we have in this given moment isn't enough? What good will it do us to fantasize about ways in which our lives could be improved if only we had more, if only things were different, if only it weren't raining? In actuality we have no idea whether or not this alternative reality that we have created would indeed be any better than the lives we are living. It seems like a waste of time to concern ourselves with what we are lacking. When we think too much about what could be we end up missing the beauty and joy of what is; we are so absorbed in thought that we lose the given moment. This notion of Joie de Vivre is further elaborated-

"It is about accepting what's in your life in the moment and feeling contented inside."

"...sipping on San Pellegrino..."
Using these two quotes in conjunction with each other can enable us to make the most of every given moment. Not only can we pay attention and appreciate what we do have, but we can feel genuinely happy with the now and enjoy it. What do I have right now? I have my wonderful Mother sitting by my side. I am sitting in a cozy chair in the comfortable lobby of our lovely hotel. I am casually sipping on San Pellegrino with lime and Pinot Grigrio. I have the time to write an entry for my blog without being burdened by the outside pressures of class, assignments, and college life in general. I have 3 and 1/2 more spectaculars days to spend on this beautiful island and it's over a week before I am forced to return to the pressure cooker that is the University of Pennsylvania. I may not have it all, but when I take the time to look at what I do have, I am able to recognize that I have an awful lot and I am truly "contented inside." As I find myself making the most of every given moment and being thankful, I start to believe that perhaps, I am really one step closer to achieving this French idea of Joie de Vivre, the joy of life. If we are able to embody this joy than I believe that we will find ourselves saying c'est la vie when encountering imperfect situations and facing unexpected obstacles. 

When we use this phrase, c'est la vie, we will be able to utter it with an air of light hearted-ness and casualness. C'est la vie, shit happens, and so it goes...that's life and we either accept it for what is and capitalize on it or we allow life and all its imperfections to bring us down. It's up to us; we have the choice. Shall we let the unfortunate or unexpected negatively impact the entirety of our experience? Will I allow a little rain disable me from enjoying my Mother-Daughter vacation? Or will we say, with an air of nonchalance, "c'est la vie," and opt to make the most of the given moment?
"Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have."

- Eckhart Tolle

Tolle's words take the ideas that I borrowed from Callan's book to a new level. While he discusses "the present moment" with a slightly different spin, I think that both Tolle and Callan are making the same basic point. Life is a continual series of moments. The moment in which I started writing that entry has passed, never to be returned to again, and now I am on to a new a moment. When I complete this entry I will be living in yet another moment. They just keep coming and going for eternity. If I don't make the most of this moment right now then I will have lost the opportunity. It may not seem like a big deal. What's the issue with not fully living a singular moment if there are billions more to come? And I must admit that there is some value in that question. Who cares if we lose a moment or fail to recognize its worth if its fleeting and/or soon to be replaced with a new moment anyways? 
Well, of course, I have an answer, and this is when I get to combine all the ideas that were proposed in the series of quotes provided throughout this entry. The "present moment," although intangible, is all we have. It is a brief segment of our lives. For all intensive purposes, this given moment is probably imperfect. (It is a rare occasion that we have a moment when all is ideal and everything has gone according to plan.) Are we supposed to sit around miserably, not acknowledging the joy that can be found in every given moment, while we wait for one of these allusive perfect moments to come our way? To me, that sounds like a pretty terrible way to live. Lets recognize that this moment right now is our life, although a minute period of it, and it is an opportunity for us to appreciate the beauty of what we have. Each given moment is a chance for us to embody the statement, you get what you get and you don't get upset. In reality happiness and joie de vivre doesn't come from not getting upset, but from rejoicing about the positive elements that fill each moment, even the seemingly imperfect ones.

If life is a series of moments, and if moments are fleeting, then why not try to make the most of every given moment and subsequently enhance your life as a whole? Don't let a single moment slip away before you have used it to its fullest potential, making it as fabulous as you possibly can. 

I am looking out the lobby window and it appears as if the sun is starting to peak through the clouds. I am debating whether or not I should risk it, and relocate poolside, or instead just stay exactly where I am, comfortably lounging with my Mother by my side. The choice is insignificant. I will be contented either way. This trip has not gone according to plan so far but what can I do? It is out of my control; c'est la vie! Life is unexpected, unpredictable, and imperfect. It is a never ending sequence of moments- good and bad, exciting and dull, happy and sad, fun and typical, perfect and imperfect- and we have the ability to capitalize on all of them, making the most of every given moment by realizing what we have and enjoying our many blessings. We rarely will experience a moment that we find worthy of deeming perfect. But this lack of perfect moments is not an excuse to give up on happiness, joy, and life! Lets not focus on the flaws or what seems to be missing or in need of improvement. Instead let us acknowledge the glory of what exists in this given moment and allow ourselves to feel fulfilled, at peace, and content. 

When we come across a moment that is less than ideal we can make the decision to put a smile on, say "c'est la vie," and make the most of it with what we have. When we stop thinking so much about what's missing, and in turn begin seeing all that is there, then we have the potential to seize and enjoy each moment, find the positives among a sea of flaws, and ultimately achieve a level of happiness that allows us to confidently say "c'est la vie," and truly believe it.

Appreciate the joy of all that surrounds you and you shall find your joie de vivre,

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