It’s all a question of balance

Sunday 31st July 2022 3:00 pm
Jody Merelle column
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It’s been a rough week in our family, so we have all tried to take comfort in the little things. I found myself in a discount bookshop over the weekend and picked up a five-minute journal full of simple daily exercises designed to get you thinking about things to be grateful for.

In it I stumbled across a quote from Epicurus. ‘Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not: remember that what you now have was once among the things that you only hoped for’.

I thought a lot about that quote. On one hand it is telling us to try and be satisfied with the things we already have.

There is clearly a great deal of wisdom in that idea; the more we can relish the things we already have, surely the more satisfied we are likely to be with life.

On the other hand, I see no harm in still having dreams for the future. In fact, without dreams and aspirations we are unlikely ever to see any meaningful change.

Epicurus concedes himself that what we have now was once what we hoped for. So presumably he is not saying we can’t continue to hope for things as long as we don’t let that detract from the present.

What I really like about this quote is the suggestion that we remember to take satisfaction from all the things we have already achieved. Perhaps this is one of the most basic mistakes we make in life.

We create dreams for the future and set ourselves targets, but when we achieve them we simply replace them with new ones. We forget to stop and enjoy where we have already got to first.

I spent quite some time thinking about that this week.

For several years I dreamt about making big changes in my life, including returning to the UK after many years living in Finland.

I hoped to change careers from being a lawyer and languages teacher to qualifying as a psychotherapist. I wanted to work for the NHS and settle in Devon. I yearned for the opportunity to support people who might perhaps find themselves without hope.

As someone who has always enjoyed writing, I hoped that one day I would be able to contribute to my local paper. Now, years on, all those hopes have turned into reality. Thinking about that made me wonder whether I have ever stopped to truly appreciate those things. Or have I just replaced those dreams with new ones?

Through my work with clients I believe strongly that we do need to keep on dreaming. It is healthy to have things to aim for and things to look forward to.

Our family are still hoping to find somewhere stable to live and our experience so far has shown us how much of a challenge that remains here in Devon. One day I am determined to get the book that is in my head written and down on paper.

However, at least for this week I am trying to take the advice of Epicurus. I am spending more time than usual looking around and noticing all the things we already have.

I am making a conscious effort to say a silent thank you for them. I have also thought about previous dreams that have already been realised. Things that were once just hopes but are now part of our reality. This has felt reassuring in several ways.

By doing this you remind yourself not to give up on the hopes and dreams you have now. If previous hopes have become reality then why should same not happen moving forward?

Perhaps the trick is to find a sense of balance.

Balance between noticing and appreciating everything we already have and remembering to hold on to future dreams. Almost everything we have starts off with a dream or vision of some kind. Epicurus simply reminds us to stop and appreciate them once they become part of our reality.

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