….and why worrying too much about either one only gives you anxiety.
When I entered my first serious relationship, everything was exciting. There was the first date, the first kiss, the first “I Love You,” the first too-late night, the first anniversary, and the moving-in. There were the first discussions about where things would go and how we would decorate, the first time we referred to the house as “ours,” and the first time we hosted friends.
But eventually, we gravitated towards a routine. Things were comfortable. Things were expected. Bills had to be paid. Work came first, then dinner, then Netflix. And for a minute, I started to get scared. Was this how things were supposed to be? Were we getting boring? Or worse – were we getting bored with one another?
After coming to terms with this, I realized we weren’t in trouble. In fact, we were probably stronger than we’d ever been – because we’d discovered the joy in simplicity with one another. We still had adventures, we still had “firsts,” and we knew we still had more firsts to come. There was nothing wrong with being settled, so long as we were still moving forward.
What mattered was that we were not, as I feared, being complacent.
Because complacency is giving in to a situation even when it doesn’t serve you. Complacency is saying “ok” when it’s not okay. Complacency is making excuses about the way things are and allowing them to stay ‘as is’ for far too long.
Complacency is the act of appearing like you’re moving forward when, in fact, you’re just stuck.
So why does this matter? Because, I think , deep down it’s easy to confuse a good kind of simplicity with a bad kind of complacency. And that’s a dangerous thing.
This all started with a discussion I had the other day with an inspiring woman who left her job, her fiance, and her home for a year to do something that she truly loved. When she cited the reason for leaving all of these things behind, I was a little shocked – because it wasn’t what I expected. And it was something I had just listed in a previous post as a means of finding what I called simplicity : gratitude.
And she had a point.
According to her, the ritualistic practice of gratitude is something that has ample opportunity to do more harm than good. It teaches us to be happy with what we have, even if it doesn’t truly make us happy. It holds us back, she seemed to say. Being grateful doesn’t encourage us to fight for more: personally, spiritually, or professionally.
My original intent in encouraging gratitude lies in my belief that if we’re grateful for what we have, we won’t seek more “stuff”. We’ll be happy in the moment – not wracking our brains for costly ways to make our lives better. But when I said this, I never thought about feigning gratitude for something that is actually “not good.” And that, I see now, is potentially very harmful to those of us who need to get out of a bad situation.
So if you’re in a relationship or a situation that doesn’t serve you, then you shouldn’t force yourself to be grateful for it. You should be grateful to be alive, or in good health, or in a stable financial situation – but you shouldn’t make excuses that hold you back. You should always set your sights on your potential, and strive for what makes you happy.
What I needed to hear when I wrote last week’s post was that there are ways to fulfill your life, your hopes, and your dreams without being on the go all the time or spending money to get the next best thing. But of course, if you’re unhappy in your life – even if you have a lot to be grateful for – then there are important steps you should take towards making things better and not being complacently grateful for that which doesn’t serve you.
You see, I’m grateful for my “boring”, somewhat-predictable relationship – but that doesn’t justify sitting on the couch and watching Netflix every day for the rest of my life. We like simple things, sure, but that doesn’t mean we’re settling for less. And if your “gratitude” makes you feel like you’re settling, then it’s high time you take a new look at your life and figure out what you need – just like my friend did when she upended her entire life for something that now makes her smile everyday.