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lifeLiving in Fulfillment Every Day
By Annemarie Greenwood Marissa Campbell
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Annemarie Greenwood and Marissa Campbell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAn Unprecedented Encounter
Eve stood looking out over the lightening water. The sun was just beneath the horizon, and the mist floated serenely above the lake's surface. She sighed. It was the last day of her vacation, and she wasn't in any real hurry to get back. After nothing but sun, sand and water, she felt a real reluctance about saying good-bye to the beach and the summer. It had been a wonderful vacation, though, and she didn't really understand the feeling of melancholy that was settling deep within her bones. It's not as if she thought the vacation could last forever. No, that wasn't it. It was a disappointment of sorts, she assumed, but disappointment about what?
She considered the job she was returning to but waved that away with an imaginary hand. She liked her job—well, most of it anyway. Despite some minor tension with a co-worker, she loved what she was doing and really enjoyed interacting with the customers.
She felt anticipatory strain about getting the kids ready and off to school, but she was grateful that they seemed happy, or at least resigned, about their impending fate. She'd had a wonderful time with her husband, holding hands as they walked along the beach, kids splashing through the waves beside them. They even stole furtive kisses now and then as they sat side by side, soaking up the sun's glorious rays. She even had a tan, which was nothing short of miraculous, given her very pale skin tone. She had light blonde hair and grey-blue eyes and had always been wary of tarrying too long in the sun. But this week she had thrown caution to the wind—well, as much as could be considered daring while armed with SPF 60—and had managed to acquire a respectably healthy glow.
She shook her head in confusion. No, she was happy with everything in her life, yet she could not deny the downward pull stirring from deep within, though she couldn't tell from where it was coming or where it was leading.
"You seem troubled," announced a voice from behind her.
Eve turned around to see an attractive young woman with long blonde hair that cascaded in soft waves down over her shoulders smiling at her from one of the beach chairs on the deck. She had the most striking blue eyes Eve had ever seen. They were a bright cerulean blue, like an icy glacial lake reflecting the brilliance of a noon sky.
"Yes, I suppose I am." Eve shyly smiled back.
"Hard to leave, isn't it?" She tilted her head slightly, her eyes gazing out over the calm, peaceful water.
Eve walked over, sat down on the only other chair on the deck and stared meditatively out over the lake. The first rays of sunlight were shining up over the horizon, breaking the mist's caress on the water's surface as it rose in feathery wisps.
"Yes," she said resolutely, "it is."
They were both silent for some time as they watched the morning sun crest the sandy dunes, its golden rays caressing the treetops as the mist and water shimmered with their beautiful dance.
"Do you come up here often?" Eve asked, reluctantly taking her eyes away from the view.
The woman smiled at her. "No, this is my first time here. It's absolutely beautiful, isn't it?"
"I've been on several vacations, but this is by far the best one I've ever had. It was a real joy just to be a part of these lovely surroundings." She smiled back. Reaching over the arm of the chair, she extended her hand to the young woman. "My name's Eve, by the way."
"I'm Grace. Pleased to meet you." She smiled and reached across the small void between the chairs, cordially shaking Eve's hand. "You seemed deep in thought. If you don't mind my asking, is something bothering you?"
Eve leaned back into her chair and sighed. "No, I don't mind your asking. But to be honest with you, I'm not exactly sure what's troubling me." She looked over at Grace and shrugged her shoulders in defeat. "I had a wonderful week. Perhaps it's just hard to leave, after all," she answered.
"Hmm. Could be, I suppose, but you don't sound terribly convinced," Grace replied, looking intently at Eve.
Eve laughed. "No, I guess I'm not." She sat in quiet reflection for a moment. How do I describe a feeling I, myself, don't even understand? "I'm just down, I guess." She looked across at Grace. "I can't really explain it. I just don't feel ... right. I really did have a wonderful vacation. There's just no rational reason for me to feel the way I do."
"Being rational, I suspect, has little to do with it," Grace offered.
Eve smiled politely but quickly dropped back into her silent musing. She felt a deep inner desire to just unload everything, to discharge, to release all her burdens onto this complete stranger. But wouldn't that be selfish of me? she wondered, to encumber this poor woman with all my issues? Besides, how could this woman possibly relate to all the various intricacies in my life? Does she have kids too? Is she married or working? She doubted it, looking across at Grace. She seemed far too serene to be responsible for children, a husband and a career to boot. "Are you here by yourself?" Grace interrupted her reverie.
"Oh, no, I'm here with my family. My husband took our two boys out fishing this morning, so I have the day to myself. What about you?"
Grace smiled. "That seems to be a popular hobby around here. My husband got up at a ridiculous hour to take our kids fishing down at the old mill. Perhaps they'll run into each other in their quests for the prize catch of the day."
They sat smiling at their shared coincidences for a moment. But when Eve's eyes travelled back over the water, the veil of melancholy slipped quickly over her features again, and she let the mood pull her back down as she dropped deep into thought. She looked over at Grace and, deciding to throw caution to the wind, she inquired, "Do you ever feel as though you're not completely fulfilled? That there is really nothing major to worry about or complain about and yet ... and yet you just don't seem happy?" She struggled to clarify. "I mean, I am happy. I'm happy with my life and my situation but ..." She paused. "I just don't know." She tucked a wayward lock of hair behind her ear, searching for elucidation and feeling utterly lost.
"I used to," Grace replied honestly, "but I don't anymore. I found what I was looking for."
"Really?" Eve's interest was piqued. "And what was that?"
Grace smiled. "Why, the same thing that you're searching for, I suppose. I wanted to feel fulfilled and whole, and," she replied, her smile growing wider, "now I do."
"And just how did you manage that?" Eve wondered.
"Well ..." Grace stretched languorously. "I started looking in the right places."
Eve was silent for a moment. "Right places, huh? And where exactly did you look?"
"Well, I started looking in here." She tapped her head and her heart. "And I stopped looking out there." She waved her hand, encompassing the water, the sky, the air, everything. "Then eventually, not right away, mind you, but eventually, I figured it out."
"Figured what out?" Eve asked.
"How to be truly happy," Grace replied simply.
Eve considered that. It certainly would be nice to know how to be happy, truly happy. She looked over at Grace, examining her for a moment. She was married and had kids, so she would certainly understand the stress and strain of responsibility and unequivocal love, but ... "Do you mind my asking what you do for a living?"
"Well, I stayed home with my children until I felt they were grown enough to handle my returning to work. I've only been back for a few years now."
"Really?" Eve shook her head in disbelief. "Me too! When we started having children, my husband and I decided that it was best that I stay home with the kids. It's only recently that I've returned to the workforce. I only work part-time in the evenings, but I'm also taking university night courses in an effort to upgrade my degree."
Perhaps that's what's troubling me, she reasoned. Perhaps I'm just feeling overwhelmed by all my chosen responsibilities and commitments, never mind that hockey and indoor soccer season lurk around the corner menacingly. Maybe I need to slow down and simplify my life. But no, that didn't fit either. She'd been home for five years and desperately needed to engage in the adult world again, even if that meant late nights at the store and university and early morning car pools to school and hockey practice. She reflected on what Grace had said about looking in the right places and had no concept of which places she was looking in, or whether they were even the right ones. "What did you mean by 'out there' when you spoke about looking for happiness?"
"Well, people tend to look outside themselves for happiness. We strive for material success, like that dream house or the next rung on the corporate ladder. We seek admiration from our peers, or we look desperately to find happiness in the arms of that perfect person. Then, when these don't work or we do not obtain them, we may look for happiness in more destructive ways. Perhaps we turn to substances like alcohol or drugs to blur the edges of our dissatisfaction, or we obsess about sex or food or even shopping." Grace smiled. "Although a little shopping never really hurt anyone." She laughed, winking at Eve. "It's all about moderation."
Eve returned Grace's smile. "I must admit, I never thought shopping was destructive, but after looking at our Visa balance, perhaps Tom, my husband, would disagree," she mused. "But I can't see how success is a negative thing. I mean, don't we all want to be successful? Shouldn't we be striving toward that?"
"Success is fine, in and of itself. In fact, we need a certain amount of it to ensure we have the basic necessities in life, like a roof over our heads and food on our tables. Even a little extra is fine. It's nice to have some luxuries and to be able to play, but we cannot hinge our happiness on the achievement of these things. When we finally achieve these desires it may feel good for the moment, but eventually the novelty wears off, leaving us with a hollow feeling that will need to be filled again."
"You know, it's interesting that you would say that. We had been hoping for some time that Tom would get a big promotion. He had worked really hard to meet his sales quota and was at the top of the team, so we figured it was coming. We were really looking forward to a raise to help us out financially," she added. "When he finally got the job, we were really excited to begin with. But the new job involves a lot more travel, and because he has even tighter objectives, he's more stressed now than he ever was before, working even longer hours to try to compensate. I hardly see him anymore." She paused. "You know, this is the first vacation we've taken as a family in ... well, a long time." She looked back over the water. The sun had burned off all the mist, and she felt a warm breeze lift the hair gently from her neck.
"It's very easy to lose ourselves when we're caught up in the ego's never-ending desires. We lose sight of where our happiness truly comes from, and we forget our priorities in a blind desire for success and consumption," Grace reasoned.
"Sometimes I feel lost myself, you know," Eve commented, looking over at Grace. "Not sure about what I want or what will make me happy. I have a small part-time job, which I thoroughly enjoy. It gives me a nice break from the kids, but I just don't feel fulfilled. I wonder if I should go back to school full-time. If I do, I can finish upgrading my skills, which will allow me to contribute more financially. However, it would certainly add a great deal more stress to my life. And," Eve reflected, "as the kids get older, they seem to need me less and less, though I know they'll always need me to some degree. I just can't justify staying at home when they're at school all day." She sighed. "I've put so much on hold in my life ... and I have no clue as to what I want to do with my future."
"Well, part of the problem is your impressions of the future. However, I have to ask why you feel you need to justify your actions. You said you couldn't rationalize staying at home when the kids go back to school. Why not?"
"Why not? Well, because I wouldn't be doing anything!" She looked across at Grace, dumbfounded.
"Would your kids be coming home for lunch?"
"Well, yes. I suppose if I wasn't working they would. Otherwise, they would take their lunch. Why?"
"If you stayed home, you could see them off to school, be home for their lunch and be there after school for them. So really, you 'wouldn't be doing anything' for about five hours a day. What is it about those five hours that unsettles you?" Grace questioned.
"Nothing unsettles me about being home. It's just that I could be out earning money or working toward a career instead."
"What if you took a nap or read for the sheer pleasure of it?"
Eve's mouth dropped open and her eyebrow lifted at the scandalous suggestion.
Grace smiled. "Or, if upgrading your skills is so important, could you perhaps take some courses online or figure out a way to earn money from home? Are any of these options a possibility for you?"
"I suppose I could take courses online, but taking naps would definitely be out of the question." Eve laughed and shook her head in disbelief.
"What's wrong with naps? Even Thomas Edison, the great American inventor, felt that naps were essential, never wasted time."
Grace had posed the question so flippantly, Eve had to stop and carefully study her passive expression. She knitted her brows together in consternation. "Even if I could take a nap during the day, why would I?"
"There are some things we do by sheer survival instinct, a deep, inner knowing that keeps us safe from danger, like not touching a hot stove. Other things we feel guided to do by our intuition, like when we decide to finally make that phone call, which results in a new job or new relationship. But most of the things we do, Eve, are because we unconsciously feel compelled or obliged to do them. They have nothing at all to do with instinct or listening to our gut.
"We feel compelled to act a certain way or say certain things because of our belief patterns and habitual ways of responding or thinking about life. You feel you need to earn money or work toward a career rather than just taking some time to rest or read for pleasure for you. You would feel as though your time was being wasted or used frivolously. Don't you think there are people out there who do just that, who enjoy finding some quiet time during the day all to themselves? Perhaps they just putter around their house or in their garden. Or perhaps they work on some art project or hobby. What makes it okay for them and not you?" She raised her eyebrow, giving Eve a questioning look.
"Perhaps they already have great jobs or are retired and have lots of time on their hands?" Eve quipped.
Grace shook her head. "No, it's all about perception—each person's belief, or view, about any given situation determines their thoughts and actions," she stated simply. "It's your belief that taking time for yourself is wasteful and unproductive; and that makes something as innocent as taking a nap unacceptable in your mind.
"For others, their belief justifies those actions; it's okay to take naps. I want you to realize that what you believe creates your comfort or discomfort and, in the end, your happiness or unhappiness. Take your belief in the future, for example. Your perception, Eve, is somewhat problematic, in that you seem to be living your entire life in the future."
Eve's head was spinning. "What do you mean, I'm living in the future?"
"I mean that you are focusing all your attention on the future. You keep thinking that if you can just change things, everything will be better in a week or in a few years or even tomorrow. What about today? Now? How can you be happy right now? You say you don't know what to do with your future. But what are you doing right now to make yourself happy?"
Excerpted from life by Annemarie Greenwood Marissa Campbell Copyright © 2012 by Annemarie Greenwood and Marissa Campbell. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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