The Illusion of Happiness

 In a world full of expectations, it can be difficult to understand the things that truly make us happy. In the “pinterest perfect” world we live in, we have expectations for everything. We have expectations for what our engagement ring will look like, what our engagement ring will look like on our finger, what our engagement ring will look like on our finger in our wedding photos in the frame on the wall of our perfect house …You get the point.

     The problem with expectations is that they grant us the freedom to develop a false reality; expectations allow us to build up ideas of the way our lives should play out. We become so obsessed with planning each detail of the life that we should have that we forget about the reality of the life we are actually living. We become zombies in the world of the present with the hope of being heroes in the one of our future.      

  So how do we let go of the expectations of our future life and get our hands dirty in the life right in front of us? I’d like to propose that the solution is found less in working hard to figure out what “it” is that will make us happy, and more in surrendering to the life we’re living. Maybe the answer to the cry of our hearts for more actually requires less.

      My own journey has revealed to me that in order to live a life truly free of expectations, I need to surrender and let the Lord take over. The Catechism says “Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into a real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome the revelation of faith” (CCC 35).  In other words, the Lord wants to enter into our lives and we, as human beings, were created with the ability to allow him to do so. It sounds so simple, right? But we have to accept that the Lord loves us and has plans for our lives. We have to let go of our own plans and surrender to his. 

         I recently experienced an inescapable moment of surrender. I had been harboring intense unforgiveness in my heart for a relationship that had not adhered to my expectations. It was a deep unforgiveness, the kind that remains rooted no matter how hard you try to rip it out. Resentment had hold of my heart and its grip was strong. I had prayed over and over again, begging God to free me from the feelings that I couldn’t shake. “Please, God,” I would cry, “I don’t want to deal with this anymore. Why can’t I just let this go?” I sincerely wanted to forgive, but I wanted to do it on my own. “Help me, forgive. Why can’t I let this go?” I asked over and over again, and as I did, the Lord remained silent. 

     Although I continually begged and pleaded again and again, relief didn’t come until one year and one week later. In the stillness of a beautiful church in Nashville, Tennessee, it came. I was at mass, praying and singing as usual. Nothing felt out of the ordinary. Mass ended, the priest said the blessing and processed down the aisle. I knelt down to pray. All of the sudden I felt something strange… I felt that a weight had been lifted from my chest. I felt like I could breathe more easily but I didn’t yet understand why. As I walked to my car, the memory of my disappointed expectations came into my mind. I expected the feelings of bitterness to come as they always did, but instead, I felt nothing. Confused as to what was happening, I forced myself to think back through the anger-inducing memories, but still, no bitterness. Jesus had finally done it - he had given me the grace to forgive.

     You see, although I had thought that living without bitterness was the best thing for my heart, the Lord knew better. He used those fifty-three weeks of struggle to prove to me that no matter how hard I tried, I, in my own power, did not even have the ability to free my heart from unforgiveness. It was only by his grace that my heart could be freed. When I faced the reality that I couldn’t fix myself by myself, I began to understand the truth of surrender. When we surrender ourselves to God, even the messy, bitter, grudge-bearing parts of us, we give him permission to bring our hearts fully back to life.

    My experience of disappointment in my “pinterest perfect life” allowed me to discover the facade that I was living. I can plan and pin and post, but until I realize that the Lord’s plans are better than my expectations, I will never be happy. So how about it? How about we learn how to expect less and let the Lord do more. How about rather than pinning and posting we begin living and loving. Let’s do more surrendering and less expecting. I guarantee the result will be better than your Pinterest board.

Maggie is a Midwest girl who has now made her home in Nashville, TN. When she is not working nights as a cardiac nurse she enjoys getting lost in the wilderness, perusing through a good bookstore and enjoying an occasional glass of Tennessee whiskey. You can follow her nowhere because she actually doesn't have any social media.