That's really what it's all about, isn't it? The pursuit of happiness? My life has devolved into what one could kindly describe as a train wreck. You see, it turns out that my lady and I pretty much spent the last 2 years (or 5, or 8 really) just "waiting" for things to get better. Once she finishes school and gets a job. Once he's not at Oracle anymore. Once he's playing poker for a living. Once he moves back in. Once he isn't propping grave. Once she gets the fancy job. Once we move to SoCal. Once he gives up propping altogether. Once he gets a prop job. Once she buys the house. Once the house is "finished". Once she finishes the garage, or the solar, or buys the fancy car. Once he stops drinking. Once this sports thing works out. Once he quits poker. Once he gets a job. Once things are settled.
Well guess wait. What we were waiting for finally all happened and we broke up within three months. A big part of it is that we both had this belief that at some point "in the future" we would "find fulfillment". If you've seen True Detective one of his best monologues is on this subject. Nothing is ever fulfilled. Nothing is ever finished. Not til the very end. He has another great one where he explains why human beings are a mistake of evolution, how we were not intended to develop these big brains and that we are a dead end waiting for destruction and should all just stop breeding. I used to think that I could look forward to the future and that it was something worth waiting for, worth planning for, worth working towards. She has often espoused to me the theory of two marshmallows, that you must always trade two marshmallows tomorrow for one today. That makes sense, in and of itself, but there is a big problem with that.
Two of my friends have got me listening to The Power of Now. Large chunks of it are super duper cheesy but the core teaching is extremely simple and extremely powerful. The past and the future simply do not exist, yet we spend 99.9% of our mental time and energy obsessing over them. Every single event that ever has or ever will happen in your life, my life, and the history of the universe will happen RIGHT FUCKING NOW. Imagine there were no human beings on Earth except you and you were able to converse with the birds and the trees. If you asked them "what time is it" they would be extremely confused and simply say "it is now" and continue on their merry ways. Time is a construct of the human mind. The human mind needs time in order to survive, and therefore forces us to obsess over it compulsively. Think about it. How much of your day do you spend thinking about the past or planning for the future? The book (audio book in my case) goes on to make some other very grandiose claims (all suffering is rooted in the past or present. we can dis-identify with our mind and simply "watch it") which I'm still working to digest, but the simple basic claim that you should spend as much of your mental energy as possible focusing on NOW is irrefutably correct. When have you ever been truly present for a moment, giving it 100% of your attention, and felt stress, anxiety, or regret about anything at all? It is why people thrill seek. It is why addicts use. It is why you can "lose time" when you're working on something you truly enjoy. It is a big part of why (at least for me) sex is relaxing and comforting. Anytime you devote 100% of your mind and energy to the present moment it is nearly impossible to feel anything other than a sense of being and aliveness. Even if you are solving a very difficult problem (for which you are using your mind), such as "jesus christ I drove to the wrong airport" (which I just did) if you concentrate fully on the present moment, the truths of that moment and let your brain work creatively to solve the problems you will find that you do not feel pain, stress, anxiety, anger, or virtually any other negative emotion. You just...are.
And that's the key point I think. The world is a pretty fucking awesome place, and if you spend your time and energy just experiencing it instead of worrying about past mistakes or future plans the potential gains to be reaped are simply astronomical.