Letting go of what used to be

On a recent trip to Chile, I was looking for just the right coffee shop to have both a great cup of tea and a strong wi-fi connection to do some work. I scrolled through Google and found the closest one, a “work café,” and the description sounded perfect. Except that the rating was low, only 2.9 stars. 

I scanned the comments trying to find out what was wrong with this place. Was it a poor wi-fi connection, weak coffee, or maybe stale pastries that inspired the low rating for this café? 

I can’t make deposits here anymore, I have to go two blocks away to deposit checks.

All banks are scoundrels.

It’s so inconvenient, they only have one ATM and no bankers.

This particular café sat in a building formerly occupied by a bank. The bank had moved down the street, and opened a café in this space. The Santander Work Café. But person after person complained that the café was not a bank. 

I couldn’t stop giggling at the absurdity of rating the café based on frustration that it was no longer what it used to be. And then I realized this is exactly what I do in my life.

When I my flight is scheduled to leave at 5:07 pm, then the flight gets cancelled and I can’t get another one until the following morning, I complain to myself that the flight isn’t leaving at 5:07 as I expected it to.  The reality is my flight no longer leaves today. 

Complaining, even to myself, about what used to be the schedule for my trip does one thing: it takes me out of the moment, makes it virtually impossible to enjoy my evening and opportunity to read a good book, watch a movie, maybe just sit quietly for an hour or two and find some rest.

The same thing is true for many of us each time life takes an unexpected turn. When a loved one develops dementia, has a stroke, is injured in an accident, or develops cancer, things are not what they used to be. Imagine giving your mother with dementia 2 stars out of 5 because she no longer recognizes you. None of us would do that. 

And yet I change the ‘rating’ for my situation because it is no longer what it used to be. 

My husband is not the same; he can’t even remember my name much less do the sweet things he used to do for me. Our relationship is not the same. 

My mother used to love cooking more than anything, it brought her so much joy, and with her Parkinson’s she can’t cook anymore, it’s so sad.

Comparing how things were before to how they are now is a recipe for unhappiness. Every. Single. Time.

It’s natural and human to compare things to what they used to be. At the same time, resisting what is true now does not help me embrace or enjoy today. Pining for what used to be, for what I expected, only gets in the way of experiencing well-being. The moment I accept that mom can no longer cook, I’m open to discovering what might bring her a little enjoyment now, in this new chapter. 

When I can’t change what is, I have the option to make the very best of it. Even when it’s something I would never choose, like my own mother’s younger onset Alzheimer’s. 

I can either focus on the relationship I wish we had and how my loved one used to be, or accept who she is today and find little ways to make these days the best they can be. As I learn how to do this I’m more and more able to ‘rate’ my life based on the way things are rather than the way they used to be.