How much do we hear, in some version or another while talking with people, "My life is so unsatisfying." People are lonely and depressed. As a culture, we are bored. We spend so much time and money; buying things, joining clubs, playing games, chatting and texting and facebooking - desperate to get some kind of enjoyment out of our lives. And one thing I am so guilty of myself: complaining about the monotony and just overall dissatisfaction. I also have heard a lot, and seen in practice, that the more you involve yourself in daily activities, the less negativity you feel, and the happier you are in life. I've always thought this was because if I'm busy all the time, I don't have time to think about how bad my life sucks. This was a depressing thought all it's own, because my life isn't any better, I'm just ignoring it. It felt like a form of denial.
But now I'm starting to understand that it's not doing things; it's the things you do. Busying yourself with unfulfilling things still leaves you feeling unfulfilled. Facebook is fun, online games are entertaining and doing those things seem like ways to enjoy my life, but all they do is take up some time - my life is not changed by them in any way, just put off. Cleaning the house for half the day makes me feel better; not because it's taken up half the day, but because my house is clean. Because I've worked diligently, and can see and enjoy the benefit of that work. If my daily activities don't change anything, benefit anything, or provide anything useful, it's not a wonder I start feeling useless and unsatisfied with my life.
When I first started knitting, I was excited about it, but I also felt more upbeat and positive - I was using my free time and talent to create something beautiful and useful for my family. After a while though, the slow, slow stitches seemed like a chore, and I thought, "Well, I was just doing it for fun, so I can quit if I want to." As soon as I started viewing it as "just for fun" it was no different than wasting an hour on the computer - unimportant, unsatisfying. But mostly I'm seeing that putting in that extra effort - like cleaning the house - really pays off in the satisfaction with the completed project. I think that effort might even be one of the most important parts of the equation. I worked for this, it benefits me/my family/the world; I did this hard thing, and it was worth it. How empowering and satisfying and rewarding!
I'm not giving up my FarmVille any time soon, nor am I willing to exhaust myself with busy things, but I am making a point to fill the gaps in my time with more useful activities, even those that require a lot of work. The more difficult projects, new skills, and even little (but still a mountain) jobs I take on, the more satisfied I feel with my life, my home, my family, myself. It is self-sacrifice, when you think of the work involved, but it doesn't feel like a sacrifice at all when you reap the joys and benefits of your hard work. Kind of like parenting, isn't it? I'm parenting my life.