The Thing We’re All Searching For (And Where to Find It)

peace

Image Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The roller rink is one of those places time has forgotten and, as we pull into the parking lot, it seems this particular roller rink has been a little more forgotten than most.

A young lady stands behind the cash register. She takes our money, gives us our tickets for the skate rental, and then she walks around a wall and stands in front of the skates. (By the time I go to the concession stand for microwave popcorn, she’s staffing that, as well. By the end of the day, I’ll catch glimpses of her sweeping up. She’s a Jill-of-all-trades. It must keep the payroll down.)

It’s chilly in the cavernous rink and the ceiling is stained by decades of a leaking roof too expensive to repair.

Yet, some things are timeless.

The disco ball and the flashing lights. The playlist of pop hits from the previous year. The deejay. The rolling referee in black and white stripes. The cool guy zipping in and out of little kids, like a tiny human slalom course. My oldest son, rocking from skate to skate, mostly trying to avoid tomorrow’s bruises. My younger son, a little more practiced, clearly getting a thrill out of skating laps around his older brother. My daughter, clinging to both my wife and the wall, as she becomes less timid with each circuit.

And me. Dad.

Standing on the sidelines. In tennis shoes. Watching all of it.

Feeling this strange-wonderful thing creeping in and wrapping its warm tendrils around mind and heart. It’s not ecstatic but it might be joy. It’s not perfect, but it might be peace. The urge to check my phone for I don’t know what mostly subsides, and, for a couple of hours, I’m almost completely present.

I have no idea what to make of it.

My wounds are still there. My fears are still there. My questions are still there. Nothing special has happened. In fact, by most standards, it’s an excruciatingly mundane afternoon.

And yet.

I want to pause the moment forever.

Have you ever had a moment like that? Suddenly, without explanation, the stars seem to align and, without doing anything, the pressure in your chest eases and the thoughts in your mind untangle and you can’t explain it, but it seems like everything’s going to be okay, and you know you didn’t do anything to make it happen and it feels like a gift—one you want to open slowly so the moment of grace won’t pass you by, as you know it inevitably will.

In a place time forgot, I’m standing and watching and having a moment like that.

Eventually, of course, the moment passes and the kids get tired and crabby and entitled, so we shed skates and don coats and head home, and five hours later, I’m still wondering what happened to me in the roller rink when comedian Jim Carrey takes the stage to present the Golden Globe for best comedy and begins with this:

“I am two-time Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey. You know, when I go to sleep at night, I’m not just a guy going to sleep. I’m two-time Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey, going to get some well-needed shuteye. And when I dream, I don’t just dream any old dream. No, sir. I dream about being three-time Golden Globe winning actor Jim Carrey. Because then I would be enough. It would finally be true. And I could stop this terrible search for what I know ultimately won’t fulfill me.”

Comedians are, indeed, the truth-tellers.

And when I hear his words, I know this is the truth: I felt joy and peace at the roller rink because, for one moment in time, I called off the terrible search. I settled into what was. And for an hour or two, it was enough. I was enough.

Where do you search for your enough-ness?

If you’re like most of us, you’ve searched for it in the attention and approval of your parents, in social circles, in girlfriends or boyfriends or marriage, in good grades and good accolades, in things and in stuff, in the self-help aisle, in your striving for stability and in your hungering for happiness.

I know I have.

And ironically, after all that terrible searching, the place I found a moment of enough-ness—and the peace that always goes along with it—was in a roller rink that time forgot. Because, for one blessed afternoon, I forgot—I forgot to search for it altogether.

It turns out, peace doesn’t happen when you find what you’re looking for; peace is what happens when you call off the terrible search for what you already have.

Joy is what surprises us when we stop feeling compelled to create it. Wholeness is what we experience when we embrace all of our splintered parts. Peace is what happens when we quit doing violence to the present moment by searching for a better one.

You can call off the terrible search.

You already are what you are searching for. You are enough. It is already true.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Eleanor Rabnett

    You have hit the nail on the head. Allowing our selves to be in the present moment. Those moments are pure gift and a grace from God. Thanks for sharing one of your moments with us.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Eleanor, and you’re very welcome.

  • Shannon

    Sounds like delicious awareness of beautiful presence of those moments and then the next and then the next… Ahhhh where true freedom and happiness reside because truth be told, it’s the only place we exist. For me, it is always the “wounds,” expectations, aversions, attachments, memories, “what-if?,” comparisons, imaginings, doubts and on and on that “get me into trouble.” I love how you word “doing violence” to the present moment, YUP!. LUCKILY, life affords us with so many opportunities to start over and over again, just like breathing! It’s a practice…… and thank God for that! Thank YOU for reminding us to see the extraordinary in the ordinary and as always your open, honest, vulnerable sharing! Enjoy your moments!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Shannon, I love your list of things that “do violence” to the present moment. That would be a fascinating project, wouldn’t it, to bring awareness to the things we are doing that take us out of the moment, and then make a big long list of them?

      • Shannon

        Yes indeed, shine the light of awareness on each and every one of them! Bring them into the light 🙂

  • Robyn

    Roller skating is the ultimate “mindful” activity. You have to be 100% focused on the here and now, or you’ll fall. Somehow, the music and the rink transport me to a different time altogether. I used to sneak out of my house to go roller skating (my parents wouldn’t allow it…too much like dancing. And it was the “devil’s music).

    Anyway, the first time I brought my kids roller skating, I had a similar sense of…I don’t know…maybe it was peace? Or a deep, satisfying breath?

    it’s even better if you take off those tennis shoes and strap on some skates yourself. 🙂

    • drkellyflanagan

      Robyn, isn’t fascinating how a place or activity will reconnect us with that little kid in us who felt so at home in that place and activity? Love your description of it. Mine is hiking in the woods.

  • Laura Chichester

    Yes yes yes…thank you Dr. F!! You make a difference in my life with every blog post!!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks for saying that, Laura!

  • Shayne Wheeler

    We had an amazing speech teacher in high school who gave great, what I realize now, sermons. He taught us how to imbed life’s memories by taking ourselves up and out of the situation. (Probably called self awareness now.) To sort of rise above what you are experiencing and look at it as if in a snow globe, examining every detail. It helps with memorizing the experience, feeling the present joy, and just living in the now. I’ve always greatly appreciated this gift from him.
    As I read your words today, I can’t help but think that I AM good at this. I AM good at accepting just who I am right now, I AM enough. But then I think that is so far from the truth. But I want to blame this on others. I’ve always heard that other people cannot make you feel a certain way. I disagree (wrongly or not). I’m always looking to be more organized (because my husband likes a tidy house), to be a better cook (who doesn’t like good meals?), to be more and do more on the hockey board (so just one more kid can have the opportunity to play, or in order for every kid to have the time of his life), to take more call (in case that one shift that isn’t covered, is when the sexually assaulted teen comes in), to learn to communicate better with my teen (because just last night she confirmed what I had thought- she feels we do not have a good relationship (which breaks my heart)). I hear the words of relatives: “you are so mean!”, I hear the words of community members: hockey is too expensive!- You aren’t doing enough as an organization, I hear the words of my newly divorced parents: “why didn’t you invite me?”, “where is she going to sit?”, I hear the accusatory words of my sister, “why did your son do this?!!”, the words of my boss, “why did you say it THAT way and not THIS way?”, “you need to be excellent, not just good enough”.
    I feel it is a daily struggle to live in the moment and be joyful, in the immediate presence, without thinking of how I can be better, what can I do next to help out, who needs me more, now.
    I appreciate every single one of your blogs! Thx!

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’ve hit on the true challenge, Shayne, to find a way to muffle all the voice coming at us that want to shame us and to listen for the voice within that knows you’re good enough and that that IS enough. I hope my posts send you in the direction of that voice. : )

  • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

    It feels like an epiphany every time to hear “you are enough” and to realize that it is the heart of what I need to know. It awes me each time that what I am working so hard to be I already am.
    Thank you, Kelly. You are enough.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Shel. You probably know from my writing how much I love autumn. This meme is especially gratefully received.

  • Deidre Laatz-Jones

    Joh! what deep word to ponder on.
    Love reading you blogs

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Deidre, and may your pondering draw you even deeper into the awareness of the good thing you are.

  • John Zehr

    There are two ways to contend with life – from the outside in (where we believe that circumstances somehow “make” us feel the things we feel, which is the default setting for most of us most of the time) and from the inside out (where we understand that our feelings are a product of our thoughts and that they have nothing to do with our circumstances – they’re based on past experiences and are therefore NEVER “true”).

    A revolution in psychology is underway. When we realize that we “feel our thinking”, we can change our thinking and our lives transform in moments. Struggle and suffering can dissipate in moments when we realize that there’s nothing (no “thing”) to struggle with.

    It’s all based on a fundamental, species-wide misunderstanding of where feelings and experience comes from. And when we finally glimpse that we are not the product of our experience, we are the source of our experience, we can be free of the stress of lifelong issues and challenges in a matter of moments.

    • drkellyflanagan

      “We are not the product of our experience, we are the source of our experience.” That’s a gem, John, thank you.

      • John Zehr

        I enjoy your missives, Kelly. Having recently stumbled across the notion that we are all inherently psychologically healthy and it’s just the detritus of our memories of past experiences that keeps us from experiencing that we are “enough” – whole, complete, and perfect exactly as we are – has been a liberating insight for me.

  • Janet Hartman

    I think this has been my favorite so far in a long list of thought provoking blogs. Thank you for what you give back 🙂

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Janet, and you’re welcome!

  • Kathleen Hancox Izzo

    It’s funny, as I read this paragraph:

    “Feeling this strange-wonderful thing creeping in and wrapping its warm tendrils around mind and heart. It’s not ecstatic but it might be joy. It’s not perfect, but it might be peace. The urge to check my phone for I don’t know what mostly subsides, and, for a couple of hours, I’m almost completely present.”

    I felt peace creep in!

    Thank you,

    Kathy

    • drkellyflanagan

      That makes me happy to hear that, Kathy! Sounds like I put words to a peace that was just waiting to visit upon you. : )

  • Grace

    “Peace is what happens when we quit doing violence to the present moment by searching for a better one.”
    I love this and quoted you today along with Jesus (the best of company 🙂 from John 16:33,
    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
    On this plot of earth where each of us is given the gift of this day, there is much joy to spread, peace to know and thankfulness to express. Thanks for wording life so well.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Ha! Quoted by a woman named Grace, right along with Jesus. I think I’ll retire from writing today, because there’s nowhere else to go from here. : ) Seriously, though, thank you for always adding something new and good to what I write with your comments. Grateful.

  • Lauren Hall

    Yes yes yes.
    We become consumed by today’s “self help” culture and by the constant messages we are not enough. To “call off the search” and embrace our natural worthiness and meaning of our individual lives is exactly it.
    We are more than enough.
    You have a gift of putting truth to words… You do so very beautifully, and it allows us all to connect and grow stronger.
    Thank you!!

  • Mike Gates

    “You are enough.”
    It took me quite a long time (30 years?) to realize I was convinced that I wasn’t, and that conviction was the source of all of my troubles.

    It’s one thing to be unhappy when you’ve got something like alcoholism right in your face. If you’re alcoholic (I am), it makes a certain sense that you’re unhappy; especially when you’re drinking. Alcohol being a depressant and alcoholics doing anti-social/criminal things on a consistent basis it makes a certain sense that someone would be full of guilt, remorse and shame.

    But what do you do when you get the problem fixed (or so you think), only to find yourself *still* filled with shame? To make it more challenging you don’t know you’re filled with shame because you don’t know what shame is and you can’t ask someone who might know what it is and what to do about it, because, well, you’re ashamed. 😉

    Between a rock and a hard place.

    So I’m sober for a number of years, I have this beautiful life; wife, kids, good job, many friends. Yet I’m regularly unhappy and I have nothing to point to explain why. By any reasonable measure of my circumstances I should be filled with gratitude & joy. But I wasn’t.

    Fortunately for me, I didn’t start drinking again. Some do and I can certainly understand why. What occurred to me instead was “I must’ve missed something, I need to try and find what it is”

    I began a meditation practice that was focused more on practice than results. I also changed the structure of my self-examination process. I started asking questions to help me dig into the possible reasons for my unhappiness. The idea was to get down to “causes and conditions”
    What I discovered is that I was filled with shame. The conviction that I am not enough. The weird thing is there was no reason that I should be ashamed. But I sure was. To make it worse, I couldn’t see a way out. I’d been ashamed for roughly 30 years at that point. It didn’t seem likely i was going to stop just because I could finally see it. But there was a glimmer of hope; I knew my mind isn’t completely reliable; “I’ve been wrong about so many other things in my life, what if I’m wrong about this one, too?”

    That idea – that I might be wrong – provided an opening. Something happened coming out of that idea – well I can’t really explain it. Grace. a free Gift. I do know that mentally/spiritually I was in a place where I was willing to do what ever it took to not be a slave to shame anymore. Something shifted. I wasn’t ashamed any more. Things got different.

    Since that day, life kicks ass. I get to feel and experience all emotions and ups and downs. That hasn’t changed. But that unconscious conviction that I’m not enough (aka shame) hasn’t come back. I’m grateful that I was given grace to get free from alcohol, but that pales in comparison to the gratitude I have about being freed from shame.

    So Kelly, when you write this blog and you regularly address shame and how to find freedom, I sometimes get this incredible feeling/joy/gratitude/compassion/I-don’t-have-enough-words. I can’t think of anything better for people to do for one another; to help each other get relief from shame. Getting free from shame is the best thing that can happen to a human being.

  • AC

    So so good, Dr. Flanagan!

  • K

    I was anxious and broken all day, but for a while, I felt like you restored order. When peace is nowhere to be found, that’s where I come.