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

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.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.