There is a little problem in our society I like to call TTB Syndrome.
Ticking The Box Syndrome.
The 2.3 children
For some reason, the same lives are being lived all over the place with the same standards and the same milestones. That’s not to say these lives are dull. No, not at all. My only objection is whether for some people, it’s actually a CONSCIOUS DECISION to map your life out like this. Do we do what everyone else does because, well, everyone else is doing it? Are we even aware of why we want to Tick The Boxes? Because we see in movies and television and magazines that all the ticking equals all the happiness? Because we’ve grown up believing that this is the way we should live?
I have a little inkling that, instead, this is what might be happening:
That we’re actually just scared of life.
That we do we not trust in it and whatever it throws our way.
That we really just find it hard to give up our control over what we think will make us the most happy.
That we have, quite simply, lost our ability to open up to the mystery of it all.
Who made these boxes anyway, and who says a life is any less successful or any less fulfilling if some of the boxes aren’t ticked?
I think that what underpins our desire to box-tick is the bad habit we as humans find ourselves doing, even when we try our darndest not to: Comparison.
Now I know that this Comparison Flaw is nothing new. The Grass Is Greener syndrome has been around since time began and we ALL do it.
We look at their car, their children, their home, their hair, their job, their happiness, their luck and their confidence. Then we look at our car, our children, our home, our hair, our job, our happiness, our luck and our confidence. And even if we were quite happy with these things before, suddenly we’ve decided that it’s now not enough. Now we’re not satisfied and we want to be there…way over there with all the things that we don’t have and that we don’t feel.
And the problem is that we are Here wishing to be There, but once we finally reach There, we are just Here again, looking out, longing to be There.
All this Here-ing and There-ing has me bothered. When we compare our insides with other people’s outsides, we will always be on the move, never still, never satisfied, running like crazy to reach the glistening, glossy, gleaming promises of There.
And why would it be any other way?
Over There, there’s healthy, shiny hair. Over Here, there’s dull, dry hair that takes ages to do anything with. Over There, there’s big beautiful houses with clean, fresh linen cupboards full of bright white towels smelling all floral and fluffy. Over Here, there’s scrappy bits of house pieces shoved in cupboards or out collecting dust and mould, with a linen cupboard full of mismatched, scruffy towels. Over There, there are family holidays and big cars and oodles of happiness. Over Here, there are days at home and little cars and sudden happiness confusion.
Because suddenly, when I compare my life with someone else’s, I’m not satisfied with what I’ve got, and wanting more from the Outside World becomes more important than wanting more from the Inside World. Suddenly, developing the hidden, private stuff; the people we are, the thoughts we have and the morals we hold doesn’t seem necessary, doesn’t seem like milestones, doesn’t seem like measures of success.
And of course, what we have not yet learnt is that we don’t get to see behind There’s front door. We don’t get to look into There’s dirty clothes basket. We don’t know that There is also looking out with longing to their There. What can be clean and floral and fluffy on the outside is often just as messy and clumsy and inadequate as Here on the inside.
Because we take our insides with us wherever we go. When we get The Proposal and The Wedding, The Job and The House we think Is this it? Have I arrived? Is this what everyone has told me about? Am I more happy now? I can’t be sure. I actually think I need more boxes ticked to know. You know, to know for sure.
I heard yesterday that a study was done on the happiness levels of lottery winners verses severely injured people; paraplegics and quadriplegics. Of course you would assume that lottery winners with their new-found lifestyle and financial freedom would far outweigh the happiness levels of paraplegics with their new-found physical and emotional challenges which limit their every activity. However, the results showed that after a year, people from both groups rated their happiness levels the same. This only shows that happiness is a state of mind rather than a reflection of circumstance.
So maybe, as humans, we will never be able to stop ticking boxes. Because, these boxes – they are what we’ve come to believe will make us most happy. And, let’s face the truth, all us wee humans want is to be happy.
Maybe, instead, we can try to change what’s in the boxes.
So, for a month, I’m going to try a little experiment.
Whenever I find myself wishing I had someone else’s hair, I’m going to look down at my daughter and really take her in. I’m going to scan my eyes over every inch of her face and thank the heavens above that she is in my arms.
Whenever I find myself wishing I had someone else’s car, I’m going to try my hardest to search for their Inside Qualities; Have they been kind today? Do they listen? Really listen? Have they given me permission, in this little meeting in time, to be Less Than Perfect? Because that’s something worth being envious of and aspiring to. They are boxes worth being ticked.
Whenever I find myself doubting the cleanliness of my child, the motherly-ness I possess and the homeliness I am cultivating, I will thank the stars that I have something else worth writing about, some more fuel to write about Truthful Things, things that Connect Us All.
And finally, whenever I’m wishing we had more money so we could live on our dream property with the chickens and the veggie garden and the stars, I’m going to put on my favourite music and dance around the lounge room with my family because yes, Coldplay, Heaven IS inside.
“The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.” – David Orr