As a woman in her thirties, I need to break a terrible habit I call the Cycle of Dissatisfaction. I know it is coming on because I start to feel anxious. My shoulders and my neck tighten, I have difficulty sitting still and my mind races imagining all of the what-ifs that lurk and haunt my current reality. What if I moved into another house in another city, would I ultimately be happier? What if I took a different career path, could I make more money, would I be happier? What if started another hobby, could I fit it into my schedule, would it make me more interesting and therefore happier? These questions invade every moment of silence until every thought is loud and demanding, and I am forced into action.
This is how the Cycle of Dissatisfaction progresses: Physical and mental anxiety about the state of things. (Everything.) Intense research that leads me to explore possible solutions to imagined problems. The realization that even if I changed everything I find problematic, it is not guaranteed that I would feel resolved. Anger at myself for having once again, riled myself up and wasted time focusing on the negative rather than the positive in my life.
Obviously, as I go through the various stages of the Cycle of Dissatisfaction, the pivotal question and what I am consequently trying to determine is my level of happiness. Would I be happier if everything was different? I have come to the conclusion that the simple answer is no. The reason for this poignant and disappointing, yet liberating conclusion is that no matter what is going on, happiness is all about perspective and my perspective is always at odds, skewed by two conflicting ideologies.
I grew up in a very Latin household where one’s fate is always left up to “si Dios quiere,” which translates to “God willing,” and with parents saying that I should feel content and conformed with life’s circumstances. I also grew up in Los Angeles, California where conformity has a connotation of weakness and nothing is left up to God because there is such a concept as self-determination. These conflicting ideologies are the reason why I go through the Cycle of Dissatisfaction. I do not know how to be content nor do I know how to leave my fate up to a “si Dios quiere.” And since reconciliation or a balance between these two schools of thought will not come easily, today, all I can do in an effort to reduce stress, is resist the need to focus on the negative. The idea is that by identifying the cycle I will be able to deny it each and every time it tries to take over my life. I know, so dramatic… I did say I was Latina right?
By Wendy Castellanos-Wolf
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