Where is the Excitement of Life?

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 10, 2018

My usual pattern is to teach by way of stories, metaphors, and straightforward discourses on specific principles. Today we’ll try something different, where I’ll just share a communication between myself and a woman named Laura, who had been experiencing frustration in her life despite a diligent attempt to apply what she had learned about Real Love.

It’s very likely that you’ll find many questions, comments, and frustrations in common with her. This is a synthesis of Skype messages, verbal conversations, texts, and emails. It began with my writing to her about how it is feelings that are most powerful in our lives, not our thoughts.

Laura: Thank you for your two emails. I read them both a few times today. I really felt your soul as I read.

Me: I’m pleased that you’re feeling. You’ve lived alone in your head for a long time. There is no way to over-state that, nor to exaggerate how that has isolated you.

Laura: For some reason—which was new to me—I just wanted to sit with the words all day, without thinking too much. I've been practicing what you said, taking the time to find and feel the beauty and joy in everything. I’m shocked at what I’ve been missing.

Me: It's really like waking up from a very long sleep.

Laura: This is going to take some practice. I listened to three video chats, and wow, they just spoke to my soul. There are miracles all around me. I’m just going to spill out my thoughts—victim, fears, everything—hoping to break out of the prison where I’ve lived for months. I keep feeling depressed, bored, and unenthusiastic, and I want to stop it.

Me: You say this a lot. You believe the lie—you embrace it—that life really should be dramatic and exciting. You’re addicted to drama and excitement, needing more and more. On many occasions I have watched you decide—with the cool calculation of throwing away an old dress—that an activity you've been enjoying will now be boring, so it's not worth pursuing. Then you drop that particular activity and look for the next potential thrill. But, my dear, this—right here, right now—is life. This is it, our opportunity to find the fulfillment and excitement of living in everything. It’s our job—your job—to retain a child-like wonder at everything that happens. Instead I see you sifting through every experience looking for the glitter of gold and diamonds, when the joy you really want is right there in everyday events and people. You are sitting in the middle of what you frantically seek.

Her: Yuck, you’re right! I do this with everything! I'm not kidding. Example: a few times every year I write “brush teeth twice a day” on my to-do list, knowing that if I do that, I’ll avoid a lot of pain and dental work later in life. I get excited at the challenge for maybe two weeks—tops—then I get BORED of brushing my teeth twice a day and stop. My need for something to be exciting is that bad.

Me: I know. Now, sit still for a minute and look at those two words I just wrote. You've never read them before and appreciated them. When I say, "I know,” it means "I understand that. I understand YOU." That changes everything. It means that you're not alone anymore. That’s part of the wonder of life, of being here, right now.

Me: There have been times in the past when you’ve hated it when I’ve said, “I know” in response to something you said. Why? Because I was claiming to see you to a degree you’ve never experienced before. But, to repeat, why would that bother you? Why wouldn't you just be happy that you were finally being genuinely recognized? You would resist because:

  1. After a lifetime of being different and misunderstood and even avoided, it would be risky for you to trust that you were finally being understood. What would that be like? How should you behave if someone really understands you? Wouldn't that potentially expose you to even more risk? What if you even felt invaded in your quiet little cave?
  2. It might go away. To find understanding and then lose it is potentially worse than never to have had it at all. After a lifetime of being alone, it's quite a miracle to find somebody who understands you. It would also be a devastating loss to lose it, and how could you possibly avoid thinking of that possibility, since you have no experience with this kind of lasting connection?
  3. Not special. This is a sneaky one. You’ve always gotten a sense of uniqueness, mystery, importance and specialness from being hard to understand. Part of you likes it, so if you allow the possibility that somebody does understand you, you would lose some of these qualities. You might lose some of the drama and excitement you’re addicted to.

Laura: I really, really want to do what it takes to stop chasing constantly for a buzz or a high and to stop that reflex where I choose to be bored. Now I can see that one reason I choose boredom is that it’s way of demanding that somebody give me a hit of excitement. Looking back, it's been such an overwhelming pattern of destruction in my life. I'm going to do whatever I can to make the old pattern stop. I will need some help from you, I think.

Me: You will. The benefits will come much faster if you understand and remember the three reasons I just gave you for you resisting real connection.

Me: Let me share with you what somebody recently wrote to me:
“I just wanted to reach out and share the tender feelings of my soul. You have really helped me make my life. After spending time with you, I now love spending time with people to teach them and love them, as I’ve seen you do. I’ve learned to help people find the freedom, peace, and joy that you helped me find. How could this get better?
“I learned to find excitement in everything by watching you. You talk to people in person, you do Skype calls, you cut down a dead tree and chop it into firewood, you pick up leaves and sticks on the ground, and you love every minute of it. One time you stood for minutes and taught me all about the creation and beauty of a single piece of gravel. I felt like a special little child. Thanks for helping me to find joy in everything I do.”

Me (now speaking to Laura again, rather than reading): “I think you're missing the wonder of the leaves and sticks.”

Laura: Me too, and thanks for helping me to see it. I think I’ll need to consciously keep choosing to look and feel the wonder. And I’ll need help. I’ve tried using love and gratitude to minimize the boredom but something I am doing is preventing joy or consistent contentment, and it has for months. I keep coming back to the fact that I’ve lost the buzz.

Me: That’s the problem, like we were saying. Instead of just seeing the miracles everywhere, you're looking for an artificial "buzz." You’re looking into the face of a newly-blooming flower and looking for money or gold.

Laura: I get the feeling that if I understand this, my life will be happier—and deeper.

Me: Way deeper.

Laura: You know I’m pretty sneaky, right?

Me: I do.

Laura: I deceive myself that I’ll be happier with the drama and excitement, but it’s superficial and brief. It never lasts. Maybe if I found a husband, made a family.

Me: Not really. In your present condition, you'd get married and have a child and be excited, and then in no time you'd wonder where the buzz was. You’d want to move on to something else, without understanding that the real excitement is everywhere—in the leaves and sticks, in every person we meet, in the sunlight, in changing diapers. Can you even begin to imagine how often God says or does the same things with us—over and over, with incalculable repetition—just because we need it? Just because He loves us? He doesn't look for excitement. He just IS excited about all He gets to do. Serving us is a privilege for Him.

Her: How fortunate to see all this before I did something stupid like try to have a family. So how do I know what’s real? How do I know what real happiness is?

Me: You’ll start with just being more AWARE. Just do stuff—keep moving—and you’ll discover what you quietly ENJOY, not what gives you an ever-increasing cascade of excitement.

Her: Tricky balance of assessing whether I’m feeling genuine excitement or an artificial buzz, isn’t it?

Me: Sometimes. Maybe I can help you with that. Genuine excitement makes you close your eyes and breathe deeply, as opposed to a rush of adrenaline. It’s not something you need to amplify, magnify, or dramatize. Real happiness enlarges the soul and is always accompanied by peace.

Her: This is like learning a completely different language on a whole new planet. But wouldn't anyone feel bored or depressed doing the same things every day, without doing something new, planning, achieving, having exciting goals?

Me: I do pretty much the same "stuff" every day, and I'm not bored. Because if I pay attention, every person and situation is a little different, so I get to plan, do new things, and achieve great goals, however small they might appear.

Her: All I can see ahead is a withdrawal from success and doing and excitement, which would kill me with depression and boredom from the nothingness. You understand?

Me: Oh yes, but it’s such a black-or-white, dreary view. Most important, it’s simply not true. There IS exciting stuff to do every day, and it can be genuinely, eternally exciting without becoming Imitation happiness.

Her: The way I see things really is depressing, and I have to change it. I am so black or white, my head defaults to black/white parameters before I can see it. It’s a reflex I learned as a kid. I believed that I needed to know the rules to get it right, to be safe, but now I don't. I need to get comfortable with grey and non-clear lines, with a more fluid view of life.

Me: Do you read blogs and listen to video chats on the website every day? DO you ask wise men and women for what you could do to contribute to people’s lives? The excitement is in mundane service. What you’re looking for is right there. When I walk outside, I’ll pick up a hickory nut and find fascination in its intricate structure. You would briefly observe that it was brown and throw it back on the ground.

Laura sighed and said, that’s true, I’ve become distant from the joy you’re describing. You know, early on in Real Love I was ALL in when it was exciting and new, but then I got bored again—old pattern. I will listen more, make Real Love bigger in my life and put more effort into showing up to meeting and looking for how I can serve. I tend to read other books, mixing every philosophy and religion, because they’re more “fun,” and if I keep it mixed up, it doesn't get as boring … but all that mixing of philosophy has way less truth, accountability, and responsibility. And I use it to hide out. I run away from anything the moment I get bored, or if people try to control me, or if it really gets hard. This is kinda huge to see all this with the clarity I’m seeing it right now. Thank you.

Laura: So now what do I do? How do I fill my days? I mostly do meaningless stuff. Or I look for excitement. Should I do some part-time work, work on a degree?

Me: Get a job. You already know what you do that makes the most money, where your talents lie. Never hurts to be a little more financially independent. But do it for fun and for purposes yet to unfold, rather than demanding that every step be exciting. And without using your successes to define you.

Laura: Has all this self-deception and addiction to excitement and drama crippled me? Am I too broken to change?
Me: I’m not worried about you. You’re a little hyper right now as you’re withdrawing from drama and excitement, but you’ll get over that.

Her: I feel like you’re holding my hand, and so are other people, and I can handle this.

Me: Guaranteed, and many others will help you too.

Her: I feel tender, like I’m really not alone. That's quite a feeling. I feel very grateful and blessed.

Me: Those are lovely words. Remember them. A few more words to remember: On many occasions I have seen you find the excitement or tenderness in something—much like you just said—only to say to me a short time later, “That doesn't do it for me anymore." Be realistic. The world isn't here to supply you with excitement every minute. You're here to learn to become much more than excited. You’re here to be celestial, to be powerful and peaceful, and that happens in so many small ways.

Laura: I am so glad you said that. I never before understood to the depths I just felt when I read your words, why I used to feel like “it doesn't do it for me anymore.” I was missing the point. I was missing the purpose of life. I was taking what you were giving me and turning it into something else. That's scary. I really hope I can learn to live a different way.

Me: You will like it better.

Her: Have you done this same kind of emotional healing, where you’ve gone from chasing the buzz and busily doing thing to powerful feeling and finding joy in most things? It seems like such a monumental shift.

Me: Yes, I have, and yes, it's been a big shift. And I have to keep working at it, or I forget and slide backward.

Her: Right now I’m feeling a deeper and more trusting connecting. I can see how much I'm learning, and I can feel I'm accessing feelings I've never been able to before, which is allowing for deeper healing. I am doing all the happy and wise stuff every day like praying, emailing God gratitude lists every day, listening to video chats, reading past emails and the bible, and spending time with loving people.

Me: All of those things will bring you closer to what you want, but you don’t have to be doing “spiritual things” all the time. It’s unavoidable that ordinary work and other things occupy most of our attention. We are mortal beings living in this physical world. We just need to attend to spiritually elevating things regularly, or the activities of the world will fill every corner of our lives. And even when we do all the right things, the road will sometimes be bumpy. If we keep moving forward with good intent, though, things will work out.

Laura: Just reading these words, I breathe more easily. These words help me breathe. They take a weight off of my shoulders.

Me: Spencer W. Kimball said, "When we are engaged in the service of our fellow men, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of God that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves!

Her: “When we concern ourselves more with others . . .” That is a key reminder for when I am consumed with my own stuff and not choosing to think of others at all. I need to take action to actively choose to see the person in front of me with wonder, a child of God that I have the opportunity to give to.

Me: George Eliot said, “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heartbeat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."

Laura: This is beautiful. I feel that child-like wonder you talked about earlier just reading these words. Like in the movie, Amazing Grace, where the main character just marveled at the quiet and simple wonder of a spider’s web.

Me: It’s easy to get lost in the chase of the false thrill, because of the volume of its noise and the number of people racing to find it. The real thrill is in the beating heart, a contented smile, an act of service silently offered.

Laura: I feel tender and blessed.

Me: Then you have been paying attention to what matters.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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