This week marks the one year anniversary of being in lockdown due to the coronavirus. One year. (And it’s been a long year.)

With vaccinations rolling out, kids finally returning to the classroom, and restrictions beginning to ease, I hear people saying, “Brighter days are coming.” (I’ve literally seen three posts on social media with that language in the last hour.) And I get it. We like having something to look forward to, and everyone is craving a return to normalcy.

But for a long time (entirely too long if you ask me), my happiness and sense of “okayness” hinged on things returning to normal. (Which I feel like I should mention was and still is completely out of my hands. Why I felt like putting my happiness in the hands of the government was a good idea I’ll never know.)

I wasn’t just hoping for the brighter days, I needed them. And what’s worse, I forgot that joy and peace aren’t actually tied to circumstance. And with my eyes focused on the “light at the end of the tunnel”, I forgot that there’s light in the here and now too. We don’t actually have to wait for “what’s coming” to be happy. We can actually be happy and dance in the bright sunlight of the here and now.

It’s easy to turn our lives into giant when/then statements. When we hit a wall, encounter a hardship, or you know, face a global pandemic, it’s easy to find ourselves searching for the change or solution that will fix everything. The reset button. The blessing that will balance out the pain. And we tell ourselves that we’ll be happy/ok/content/at peace when we get a new job, get married, make more money, etc. (Or perhaps a little closer to home right now, I’ll be happy/ok/content/at peace when my child goes back to school, I can go to the movies, I can eat inside Red Robin, I can burn my face mask, etc.)

We’ve tricked ourselves. We so often think a change in circumstance will solve everything. We look to “the new” as our way out of the mental funk we’re living in. And, it’s true that a change of pace, new surroundings, or something different can excite, refresh, and even bless us. However, whenever we tie our joy to circumstance, we’re in for disappointment.

If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it should be that circumstances change. Things are wildly out of our control. Things happen that we don’t understand, didn’t plan for, and would have never made our bucket list. And we never know what’s coming.

I like thinking about the future. I’m excited for the day when I can leave my house without a mask, send my kiddo to school five days a week, and not pay $6 for a can of cleaning wipes. But, I’m tired of waiting for those days to come in order to be happy. I’m tired of my peace being dependent on what my governor does or doesn’t say. I’m tired of relying on circumstances, other people, and “everything coming up Bekki” in order to be “okay.”

While I fully understand (and even support) the sentiment behind, “brighter days are coming” – I don’t want any of us failing to see the light shining today. The day right in front of us. Here. Now. We don’t have to wait to be happy. The stars don’t have to align. Restrictions don’t have to ease. Mandates don’t have to be lifted. There is joy right now -as we wait. “Brighter” days may be ahead of us – but don’t sit around waiting for them. Get out and find the bright light of today.