Oliver Burkeman describes the apparently near-universal human experience of forever living the “provisional life”. Not the full, real, complete and engaging experience we know is out there and if only we could solve problems X and Y we would achieve it; but rather something smaller and much less satisfactory.

Quoting Marie-Louise von Franz:

There is a strange feeling that one is not yet in real life. For the time being, one is doing this or that… [but] there is always the fantasy that sometime in the future the real thing will come about.

Of course it’s extremely rare that solving problems X and Y alleviates this condition. We just find a new problem Z that once again is holding us back from escaping the limitations and suffering imposed upon our current imprisoned self.

Knowing that almost everyone else also feels this might be more reassuring in that you can understand that it’s really a product of universal human psychology, not something especially deficient about your own personal existence.

But it could also perhaps feel less reassuring, in that it’s a feeling that it’s very likely you’re going to have to put up with for the rest of your life, one way or another. You are never going to get to a point in life wherein you encounter no problems. No-one does.

Burkeman’s solution is perhaps the only option that could exist, even if it’s not exactly something that would feature on an “inspirational” poster or influencer Instagram story. Accept that the universe doesn’t owe you an unconstrained hassle-free life. And it’s nothing you can realistically get to via your own efforts. So just embrace, or at least accept, the truth. Relax. Participate fully in the life you do have. Don’t waste time and energy dwelling on the one you can’t.

It turns out my really big problem was thinking I might one day get rid of all my problems, when the truth is that there’s no escaping the mucky, malodorous compost-heap of this reality.