There are people I know who seem to naturally live in the here and now. They laugh from their bellies. They might be seen tearing up (male or female) at a good Coke commercial, or a graduation. They will express their frustration with a problem, but, almost always, equally enjoy the solution. They love a great glass of wine and a bountiful meal. They are still a part of the same world as we are, with its concerns and stressors, however,
they seem to have past and future concerns stowed away, in separate compartments, that they open only when necessary allowing them to be fully present in the ‘NOW’.
Then there’s me. Sometimes I feel like I am living either in the past OR the future, but very rarely in the present. I have been known to ‘be in my head’ and that is usually when my husband will take a concerned look at me, and ask ‘what’s going on in there, Lul?’. Often I am playing out one of a few different scenarios in my mind. I could be rehearsing words that have yet to be said or written. I could be combing over and analyzing words that I have already expressed. I could be looking at my present circumstance and wondering: “How long is all of this going to last?” ALL of these rabbit trails are either in the past or the future, and most importantly, they are all beyond the scope of my control. And I wonder why my mood suffers sometimes?!
I have come to realize that all of this obsessive ‘thinking’ really gets in the way of living in present day reality, and can suck the gratitude out of any situation quickly. For example: How can the former beauty queen gracefully move into middle age and be genuinely happy, when she is constantly comparing her body and her beauty to that of her former 17 year old self? Or, how can the million dollar athlete enjoy the career he is in when he must constantly worry about another player rising above him? Or worse, as his skill declines with age, he must worry about losing his opportunity to play the game he loves and has devoted his life to. Lives lived in the past, or in the anxiety of the unknowable future.
So how can I stop myself from worrying about the choices I’ve made the last two years (the past) and constantly wondering where those choices will end up taking me (future)? One word: NOW.
I’ve actually been thinking of getting a huge tattoo of this word somewhere where I can constantly see it (like my hand…arm…forehead! Inverted, of course, so I could still read it every time I looked in the mirror). Something that could jolt me out of my past wanderings or my future longings. Somethimg to remind me to be aware, present, and to make this very moment that I am living, relevant. Ultimately, to know that this is really the ONLY choice I have. I want to learn what that looks like, and get better at it. For some of us this could be making the decision to not worry so much about retirement, or about the house we might be able to buy, or the job that we could get. For others, (those of us prone to worry), it might be starting with much smaller, daily things; the moment to moment choices happening NOW.
Here is something that I’ve been working on. Some days…ok…MOST days…I get completely overwhelmed with the thought of having to entertain my kids ALL summer long with a VERY limited budget. I start counting up the sheer number of days…hours…minutes…and suddenly I feel trapped. I start imagining the endless fights, the protestations of boredom and then the guilt I will feel when I start vividly imagining locking them in their rooms and going for a Starbucks. However, I’ve been practising NOW living. I’m learning to stop the out of control, runaway thought train and to start asking myself: “What can I do NOW?” In the situation with my kids I can talk to them and make a plan for the next hour. That is ‘do-able’; nothing to it. No ‘then what’s’, or ‘what if’’s’, just: This is the plan for NOW. Then after that hour is done we can evaluate how we feel NOW and decide what to do from there.
Does this all sound strangely calming and somewhat simplified? That’s because it is. It’s not that I think our LIVES our simple, but if we live in the NOW, we can use exactly what we have in that moment to deal with what is before us. I find it interesting that Jesus himself spoke some very wise words over two thousand years ago, that are still applicable (if not more so) today. They are a great reminder of this moment to moment approach: ““Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34, The Message) He acknowledges that there ARE troubles, but our ability to cope lies in dealing with NOW only. And it’s through this baby-step approach, dealing only with what’s before me, that I will move along to the next moment; more quickly and less painfully than my regret or anxiety ever did.
It’s time to live…NOW
Becoming Ordinary: Day 328