“Most of us in journalism are too obsessed with the here and now to think about the past or future tense of our lives.” Bill Moyers
Maybe I should have majored in journalism—I spent a good part of my days either looking at the past or anticipating the future.
It’s great to recall fond memories from my childhood: climbing the apple tree in our backyard and hanging upside down by my knees from the lowest limb; sipping tea and playing gin rummy with my sister on cold winter nights; walking to town with my friends to get an ice cream cone on summer afternoons.
But my excellent recall can turn against me. Kicking myself for missed opportunities, cringing as I re-live, yet again, an embarrassing faux-pas, or rehashing what I “coulda, woulda, shoulda” done instead—these all-too-familiar behaviors on my walks down memory lane rob me of the present moment.
Looking back can be appropriate. How can we correct past mistakes, make amends, or change for the better if we aren’t aware of what was wrong? But looking at the past isn’t the same as staring at it. That’s why the windshield of a car is so much bigger than the rear-view mirror, as they say. Staring at the past doesn’t change it.
Trying to hurry up and live tomorrow right now hasn’t gotten me anywhere, either. It used to make me frantic, until I learned to laugh at myself. I actually remember driving home on Saturday nights, week after week, wishing I could stop at the store and buy the Sunday paper, so I wouldn’t have to go out the next morning!
Besides, being too efficient wore me out. I was always planning, planning, planning ahead to make things “easier” for the next day, week, or event. Hah. When that day, week, event finally arrived, I was either too exhausted to enjoy it or skimming through on autopilot because I was already planning for the next upcoming thing. It makes sense to think ahead, but trying to live my future ahead of time never worked. I just couldn’t keep up with myself.
Worrying about what might happen is another thing that robbed me of peace of mind. If what I dreaded didn’t happen, I worried for nothing. If it did happen, worry didn’t help; it only sapped my energy.
Anticipating good things can get me into trouble, too. How many times was I let down because the special event never lived up to the advance build up I gave it?
If looking back reveals something to be corrected or an apology to be made, I need to do it now, forgive myself, and let it go. Similarly, I can make reasonable plans for tomorrow but leave the future in God’s hands. Then I can turn my attention back to the only time I really have to live in: now.
Living life the way it comes to us—one twenty-four hour packet at a time—is the way to go. Here, here, for the here and now.
What helps you stay anchored in the present?
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