During my usual morning routine today, with my brain running through my classic million or so worries, ponderings and plannings, I paused to flip open a lovely little book given to me by one of my RW BFFs last year: The Promise of a New Day by Karen Casey. Today’s WOW (Words of Wisdom) was an entry about living in present moments. “We love to fantasize about the past and the future… But we get into trouble when we forget that “the past” and “the future” are inventions; the only reality is the present. Yes, past events contribute to our now; yes, the present will help to determine the future. But we can’t do anything about them; the past and the future are out of our reach.” Appropriately enough, this caused my muddled head to pause a moment and say “huh.”
We have just come through one of the busiest times of the year where people all over go into overdrive to get ready for Christmas, spending weeks if not months looking forward to the big day. We finally stop for a few days of celebration and hopefully appreciate and enjoy our present moments… until BAM, here’s New Year’s Eve! We tell tales of the past, and begin more planning and thinking about the future. We make resolutions about things we want to change, or do in the months ahead. At work, we kick into plans for the year ahead, developing calendars, projects, budgets and set up deadlines to be reached. Personally, we start planning events, activities, trips. How many times have we made plans with friends and said “oh good, now I have something to look forward to?” It is all about looking ahead. Because we don’t want to admit that both the past and the future are out of our reach. We R.W.’s especially don’t like to relinquish control, right?
In my own little world right now, sadly I have both a human loved one and a pet who are navigating their ways through their end phases of life… meandering towards that bridge to a peaceful place in the land of “whatever comes next”, leaving behind those of us who really don’t want them to go. And through this process, I find that I am pretty well obsessed with what’s coming next. Worrying whether I’m doing enough for them, am I preparing them, and myself, and my other loved ones, for the end.. how is it going to happen? How much longer do we have? What do I do next? I told my husband last night that I felt like all I am doing is waiting for horrible things to happen.
Because apparently that is what I’m doing. And I shouldn’t be. Why are we so trained to focus on what in many ways is out of our hands, out of our control? Why can’t we live for the present, and enjoy and appreciate what is happening right this very minute? Instead of trying to plan when I’m going to clean my dirty windows, why don’t I just enjoy the way the sun is beaming through them? Why don’t I stop and just watch the birds visiting the feeder in my garden? Shouldn’t we all relish the moment when we share a laugh with a co-worker, or get a much-needed hug, savor a sip of cocoa, enjoy the smell of the top of a pet’s head, or get totally engulfed in a really good book? Why can’t we be content with “right now, my time with this person, or this pet, is good and fine and lovely”?
The answer is we can — I think it is truly just a matter of re-programming, training ourselves, and having Faith. We have to force ourselves to slow down and stop thinking ahead ALL the time, OR trying to relive past events. And for goodness sakes, RW’s, slow down the worrying! It is all we do. We can’t enjoy the present if we are too wound up with worry about what’s ahead or what has already gone by.
I rarely make New Year Resolutions. Making a promise in January about some kind of change in my life is too much pressure – I’d rather set up goals as I move along. But this time, thanks to that one little excerpt I read this morning, I do have one: to live in the present far more. It can’t be that hard. And I’ll bet it will feel a whole lot better.
Just like that famous tag line, we should ask ourselves: Do you hear me now? The answer: Yes, as long as we are listening.