The Present is a Gift
An exhausted, single mother is awoken by a loud shriek of a cry. She checks the alarm clock by the bed, 2:30am. She had just been in his room 30 minutes ago! “What could he possibly want now?” she wonders as she puts on her slippers and shuffles into his room. She picks him up out of his oak wood crib and rocks him back and forth for the third time that night. “Just a few more months”, she reminds herself. "Then he will be old enough to sleep through the night".
An angsty teenage girl rocks back and forth as her sobs shake her body. Her tears stream down her cheeks like a river. Another heart ache… another lonely night. “One day I will meet the right one and I will never have to feel this way again”, she whispers to herself as she wraps her arms around her and pulls her legs in close.
An older gentleman walks down the street. He is out of breath and his knees ache. He thinks back to 1957, the year he led his football team to Nationals and threw the perfect game winning ball. He smiles as he reminisces, and it quickly turns into a frown. “If only my body could move the way it used to”, he mutters to himself as pauses to catch his breath.
All of these scenarios are vastly different, but they all exemplify the same thing….our inability to live in the present. I always find myself hoping for the weekend…only a few more days until Friday and then I can finally relax. I look back to my days in my entry level position of my career, constantly longing for the big promotion and the much needed change in my pay check. I remember when I was single, longing for a husband and a family….people I could call home. Now don’t get me wrong, none of these desires or wishes are inherently wrong but when all we focus on is the past we wish we could re-live or the future we wish we could be living, we overlook a salient gift – the Present.
The issue with living for the future is you’re always chasing. Once one goal is obtained you find another. The finish line moves farther, and you find yourself in an all out sprint while life passes you by. One desire trades in for another and now you’re pursuing a new dream or a new goal, never realizing that you have achieved or you are currently living the dreams you used to pray for.
Then we throw in living for the past, with all of the “would have”, “could have”, “should have”. How sad is it to realize that the moments we long for now, seemed so normal and lackluster then? We never really appreciated them until they were gone.
When we're stuck in the cycle of longing for the past and living for the future we become the rope in a full out tug of war. One end is the past and the other is the future, and with both sides being pulled at the same velocity we find ourselves immobile. Somewhere stuck right in the middle being pulled in two very opposite and very unsatisfying directions . Stuck between retrospection and anticipation...and we wonder why we’re all anxious!
When did the point of life become where we are going or where we have been instead of where we are? How can we be truly satisfied if we do not learn to live in the moment? How different would our lives be if we decided to be present, to be joyful in the here and the now?
This thought occurred to me the other day as I was watching my step son. His sweet and innocent excitement when he lost his first tooth. His pure bliss each and every time he saw an airplane pass by in the sky. His elation at a simple trip to CVS to pick out a five dollar toy. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered -what happened to my appreciation and enthusiasm for the simple things? Where did that childlike rapture escape to? What would my days feel like if I acted like I was experiencing things for the very first time again? How exciting would my day be if I rejoiced and celebrated the present? How much more satisfying would my daily cup of coffee be, or my commute to work while I blare Taylor Swift? What if instead of living life on fast forward or looking longingly in the rear view, I slowed down and appreciated where I am. Right now. In this moment.
I practiced this during a mindful moment on my evening walk by the levee today. I made sure to really be aware of the world around me. I noticed how beautiful and colorful the wildflowers were as they welcomed in spring. I noticed the peaceful sound of the waves crashing up against the rocks as the gentle wind ushered them along. I noticed the warmth of the sun on my face and I let it wash over me, enveloping me from head to toe. I was present, in the moment, and I felt pure, childlike bliss. I felt peace and belonging. The fog of anxiety that is all too familiar lifted, and I was thankful. The walk I had been dreading turned into my favorite part of today.
I encourage you to practice a mindful moment like this. Whether it be during a coffee run, during your drive to work, while you’re eating your lunch, or while you’re out running the errands you’ve been dreading to run. Do it like it’s the very first time…or do it like it’s your last. Be present. Notice the details. Romanticize it. Take it all in. Make each moment magical. How different could your life look if you experienced it this way?
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”.
Live mindfully. Live presently. Live now.