Past-Present-Future: Present

This is the Part 3 of a three-part mini series (read Part 1, about the past, here and Part 2, about the future, here) that I decided to write because I'm finding that the concepts of past, present, and future are crucial in figuring out how I want to live my life. I thought I'd share my feelings on them; if you have any insights or thoughts of your own, feel free to leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you. 

Suggested listening:

Mason Jennings - Be Here Now


This is a post about balance.

Do you remember when you were a little kid and you woke up every morning with only one thought on your mind: what will I play with first?

Neither do I.

But I spend a lot of time with preschoolers, and they've been helping to jog my memory. Every day as a nanny has brought with it new lessons about being present.

D&L accept each day as it is, get lost for hours in play, and don't fret over the things to come. Without even realizing it, they embody the very meaning of what it is to live in the moment.

Granted, they don't have a lot of responsibilities, and they haven't necessarily learned that there is any reason to be anxious or nervous about life. Their biggest daily challenges are flushing the toilet after going to the bathroom and carrying their step stool to the sink when it's time to brush teeth.

But that doesn't mean that they don't deserve credit for their outlook on the world. They might not understand the bigger things in life like taxes and choosing the right career, but they still have fears and doubts. They're still scared of the monster in the closet and thunderstorms, and they definitely understand the frustration of not being strong enough to open the car door or not being able to remember that M and W are not just the same letter flipped upside down.

And those problems might sound trivial to an adult, but they're monumental to a kid. D&L get upset because they can't eat a snack unless I say they can. I get upset because I'm not extremely successful at the age of twenty-five. Different problems, yes, but also the same in that they're both equally important to the people experiencing them. The real difference is how we react. D&L cry and pout for five minutes, then see their train set lying on the floor and plop down to play, their tears vanishing in an instant. I get upset, dwell for hours about how I'll probably never write a novel, which means I'll never have enough money to own a house, much less travel the world like I want to, and how the hell am I going to raise children in a tiny apartment in the slums of LA? Why is my life going to suck?! It's not fair, waahhhh!

Whose reaction is better? I'll let you be the judge.

It's not that I believe people should be constantly present every moment of every day. Dreaming, planning and recalling good times are absolutely crucial to living a meaningful life. Progress is the result of dreams. Planning creates forward motion. Memories help you learn and grow. It's not about eliminating any one kind of thought. It's about creating a balance between thoughts. Making room for the past to teach you about living in the present so that you can dream about the future.

Everything in moderation, right?

This is where it gets challenging, at least for me. To live in the present means to actually be present while allowing the past and future some wiggle room as well. After all, each one can't exist without the others. But thus far, my sense of proper proportions has been all wonky. I have allowed the past and future so much wiggle room that they've gone and wiggled the present right out of the space that is my brain. I dwell. I worry. I spin around in mental circles freaking out about the periods of time I have no control over and ignoring the one small, manageable piece over which I actually do hold some power: now.

And that has got to stop. Because without the present's presence (yes, I just did that), my whole life is at a standstill. How can I ever expect to get to the future I want if I don't strive to thrive right now? It's impossible to skip over five years of my life, nor should I want to. So that only leaves me one option: let the future come in its own time, don't let the past drag me down, and breathe. Breathe in each moment, because there won't be another like it. There's one moment gone. There's another, out the window. What did I do to make those moments worthwhile? Nothing, if I'm not even aware they were here in the first place. Now's the time to do the work, embrace the challenges, and take one tiny step forward at a time. If I do that, the future will be here before I know it, and I'll have lived life to the fullest in the meantime.

And I won't even mention the time-space continuum issues that could crop up if my present is all about the future, which would make my past all about the future, which would make the future the only thing that exists.

It's science.

I leave you with the wonderful, wise words of Mason Jennings:

Be here now

No other place to be

Or just sit there dreamin'

Of how life would be

If we were somewhere better

Somewhere far

Away from all our worries

Well, here we are

Be here now

No other place to be

All the doubts that linger

Just set them free

And let good things happen

Let the future come

Into each moment

Like a rising sun

Be here now

No other place to be

This whole world keeps changin'

Come change with me

Everything that's happened

All that's yet to come

Is here inside this moment

It's the only one

Sun comes up and we start again. 

Happy day =]

ocean suds - santa monica