Remember then: there is only one time that is important– Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. – Leo Tolstoy
I’ve been confronted lately by how much time I spend trying to live in the parts of my life that aren’t actually happening right now. I’m excitedly anticipating something great in my future, dreading something awful that is looming ahead, or I’m stuck revisiting something that happened in the past – because I feel like I didn’t handle it well and I’m trying to process it, or because it was amazing and I wish I was still there.
One of the reasons I’ve become more aware of this lately has been because I’ve been walking through some difficult anxiety-related struggles with one of my boys. He sometimes gets stuck imagining all the possible disasters that might lie in his future, resulting in overwhelming emotions that make it hard to do anything at all. So I find myself often encouraging him to just do the thing that’s in front of him right now, because that’s all you need to focus on, and really, it’s the only thing you can control. Sometimes that’s getting to sleep at night, or putting clothes on in the morning when the day ahead seems overwhelming. Sometimes it’s just some slow, deep, intentional breathing.
Because this has been particularly intense for him lately, I’m acutely aware of how often I seem to be saying it. So you would think then, that would help it sink into my brain too, right? But apparently, those things don’t just happen without us participating (who knew?!).
However, as is so often the case with my own personal growth, this call to be mindful, to live fully in the present, seems to be a recurring theme in my life right now. And so I find myself hearing similar phrases from different sources, reading words on a page that jump out and become a melody that plays in my mind each time I hear them again (yes, I think in musical phrases, doesn’t everyone?), until the sound is so familiar it breaks through all the other noise and draws me in. It’s then that I become curious – about what I’m hearing, and what I’m feeling – and it’s in that place I grow.
My awareness of what I miss when I live in the ‘not now’ is increasing. I’m realising that living everywhere at once doesn’t serve me. Because the reality is what’s here right now. And even when it’s hard, it’s worth staying present for.
My awareness of the things I use to try and escape the uncomfortable moments is increasing. “I need coffee”, I say. “Chocolate fixes everything”, I half-heartedly joke, quietly wishing it were true.
And I’m learning, as much as it seems a little bit ridiculous because it is so incredibly simple, that most of the time, the thing that brings me back to the present, to live fully where I am, is to breathe. Slowly, deeply, intentionally. I take a moment to remind myself that this life of mine is so very worth living to the full, and that means staying present for the good and the bad, the painful and the wildly joyful, and even for the mundane.