I intellectually understood this idea of “being present”. this idea of “awareness”. Watching yourself in the present. And I was into it. The New Earth. The Power of Now. I’d read both books. I was bought in. I knew what they meant, and it made really good sense to me. But that was as far as I’d gotten. Or maybe if I paused and watched myself in the present, I’d go so far as to judge whatever it was that I saw myself doing. And judge harshly of course. Mostly, though, my mind was in the future.
Some people spend most of their days longing or pining for somebody or something from the past. Some way that it was. Or worse – a way that it should have been or should be. An old boyfriend who was the one who got away. A simpler time before we had responsibilities like jobs or kids. Nope – that wasn’t my problem. I was hopelessly (hopefully?) future looking. And planning. Wow, could I plan like a champ. It helped that I had jobs where I (quarter by quarter, year by year) had to develop financial projections, or set revenue goals. This normalized the concept for me. And even though I raised an eyebrow more than once, and even though my intuition felt funny, I didn’t call what most of that forecasting is: total horse shit. Sometimes the numbers are actually made up. Pulled out of thin air. Sure, there’s justifications every step of the way – historical, marketplace conditions, etc etc. Then there’s the total unicorn layers to get you to the numbers you need to report. An improved product guarantees we’ll sell 20% more based on spending 5% more in marketing aforementioned improved product. Mostly, it’s creative math to back into whatever number you WANT to report to shareholders, bosses, Wall Street, etc. But it isn’t just Corporate culture. The reality is – it’s all around us. This push to plan for a better future. And it’s all about amassing enough money to one day – somewhere in the far off future – live comfortably. The whisper that lies on the other side of that conceit is this: “NOW isn’t good enough” why not? why isn’t NOW exactly as it is should be? B/c it’s not what we hoped or anticipated? I love our natural human drive to better our situations. To grow, evolve, etc. But if we consistently have our eye anywhere other than the ball, we’re gonna miss it. And that would be heartbreaking. B/c there is so much RIGHT NOW, to delight in.
This morning I bundled up in my ankle length Canada Goose jacket to brave the cold, and did the dreaded NYC errand: dropping off dry cleaning. I decided on a whim to check out the new coffee shop on Court St. Both of these decisions were made only minutes before I did them. Not last night, not at the beginning of the week as part of a weekly plan/to do in my calendar. Just a choice I could make to drop off dry cleaning, or to avoid the chore for one more day. And naturally, the coffee was a bit of a reward for actually going through with the dry cleaning chore. So the entire experience was already trending towards positive. Not an exciting adventure mind you, but not misery. I resolved to stay as present as possible to every interaction and experience as they came up (I left my cell phone behind – knowing my phone ensures virtual escape from the present moment).
I noticed a hole in a sweater as my dry cleaner counted out each article of clothing (he said he’d fix it, no problem), and I took in what an amazing smile he has, and realized how kind he always was to me. I then walked into the coffee shop. There were homemade baked goods that smelled like someone’s grandmother had been baking all day. The girl brewing the coffee was an adorable hipster. And the owner rolls in, and right away we start bantering like old friends. He’s from Virginia, I’m from Kentucky – that’s why we get each other – he decides – out loud. I learn he makes the baked goods himself. I buy a scone for my boyfriend. I try the coffee – it’s a perfect latte. It brings me as much joy as our good natured ribbing.
Then I head home, and as I reach my brownstone stairs, a huge squirrel is squaring off with me, on the banister – almost at eye level. I can see the luxurious texture of his fur. He’s so alive, and alert, yet frozen in mid step. We are locked in a staring contest. He has loot that he is protecting. Probably a nut. And he pulls it to him defensively. He gives me one more long look, then dashes away. I laugh out loud.
In my usual state of awake sleepwalking I may not have seen the hole in my sweater, I may not have had a laugh with a stranger who felt like a friend (b/c he’s from the neighboring state of Virginia, naturally!), and I most certainly wouldn’t have had a staring contest with a large squirrel in the middle of Brooklyn. I’m ashamed to admit, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the squirrel (in my defense, he blends with our brown brownstone, and the dead trees of winter!!!). You see, the present, when you really look at it, feel it, believe in it, stay in it, live in it, is actually so blindingly achingly good that it brings tears to my eyes. It can be emotionally wondrous and overwhelming in all its aliveness and sheer beauty. Sounds like an exciting adventure to me.
Bottom line – there are no problems. There may be situations to deal with, but there are no problems. There’s only what’s in front of you, and the decision you have to make about it. And with every step you take in the present, and every choice you make in the present, you are changing the future. So stop worrying about what the future will be, b/c it will arrive in a whole other form regardless of that worry. The doing will change the future. Not the thinking or the worrying about what it will look like. But the doing. Right now.