I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to 'shred oranges and scrub the floor.
—D. H. Lawrence
Living in the present is one of the core tenets of Al-Anon. There is even a daily reader whose title is One Day at a Time. Most of the time I can think about just today. I'm not one who dwells on the past thanks to the program. But I do have moments when I start to think about the future.
When I was a lot younger I was living for tomorrow. When I was a kid I couldn't wait to be older so I could do more things! My major advisor told me in graduate school to not rush and push so hard because these are going to be the most exciting days of my academic career. Joni Mitchell's great song "The Circle Game" comes to mind.
As I got older, not living in the present meant that I would lie awake and think about all the things that I had to get done at work the next day. Or I would start planning a happy event and my thinking would move toward the desired or "expected" outcome. I've found that there is very little that I can do about anything in the middle of the night, except sleep and pray.
But what about those moments when I start to see the present moment fly past? This is how my thinking will go: "I'm getting older and there is much to do. The days are going past much faster than they used to. I don't have much time left since my life is about half over." And on and on it goes.
And at that point in my thinking about how tempus is fugit, I start to build expectations. I start to think that I only have this one life and yet there is so much still that I would like to do. So that leads me to try to orchestrate my future and generally someone else's as well. And the outcome is that I start to miss out on what is happening now. I start missing the journey because I'm wasting so much energy planning the future.
I have read that people who sacrifice the present for the future feel little accomplishment when they get to that goal that they reached. That's because they will start looking towards the next goal and sacrificing the now for yet another future.
I'm still working on learning to live in the present and just be in the moment. I'm learning to enjoy the journey and not look for the destination. I wonder, too, if learning to live in the present is not a process of aging. When the future is short compared with the past, the moment seems to shine with more urgency.
This doesn't mean that I have to give up all future plans. Living in the moment doesn't mean to shuck all responsibility or become cavalier about everything. I have bills to pay, doctor visits to make, deadlines for work proposals and reports. I just don't choose to obsess over my future. I like to strive for a balanced awareness of my past, present and future with the present being my fulcrum on life's see saw.
I like the way my life is now. I have more freedom to do what I want, when I want to and with whom. So now I would definitely say I'm living for happiness and satisfaction today. I know that I'm not going to be happy every day, but satisfaction with life covers a lot of ground.