The Gift of the Present


A couple of summers ago, I was in a teeny tiny little town in Wisconsin for work and happened to walk past a sweet store on the main drag.  The shop had little gifty things and as I passed the window I saw a hand-painted sign that said "enjoy this moment, for this moment is your life."  I went along my merry way in search of (delicious and amazing) cheese-curds and beer, but that got me thinking a lot about the past, present and future and the careful, but necessary, navigation of the balance of all three in my life.  The past is gone; the future is uncertain.  All we have is the present moment in which we live, and each of those moments becomes the thread that ties together the tapestry of what is, ultimately, our lives.

The lesson from the little wooden sign was precisely perfect. Yet, as much as I would love to focus solely on the present, it's really hard to put that into practice.  I have always been a very future-oriented person.  I set goals - big, juicy goals - and I usually attain them.  It may take time and hard work and there are usually a bunch of setbacks and failures along the way, but I eventually get there.  And then I set another goal.  The goal setting is good, and it's important, and it is part of who I am.  But a constantly forward-looking life misses so many beautiful moments in the present.  I've come to realize that if I set my sights on the day that has yet to come, I am losing the days that are here right now -- a life looking only at the future is not a life well lived.  

Likewise, I find myself thinking about the past a bit.  I try - hard - not to dwell on it, but I can't help but be guided by choices I've made, and things that happened in my life, as I live my life in the present.  The past has made me who and what I am today, and with all my flaws and messes (and believe you me, there are many), I like who I am.  To be sure, there have been some pretty significant peaks and some equally significant valleys, but I am in a place where I really know myself.  But shedding the rough stuff of the past is far easier said than done.  It's like a rear view mirror -- you look back and want to leave the past back where it belongs, but objects in mirror are closer than they appear.  

And now the present, and that delicate balance of being guided by the lessons and mistakes of the past while looking to the future with hopeful optimism, but having just a single big toe dipped in each.  The present is where it all happens: it's the place to feel the feels.  It's the only place to feel joy or to feel sadness.  It's where we laugh and cry.  It's where we can hug and kiss the ones we love.  It's where we touch and hear and taste and see.  It's where our heart swells and breaks.  The present is where life happens and if you blink -- poof -- it is gone.

So, rather than being too forward focused or stuck in the past, I am making an effort to live more in the here and now.  Rather than wring my hands and fret and ask "what is going to happen?", I am changing the punctuation from a question to a statement -- yes: what is going to happen.  What is going to happen, and it's up to me to make it happen.  No matter what the what is that happens, I'll be ready for it.  I am pulling those big toes out of the past and future and jumping - full boar - into the present with the accompanying chance to really experience life, with eyes fully open to the possibility probability of failure and of setbacks, but with the knowledge that with soaking up the moments -- good and bad, easy and challenging, wonderful and horrible -- of the present brings the possibility of life's ultimate reward.

It's the perfect present.


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