Living in the NOW

Yeah, yeah, time is an illusion. That’s such OLD news. I learned that … when exactly? Let’s see – I live in Florida, so, when I learned it there were leaves on the palm trees and it was sunny, and it was warm out. So that was … oh, never mind.

Ever like a photo on Facebook and then suddenly find yourself in the black hole of Facebook photos of a person you hardly know (or know all too well)? One click and suddenly it’s four years ago and there is that person, kissing someone you’ve never seen before, smiling with slightly fewer laugh lines. Was it really four years ago or was it yesterday?

This is me in 11th grade. Or is this me yesterday?
This is me in 11th grade. Or is this me yesterday?

My haircut, skin and weight are basically the same today as in high school and college. Did my 20s even exist? Am I a different person now? Are you?

There are people who hold on to the past. Others worry about the future. It’s hard to know what is really in the NOW in people’s heads and hearts and what isn’t.

I was recently contacted by an ex-girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend. She wanted to get some advice about him, share experiences and hear what it was like to be on the other end of the heartbreak with this particular individual. As I was messaging her, I remembered what it was like to be extra skinny with sadness after that breakup. I remember one day, when I was crying in my bedroom (again), I literally cried out for help. Suddenly, a bright red cardinal flew to the bird feeder outside my window. Then suddenly a blue jay flew in and knocked the cardinal off. To my amazement, a woodpecker flew in right behind and knocked the blue jay off. It was the beginning of my recovery into life in the NOW again. (<– soundtrack alert)

I like to write NOW in all caps because that is when time happens. Breathe. There’s a moment. Just as fast as those birds came and went, that moment is gone. Breathe. There, another NOW. I had a brilliant politics professor in college, Mark Roelofs. He has Parkinson’s and wrote notes on the blackboard in the shakiest of handwriting, and I will never forget him making a giant arrow pointing down on the word NOW. That’s really all that matters.

Literally, I no longer have enough stuff to fill these suitcases. Emotional baggage is, um, another thing.
Literally, I no longer have enough stuff to fill these suitcases. Emotional baggage is, um, another thing.. He has Parkinson’s and wrote notes on the blackboard in the shakiest of handwriting, and I will never forget him making a giant arrow pointing down on the word NOW. That’s really all that matters.

So why is it so hard to let go of the past? That ex-boyfriend, whew-boy, I was hanging on to some baggage with that one for quite a while. Then the next one came along and provided me with all kinds of additional hang-ups. And the next, and the next! Even today, I was talking with my current boyfriend’s parents about friends their age who are single. His dad said, “The thing is, when you reach a certain age, you’ve got all this baggage!” Of course, that statement applies to just about anyone who didn’t find their life-long sweetheart by the age of 20.

How do we stay in the NOW? You just do. Birds fly in and out.

What’s hardest for me is understanding and recognizing when others are still holding on to the past in their heads and their hearts. I struggle with it. I am unable to control whether my loved ones are fully present. Sometimes I feel like I am being cheated on by time. Sometimes I am.

I think it’s true to say that those who have difficulty living in the NOW are not especially thrilled with their NOW. It’s easy to put on those rose-colored glasses and romanticize the past. We were soooo happy! None of this pain that is sometimes just inherent in the present moment. Myself, I can look longingly into the future, thinking some day, yeah, some day. Some day, it’s going to be just perfect.

So it’s not just a matter of staying in the NOW. It’s coming to terms

NOW this is happening!
NOW this is happening!

with the NOW. It’s being happy exactly where we are in space and time. It’s recognizing the lessons of the past and seeing how everything we’ve done has brought us to this exact moment. It’s knowing that everything we do at this exact moment will be propelling us into a future that has yet to exist, but is just as it is meant to be.

Today at the gym, the clock was missing. My trainer said it was running slowly, so he fixed the time. And then it ran even slower. It needed a new battery, so he took it down. Is that all that it takes to stay present? Sometimes we all need a fresh battery, a fresh shot of energy, and it’s easy to get: Breathe in, breathe out.

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