I know I’ve written on the topic of trying to stay “present-focused” (instead of past- or future-focused) many times before, but I know I can always use a reminder and maybe you can, too.
I was just listening to the radio and Fleetwood Mac’s catchy tune, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” came on. Music has such a powerful hold over me. This particular song swept me away to a memory of my dad and I listening to that song in his minivan on one of our many drives home from Gettysburg College. The song’s lyrics are like taking a fast-acting happiness pill: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Don’t stop. It’ll soon be here. It’ll be here better than before. Yesterday’s gone…yesterday’s gone.” Hooray! Yesterday is gone and the promise and hope of tomorrow lie just ahead! Yeah. Let’s focus on tomorrow. What could possibly be wrong with looking ahead?
But what about the present? Especially if in this present moment you’re feeling miserable, lonely, in pain, desperate, confused, scared, or anxious. Both my training as a counselor and my personal experience have taught me that running away from the present is only a short-term solution for one’s current woes. Think about the thousands of us who struggle with eating disorders who tell ourselves, “Tomorrow I’ll be better. I’ll eat less (or more).” Or “As soon as [blank] happens, my life will be better.”
Yes, it’s important to not dwell on the past. But it’s equally important to not spend all of our waking hours in the future. So, while Fleetwood Mac advise us to never stop thinking about tomorrow, I’m going to suggest that we do — at least for a few moments each day — stop thinking about tomorrow and notice the present: What positive (even if seemingly insignificant) things are happening right here in this very moment? Also, what, in general, do we feel and sense around us? Is it possible that the pain and woe we’ve been trying to escape by looking ahead to the future are actually more bearable than we thought? (After all, we’ve been bearing them this long, which takes a lot of strength!)
This desire to escape the present and think about tomorrow has been particularly prevalent among me and my friends who live in the northeast U.S., where snow or ice has fallen on us just about every 3-4 days since mid-December. At this point, the tendency to dream about tomorrow (and the many tomorrows ahead of now when the snow will just be a memory) is quite strong.
Let’s challenge each other today to stay present-minded for at least a few moments. Staying in the present requires the use of our senses. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? (What are you tasting right now?) What do you feel…externally, internally? Take a minute to write those things down…preserve them for the future because there will likely come a time again when you find yourself longing to escape the present. Perhaps then re-reading what you wrote (in the past!) will help you find value in remaining in the present for a little while longer.
Peace, joy from living in the present, and health!