“Forever Is Composed of Nows”
– Emily Dickinson
Don’t you love when a moment of clarity comes to you from out of the blue?
I was getting ready to go to sleep the other night, after snuggling up on the couch to watch World War Z. I needed a bit of positivity in order to not go to sleep dreaming of zombies, so I scrolled through Instagram. (Perhaps I wanted to look a bit like a zombie myself.)
At some point I stumbled across a text about not living in the past. I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m pretty good at that. I never live in the past any more.”
Then it hit me: I don’t live in the past, but I sure don’t live in the present. Nine times out of ten, if you ask me what I’m thinking about, it’s the future. Planning for the future. Expecting the future. Hoping for the future. Waiting for the future. Dreaming of that elusive “when I get there.”
It’s just as bad.
Attachments to the past prevent us from moving forward. A blinding nostalgia makes the present good invisible to us. All we want is a taste of the way we “used” to feel, a snippet of that perfect moment that’s already gone, yet has become idealized in our minds. No imperfections, no sadness, just a frozen piece of happiness.
Attachment to the future is exactly the same thing. As I sit here, in this room, I’m not focused on the sun shining through the window, the stock of delicious food I have in my kitchen, the little hummingbird that flew by just moments ago. Instead, I’m thinking about what I have to do later, next week, next month. How are we going to swing X, Y, or Z by the end of the year? In two years, what will I need to have done or be doing? My obsession with “what’s next” is overwhelming.
I want to try, I want to practice, dropping out of the future and sinking into the now. When my mind is four years ahead of me, I want to pause, and notice one good thing that’s happening in this moment. I remember watching an interview at Comic Con once with the cast of Doctor Who and they joked that, of course there’s time travel already – we travel into the future every day!
The present moment is just a thought before the future that we’re constantly moving towards. If we don’t stop to notice it, it’s like we float away, ungrounded, into the land of planning, details, anxiety, stress, and worry. So I’m trying to pause, trying to find the balance between the past and the future, and notice the little tiny bits of now that I have.