It’s A New Day

Image by Erika Mugglin

Image by Erika Mugglin

Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow’s a mystery.  Today is a gift.  That’s why it’s called the ‘present.’

How many times have we all heard that little adage?  It’s being tossed around so much lately that it has become a little worn, almost cliche.  “Present?  Come over here and I’ll give you your present…with my fist!

Yes, it’s a great sentiment.  Be grateful for the life you have, treat it as something precious, take time to smell the flowers.  But seriously, is today feeling like a gift to you?  Are you enjoying this present moment?  Well of course you are, because you’re reading this stunningly insightful and cleverly written post, but will you be enjoying your present moment afterwards?

Even a casual observer can see that we’ve got a lot on our plates.  We’ve got responsibilities at work or school, at home, to our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues.  Economic times are tough, we’ve got to do more with less people, stretch our money further.  Doctor’s bills are getting higher, food prices are going through the roof, don’t even get me started on the price of gas. 

There’s so many time demands.  We need to spend time connecting with our spouses, our families, our friends.  We need to find time to exercise, to feed our minds, and to fill our spirits.  But who has time for that?  We need to put in overtime at work so that we can afford to take a week off for vacation and get some much deserved r-and-r.  Actually, this year things have been so bad they’ve coined a new phrase – the “stay-cation” – for all the people that decided to stay home for their summer vactions due to high fuel costs.

Will things get better in the future?  Why didn’t I _____________ (fill in your own personal regret from the past here)?

The Lights On, But Nobody’s Home

The truth is that I’m rarely in the present moment.  Sure, my physical body is right here, right now, but my mind is usually somewhere else.  If I leave it unattended, it will gallop wildly between regrets over my imperfect past and worries about my uncertain future.  I’ve spent countless hours practicing imaginary arguments with my adversaries or plotting other people’s future reactions based on their past behavior.  I’m especially prone to worries about money, and I’ve sent myself into multi-day funks over simple chores like balancing our checkbook.

All this mental effort exerts a huge toll on my energy levels.  In a recent post Stephen Cox gives the metaphor of your life as a ship with three compartments: the aft compartment is your past with all your disappointments and regrets, the center compartment is the endless present, and the fore compartment is your future with all your hopes and anxieties.  There are bulk heads that separate the three compartments, but most of us, like me, allow leaks from the past and future to flood the present.  We have to work extra hard manning the pumps just to keep our boat afloat in the stormy seas of life.

My bicycle tires are another good metaphor for the present.  There’s only a very small sliver of a tire making contact with the road at any given moment.  It’s that part contacting the road in the present moment that determines my future direction and speed.  I can steer in the present to avoid future pot holes, but once the tire rotates off the road, it can’t help to direct my trip.

Practice Makes Perfect

Living in the present doesn’t occur naturally; it’s a habit that has to be developed.  I have a long way to go, and a lot of bad habits to unlearn.  For the present, I’m content with being aware that I need to live in the present and  enjoying those occasions when I’m successful.  There’s a power and a peace that only occurs in the present.

And there’s one more thing I’ve learned through all my stumbles and falls: each day is a new beginning.  No matter how badly I feel I messed up yesterday, I get a clean slate when I open my eyes each morning.  Yesterday is history – it can inform us, but it can’t affect us.  And that really is a gift.

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