I’m partly convinced that “living in the moment” is a pretty string of words that has almost no meaning.
I was thinking about it the other day — as I think about a lot of things. I mean, there’s always the thinking of thoughts. That’s what my “moments” are like. A near-constant stream of philosophizing, imaginary conversations, worries, schedules, shopping lists, and the drive to come up with Good Blog Content. And because of this, I’m hardly ever “living in the moment.”
If I really think about it, I’m usually living in a very different moment. Usually, it’s a specific moment. At this particular moment, I’m typing on a blog draft on a Saturday evening, but I’m living on the next Monday morning, because I’m thinking about work. I’m actually feeling the stress of waking up early, getting ready and taking the iffy L train to work. This isn’t unusual: I may appear to be moving forward in time at the usual sixty minutes per hour, but my superpowers of obsession and fixation on stress allow me to astral-project into the future. Living in the moment? HAH. Nope. I’m pre-living the next stressful moment for… as long as it takes to get there.
Is this a stress thing? Is this an anxiety thing? Is this an adulthood thing? Because it occurs to me that perhaps the last time I was really “living in the moment” was when I was a kid. I know this because I was very often bored in class. Were YOU? Do you remember looking up at the classroom clock to see that what felt like a whole class period was in fact, only two minutes gone by? When I think of “living in the moment,” I remember it more like “being stuck in the moment.” Feeling the slow tick of the second hand on that classroom clock pulling me down, down, down like quicksand. Suffocating in the boredom of it all. Living in the moment doesn’t sound so good, huh?
But being an adult so often requires you NOT to live in the moment! That’s like, a huge part of “being an adult” — thinking about the future! “Don’t make that frivolous purchase, because you need to make rent at the end of the month!” “Here, we need you to manage this project: think ahead through all the steps we’ll need to complete and order supplies!” Or how about, “Time to write a blog post! What embarrassing stories can we mine from childhood this time?!”
The most recent time I was actually living in the moment …also blew.
A couple of weeks ago, I came down with a really really high fever. It was a bad fever that lasted way longer than a bad fever oughta last. Half my apartment had it. It really sucked. My face was hot, my body was clammy. I was running an ice cube over my forehead and neck while wearing two sweatsuits simultaneously under my bathrobe and all of the blankets I could find on my bed. I WAS BURNING UP.
I though that was bad, but on the fourth or fifth day of the fever, I woke up feeling worse. I was staying at my boyfriend’s place, where he graciously took care of me and I’d started to feel better until I woke up and just knew that something was wrong. My head felt so hot, I thought my brain would melt inside my skull! I couldn’t see because my eyes had gone all tunnel-vision and there were glittery flecks in my field of vision. I asked my boyfriend to feel my forehead, and I definitely got more worried when I saw his concern increase. He confirmed through touch (as we had no thermometer) that I was definitely hotter than I’d been on previous days of the fever. He put an arm around me and held my hand, helped me to take some fever reducer and drink some water while I sat, suffering in silence — and if I’m not talking, you KNOW something’s wrong. Finally, I gathered my thoughts enough to speak:
“I’m scared,” I whispered weakly.
“Don’t worry,” he comforted me, “It’ll pass.”
And I suddenly thought to myself, “No, it WON’T!”
But of course it did, and looking back, I realized that I was living in the moment! I was too sick to think about anything besides how sick I was. Too sick to believe I’d ever not be sick. Too sick to worry about anything besides not being sick anymore. I was living in the moment! Yay! Yay?
If that’s what living in the moment is, then I think I’m ok with not living in the moment. I’d like to worry less, sure, but I’m okay with dipping in and out of the present to go back and forth willy-nilly. I enjoy visiting the past through nostalgia, and I’m proud of my foresight to make solid plans for the future. And sure, I’ll try to live in the moment more, but maybe I’ll stop thinking so much about these things. And that could be a good place to start.