Life – Are You Lovin’ Every Minute of It or Counting Off the Days as Another One Bites the Dust?
I remember precisely the moment it happened. It felt like such a grown-up awareness: you get a lot more out of life if you live in the present moment than if you’re constantly looking forward to the next exciting – or not necessarily all that exciting – thing. I was about 12, on vacation with my family to visit my dad’s brother in Toronto. We were four or five days into a week-long trip, and I thought to myself, Only two more days of vacation. The vacation wasn’t even over yet, and there I was, mourning the end of it instead of enjoying the remaining days to their fullest.
That epiphany was one of those life-altering wake-up calls. I decided in that moment that I was never again going to fritter away my present by spending time focused on my imagined future – or pining for a fantasy past. It wasn’t long before I started noticing how many people cross off the days on their calendars; this seemed strangely macabre to me, as if they were crossing off each day of their lives. “And another one gone, and another one gone. Another one bites the dust.”
Sometime in the last year, my friend and mentor Blaine Oelkers introduced me to a concept pioneered by Jerry Seinfeld. Early in his comedy career, Seinfeld set a goal for himself to write a joke a day – and marked each day’s joke on his calendar with a big red X. He saw the chain of X’s grow, and it became a mission: “Don’t break the chain!” Before he knew it, he’d written a joke a day for an entire year. In Seinfeld’s case, the X’s were denoting progress. Even so, when I’ve attempted to implement the Don’t Break the Chain process, I used happy face stickers or some incentive other than making X’s on the calendar. Just a personal preference, I suppose.
The night before last, I went out to dinner with some friends, even though I was leaving for New Jersey the next morning (yesterday) at 6 a.m. It wasn’t until I was driving home from dinner that it hit me that the trip to celebrate my son’s college graduation – this day I’d been imagining on and off for years – was finally here. And then I began to get excited for the trip. This is coming from a gal who once upon a time could not even get to sleep on Christmas Eve night because she was too excited anticipating Santa’s visit. I used to get so amped up for upcoming events, and then the letdown after they’d passed would be equally enormous.
People still ask me, “Are you excited about __________________?”
“Not yet,” is my standard reply, unless the thing they’re asking about is less than a day or two away. Yesterday I went through the lovely TSA experience, incident free, bought and ate a bagel, boarded the plane. The plane had taken off and we were in that steep incline as we climbed to cruising altitude before I realized, Wow! I’ll be there in a few hours. This time tomorrow I’ll be waking up in New Jersey! It was just one more life event – not a momentous occasion. This is not to say I’m opposed to having big emotions in proportion to the celebration or occasion. I’m just noticing that the more I focus on the present moment, I the more time I seem to spend in the joyful emotional middle ground, the pendulum swinging neither to breathtaking highs nor cataclysmic lows.
This is a combined trip for me – both business and pleasure. While I’ve got some concrete plans, I’m also remaining flexible. Things change. Plans sometimes go sideways. I’m on my own this trip, and I was surprised to feel my stomach clench up yesterday at the thought of riding the NYC subway by myself. I used to work there, take the subway regularly, and ride the PATH train (between NY and NJ) every weekday! But I’ve become a Phoenix girl again – now quite used to the slower pace and decreased intensity of day-to-day life. Rather than steel myself for the onslaught that New York can be, I’ve decided to go the opposite direction and slow down even more. Breathe deeply. Take time to meditate and get in my planks for the 30-Day Plank Challenge. Walk slowly. Observe. Notice things I’ve never noticed about the City and northern New Jersey. Relish every moment of this trip, whether it’s the graduation party, a meal with my son, or time wandering on my own.
I like to think of it as living even more in the moment. My goal is to carry this renewed commitment back into my regular life when I get home. Only time will tell how successful I am…
Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.