Do you ever feel stuck in your tracks, wishing that the things in your past had worked out differently, or perhaps worrying about the future and which direction to take?
I have spent a significant portion of my life living in either “what was” or “what will be,” creating difficulty in fully enjoying the moment. Over the past year, I have made a concentrated effort on living in the present, soaking it up and going with “what is.” This focus has changed me significantly. My life is filled with far more spontaneity, going with the flow, adaptability, deeper connections and relationships, and zeal for life. However, every once in a while, I let my hard head get in the way, allowing fear to lurk around in the shadows until it scares me into going back into questioning mode.
One of the most difficult tasks we face in life is the ability to let go. There are a host of chains that bind us to the past, often for one or more reasons, such as loss, love, guilt, or anger that applies its grip upon our ability to move on. The stranglehold of the past can immobilize us and keep us from progressing. We have anxiety about planted seeds that didn’t thrive, dreams that didn’t grow, and mistakes that keep us from flourishing. Disappointment feeds the fear of further disappointment. So, we allow ourselves to be held in the past in an attempt to avoid the pain of further despair. However, it doesn’t work. Staying in the depressive state of the past and wishing for it to have been different is futile. The past is gone: it is over, and it cannot be lived again.
Thankfully, I have been able to slay the demons of my past. With little exception, I am happy with most of the decisions and experiences over my past as a whole. I am transparent enough that I don’t hold any skeletons hostage in the closet. If it has happened, I’m open to discussing, sharing, and learning from it. Undoubtedly, the last several years have offered me a better understanding of how one can get trapped there. I have certainly adopted a much more empathetic approach, having had a few challenges that have shaken my world in a way I had not previously experienced. The cloud of depression is as real as the air we breathe, and its storm can be overwhelming.
Where I have spent far too much of my time is trying to forecast the future. The shackles are just as tight and restrictive: looking at what can or will be if I do this or that, planning and planning some more, trying to ensure against future tragedies and unforeseen hurdles, preparing for what might lie ahead as if I truly have control of every possibility that might be thrown at me, waiting to enjoy life when I am fully ready to do so, questioning if I am worthy of success, wondering if the great blessings I have in my life are too good to be true and whether I am missing something—whether they aren’t really what they seem to be. After all, why would a gift this magnificent be presented to me?
I am learning to separate from this mentality. I have determined that I am deserving of greatness and all the joy life has to offer. A growing belief that has allowed me to truly feel and embrace it is developing within me. A deeper understanding of the law of attraction has allowed me to be more comfortable with the notion of my worthiness. I should be able to receive what I put out to the world. The love and kindness shown back to me should be accepted with gratitude and not questioning.
Although I am severing the ties, it is going into the worry of the future that I occasionally relapse. It is here that the demon has not fully been destroyed. If allowed to start lurking in the shadows, it begins to gain strength—wrestling me out of the moment and force-feeding my fears. The choice and determined focus of living in the present has found me less and less susceptible to being taken hostage and swept into the anxious abyss of what lies ahead. Over the past year, I have been able to cast expectations aside with greater ease and just accept what is, making the moments count and freeing myself to experience what life has to offer me in areas that I had not noticed before. Perhaps I was traveling too fast and could not take time out to enjoy the scenery. I’m learning to slow down and enjoy the ride. Now, when I get in my own way and a relapse occurs, I am able to recognize it and step aside more quickly.
For a couple of years, I allowed my grief to be displayed in my mind, as if it where a grand museum, something to be showcased and preserved. Thankfully, I was able to get out of this place and tear that building down. Every once in a while, a little artifact may resurface, but it is not my past that defines me. My bigger struggle is to avoid living for the destination and questioning whether I have enough fuel to get there, which route is the most efficient, and what activities to engage in once I arrive. With continued effort, I am becoming better skilled to live in the here and now. It is the only moment we have a say in. There is no guarantee of time. Now is all we have. If we can let go of the pain of the past and the anxiety of the future, living with limited expectations, we can be free to live in the moment. By doing the right thing in the moment, we allow history to record it well and the future to take care of itself.
In the midst of this momentary relapse, a close friend said, “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being positive about what could go right.” Realizing the power in this message, I was reminded of the sage wisdom proclaimed by the Cheshire Cat: “Every adventure requires a first step.”
It is my hope that we will let neither the past nor the future stop us in our tracks. May we continue to place one step in front of another as we face our fears. As another year passes, and I get further from life’s entrance gate—and closer to the exit—I realize what I truly have is the here and now. There are too many amazing experiences to enjoy fully in the moment. Living in the moment is where I find true joy; it is my home and where I choose to reside. I am giving myself the present of the present and celebrating.
Make it count!