“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” ― Alan W. Watts
On an early morning walk, I paused to look at the branches of the tree and let the long rays of the sun comfort my face. The brightness wasn’t intimidating, but felt like a warm hug on a cold day. I stood for a few seconds, plunging into the moment, without want for the future or a glance back at the past. To be clear, these kind of seconds are unusual for me.
I’ve spent an entire lifetime fighting, struggling, resisting the present moment. My natural tendency is to dangle in the past or glide toward the future. What does this say about me? It indicates my lack of acknowledging what is and it is a dangerous, ungrateful way to live.
How many times have I heard, “There is only the present?” Intellectually, I understand the enormity of this statement, but my unwillingness to allow this thought to inhabit my insides is a constant source of restlessness. Every single day I hear of unthinkable tragedies that plague our world, from a devastating diagnosis, sudden loss or an unexpected turn no one predicted. Writing these words, I jump to attention, my spine lengthens and I start to feel the texture of the keys underneath my fingers. I glance up at my cork board, the familiar reminder, with no exclamation point, but only three letters, “Now.”
Now, I think. I massage the tiny word in my mind, the combination of letters which hold so much power, but seem like the unending Rubick’s cube I cannot solve. I realize my thoughts and my words here keep circling back to the same point, but in this season, it has become paramount to acknowledge how the present is my friend instead of a nemesis. It’s the passage of time I think, as I notice the grey strands of hair gathering around my temple, the increasing lines around my eyes and the scars that take longer to heal.
This month will mark 8 years since I’ve lost my father, a fact which hurls me into the present like no other. March is always a month where I amble, reconciling the arrival of spring and honoring the passing of my father. These days I am swallowed by the thought of my daughter growing beyond her little girl years, the thought of empty nest coming sooner than I’d like. As one moment melts into another, my choice is to be here now.
I realize this post and the words I’ve threaded together may come across like a ramble. I am still trying to figure out my relationship to the present, the one I’ve denied for so long. It’s all tenuous, I’ve realized. Learning to take more deep breaths, focusing on the word now, and letting the past and future move into the slipstream of life is what it is in my grasp.
I need to pay attention to the fragility of now. And like most allusive things, I need to try harder.