Living in the now
“I learn by going where I have to go.” The Waking by Theodore Roethke
As I sit in silence, I say to you this – there is no backwards.
Backwards is but an illusion, a game we play in the mind – some might say to amuse ourselves; others might say to torture ourselves.
But one thing is certain, it is a game that we are all too fond of playing, for when we engage in the folly of reliving our past, we erroneously believe that we can avoid moving forward.
And here’s the greatest irony of all – the longer we have lived, the more experiences we have logged and the greater the temptation becomes to relive the past rather than relish the time remaining and all that life has to offer us.
I used to say that any time I heard myself say “I’m afraid” I would squash that fear by boldly taking one small step forward.
And as much as this remains true – I have a new mantra.
Anytime I catch myself wandering in (occasionally wallowing in, if I am being honest) the storage room of long-lost memories and broken dreams I am going to say to myself “Wake up fool! You are missing the opportunities of today.”
Today may not be the most perfect, or the most beautiful, or the most exciting day of my life.
Today there may well places that I have to go or things to do that I am not absolutely thrilled about but reliving the past is not one of them.
And there is nothing to be learnt by going back there because even with the best of intentions my memory of past events is imperfect.
In other words, we can’t really learn by reliving the past because our memory is a visual fabrication of what has transpired and how we felt about it at the time. And to make matters worse, our memory of an event or experience may be very different from the person who was standing right beside us at the time, meaning that we might actually be treasuring an event or experience that was meaningless (or worse traumatising) to someone else, or vice versa.
But surely memory has its place?
Indeed – for passwords, and grocery lists, and multiplication tables and locker combinations it is invaluable.
But as a place to wallow or hide from the challenges of your current life – memory is but a seductress who lures you into her den and then steals the time you might have put to better use.
For once a day is gone – it is gone.
And there are so many sunrises yet to see, or mountains to climb, or friends to make, or places to go, or promises to keep, but you can only achieve these things by living in the now.
Robin Trimingham is the managing director of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a business consultant, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://bit.ly/3nSMlvc or firstname.lastname@example.org