I am walking to the bank, riding the public transit, prepping for a craft at the summer camp I work at currently, and suddenly I wonder- how did I get here?
This disconcerting feeling is, I've realized, my mind and body telling me to slow down. To take a breath and remember that I am here, right now. It's a reminder that I have been focusing too much on the future or the past, on anxieties and dreams, to the point where I am no longer present.
It's a reminder to be here, now.
This is something I struggle with immensely, and always have. Because if I don't come up with the worst and best-case scenarios for everything and plan out my reaction, how will I cope? Or, more pertinently recently, if I'm not working towards something, then what is the point?
Don't get me wrong- being prepared and having goals is great. But not when it takes away from the possibility of being present, right now. Of experiencing this moment.
We spend a lot of time numbing ourselves to the experience of right now, myself included. From over-planning and micro-managing, to Netflix binges and unlimited time on social media, to using alcohol or even food to distract ourselves from pain, we completely crush any possibility of appreciating life as it passes us by.
Maybe the greatest and stickiest of all my numbing techniques is working towards a goal, a date. When I don't have something to look ahead to (the end of the semester, reading week, that trip to Madonna House, a birthday, anything), then I get bogged down by the expanse of nothingness that seems to be spread before me. It started out as a good coping mechanism- instead of looking ahead and saying, "I have four years of school left, how am I going to survive?" I will tell myself, "Only six more weeks until exams and then it is Christmas!"
It's a great way to decrease my anxiety about what *may or may not* lie ahead of me for the next however many years. But once this positive mantra turns into "I've just got to make it to Christmas," it makes it impossible for me to fully experience and appreciate each day I have before then.
I am reducing days to numbers on a checklist rather than full, God-given moments through which I can learn and love and be. And then I find myself somewhere, everywhere, wondering what happened. Is this where I am after all? I've been in my head for so long... And that is when I need to come back to myself and to God, and remind myself that I am here.
God wants me here, right this minute. He wants me here, experiencing all the emotions that I am experiencing, the good and the bad. I can learn and grow in all of it. He wants the people in my life to be there; the people who aren't, He wants me to remember them and then let them go. Most of all, He is experiencing all of these things with me, by my side.
So, I am learning to check in with myself momentarily throughout the day. I am learning to find peace in bus rides without filling the empty space with music or podcasts everyday. I am learning to sit quietly and do nothing but enjoy the morning and drink coffee. These things bring me back to where I am right now, and give meaning to each day.
It is only in the freedom of being present in this moment that I can enjoy the coffee in my hand, process the emotions in my heart and the thoughts in my mind, accept them, let them go, and give thanks to God in the process.
Living in the moment, I'm learning, is not a #YOLO instagrammable adventure. It is being present, right now, accepting and appreciating where I am, and giving all of this to God. For, it is only through God that we will be able to handle all the things coming at us in the future, or all the things we've gone through in the past, anyway.
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand." Isaiah 41:10
This post originally appeared on The Purple Seastar