By Dana Gornall
“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon
Standing at the doorway, my phone in my right hand as I scroll through my text messages, I peek out the door feeling the cold air hit my face and body, and shiver.
My dog seems to take forever to find a place to pee. He moves slowly through the grass, dotted with clumps of melting snow. I sigh impatiently, glancing back at my phone. Why won’t he hurry up? I have things to do!
I lean back out the door and yell for him, feeling my frustration mount as I look at the time. I’ve been awake for over an hour now and haven’t accomplished anything productive other than making some coffee and toast. Realizing that the dog doesn’t understand this and my need to “get something done,” I feel a twinge of guilt twist somewhere deep inside my belly.
I wish it were warmer.
I wish I had more time off from work so I could get more done. I wish I could take a vacation somewhere tropical with palm trees. I wish I were more successful so I could have the money to take a vacation and have more time off of work. So I could get more done. I wish the dog would find a place to pee already so I wasn’t still standing by the door.
I spend a lot of my time wishing.
This strikes me as quite ironic, as the dog finally trots back in and I remove his collar so that I can sit down and start editing an article about mindfulness and being present. The fact is that I am spending most of my mental free space wanting to be doing something else other than what I am doing—almost constantly. Shifting in my chair at the computer, I stop for a minute and think about the fact that I am seldom happy right where I am. As much as I like to think I am a person that strives to be in the moment, the reality is that I am always two to three steps ahead of what is next, or three to four steps behind what is happening and replaying the things I have said and done, analyzing them over and over.
What would it be like to truly be more focused in the present?
I close my eyes and feel the thoughts dart this way and that, feeling myself pull in every direction. Recognizing this, watching it, I let go. And it is in this moment that the line from the John Lennon song pops up in my head: Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.
It’s so true. My life is plowing ahead faster than I can hang on. My children are growing. My dog is aging. Everyone all around me is moving just as quickly at the speed of light and I am busy doing all the things we do every day and wishing to be somewhere else the entire time.
I know this.
I know that our lives are not Hallmark movie moments and that they are filled with joy and sadness, laughter and trauma, birth and death. I know this so much and have recited it to my friends and to my children. I know that the beauty of humanity lies just as much in the everyday mundane such as cleaning out the toothpaste in the bathroom sink, as it does in larger more profound moments like taking your daughter to kindergarten on the first day.
I know that life is a series of interactions, small and large, empty and whole and that it is that complexity of each piece and each thread that makes up the bigger picture.
I know this. And yet I find myself standing at the door wishing for something more, day after day. What would my life be like if I spent less time in the future and the past and more time in what is happening right now? What would it be like if I let go of the wishes?
So if the first step toward change is awareness, and the second is acceptance, what is the third?
I open my eyes. The white glow from the computer monitor shines back at me provocatively. I flip the face of my phone over. Fingers, grazing over the keyboard I breathe in and breathe out. No more wishing—or at least, less wishing anyway.
Editor: Ty H. Phillips