Unless you have somehow managed to survive underneath a stone, in a vacuum or staked out on a remote island, surely you've heard some version of the inspirational quote: 'Live for today, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come'.
Where does it come from anyhow? The Bible, some great philosopher, a common man or woman? As far as I can tell, no one seems to know precisely, though the Bible references 'tomorrow' many times. Most similar is James 4:14-15:
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'. (NIV).
Any adage about living for today is more than worth its weight in gold, particularly in the time of trouble. Whether in full as above, or in short as a punchy maxim -- for example, The Power of Now, which also happens to be the title of a book -- most of us wave the phrase, regardless of creed, as if a sublime flag. And when trouble dies down, we stash the flag away until the next time. At least, I know I've been there and done that.
Presently, however, I've decided to try to keep the flag waving indefinitely, even if subliminally. Why? It's personal! And as it is not my practice to divulge the gritty details of my life, I won't do that, but I will say this: over the past few weeks it has become clear that truly living in the present changes mindsets, changes lives, changes the game all together, and has to be worth talking about, aptly so.
For a few weeks now, my mother has been seriously ill, and as when my father fell ill some three years ago, I reverted to childhood, unable to pack for myself, articulate my feelings, and so on. In both instances when the news swept over me, I reverted to a little girl, not only feeling vulnerable but also helpless: not working, eating, sleeping, etc. Others have recounted a similar experience during such times, too.
And to take it one step further, I've noticed at these moments a constant obsession with the past -- who, what, why, when and where -- which boils down to blame, without reference sometimes to exactly what, be it self or others, and a great fear of the future.
As for the past, it can be unpacked and eventually resolved to some degree or other, but likely in mayhem and at the expense of the present. And as far as the future goes, worrying about it obsessively, even with clinical predictions, is also at the expense of the present, which as naturally as day turns into night becomes the past.
Since I've got to grips with this and understand that all anyone really ever has is the present, and even that is volatile, it makes sense that embracing the moment is crucial.
When I first sat with my mother, I pined for the vibrant, healthy woman that once was and prayed that she would somehow, miraculously be that way again until it suddenly dawned on me that I was wasting precious time. Make no mistake about it, I still savour past wonderful memories, and I have hope for her as long as she is alive, and will do what I can to make life as joyful for her as possible, just where she is.
You see, life as it is, is precious and deserves to be experienced in full, without the tint of the past or the prospect of the future. In practical terms, what does this mean?
1) Acceptance of the situation. Again it doesn't mean giving up hope, but it does mean giving up denial, which is another blog unto itself. Denial has a way of clouding reality, making what sometimes is natural seem unnatural. Furthermore, it robs us of special moments and experiences. In accepting what we have, we appreciate it so much more and will likely have fewer regrets about the past and better memories for years to come.
2) Prioritising the situation. Often prioritising means recognising distractions for what they are: disruptions masquerading as trumped-up conflict; guilt; inappropriate opinions; even bad behaviour in the name love and support. At the end of the day, not only is this unhealthy, but it is also irrelevant. What really matters is the present: the experiences being created there and then. That doesn't mean ignoring the crap, but it does mean relegating it to its place and focusing on the real priority.
3) Letting go of the past. Forget about he said, she said, who did or who didn't. In the present, particularly in a crisis, it doesn't matter. What matters is what you do now, ensuring your present creates memories without regret. When all is said and done, unpack the past in a healthy manner or, if urgent, get professional help to do so appropriately and in a timely manner ... which leads to the final point.
4) Taking care of self. Often when taking care of loved ones, individuals lose sight of their basic human needs, physical as well as mental and emotional. We find ourselves waning physically and mentally and declining emotionally too, often unable to discern between right and wrong, moral and immoral, and so on. Then, it's time to grab our own oxygen mask, which does sometime mean seeking professional help, to breathe healthily and freely again for everyone involved.
As for me, I can't say I am managing this difficult time like a champion, but I am doing my best to remain steadfast in the present, and can truly say that doing so has changed the experience for me most favourably. Truly, there is no time like the present.