Living in the present

I learned last night that a close friend of my parents’ passed away suddenly on Friday. I don’t know if his life went the way he’d expected it to, but I think he extracted all the enjoyment out of the hand he was dealt as he could. He was a big, loud, bearded Maritime fisherman who liked to scare little children and sensitive ladies with his gruffness and raucous sense of humour. A big bear with a soft gooey centre. I haven’t seen him in decades, but a little part of him lives in a tiny corner of my soul where my inner child hides in gleeful terror from his pranks. Mr. H, I hope you’re punking the spirits wherever you are. And I hope they’re giving you a kickass wake today.

If I could learn anything from my cat, it would be to live in the present. For him, as it is for most non-humans, the past is done and gone (no point worrying about it) and the future is an abstract concept (so no point worrying about it).

I dwell too much on the past, dream too much about the future, and spend too little time actually present in the present. To a certain extent, humans have to live their lives conscious of both past and future. (Bills don’t necessarily get paid if you don’t devote at least a little bit of your thinking time to future — “letting the universe provide” will only take you so far, even as a freegan — and we have ample evidence that failing to consider the past results in us repeating mistakes we should have learned from.) But many of us get bogged down in the minutiae of other times: baggage from the past that you drag around with you everywhere, worries about your future, dreams of a better life.

Even when I am actively doing something, I’m most likely thinking about something else entirely  — things I need to do, things I need to remember to not do, things I should do, things I wish I hadn’t done or had done differently, things I want to have/do/be. From the mundanity of what to have for supper to the profundity of the meaning of life, from the self-involvement of my own individuality to a contemplation of our vast global consciousness. But it’s rarely ever fully focused on what I’m doing or experiencing at the moment that I’m doing or experiencing it. It means I miss a great deal. I miss the beauty around me. I miss the opportunity to truly learn from what I’m experiencing. I miss the chance to grow, to be. I’d like to say that it’s a recent affliction, but I’ve been like this since I can remember. I’m a daydreamer supreme, all thought and little action. Is that really how I want my life to play out, as a spectator who isn’t even paying attention to the game?

I’m feeling my own mortality more and more with each passing day. The generation before me is slowly checking out, one-by-one. Sooner than we’d like, it will be our time to go, and I want to make my eventual exit with the knowledge that I lived every day, instead of just killing time.

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