Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On Living in the Present (Mostly)

No one is perfect and everyone has their own challenges. For me, my challenge is living in the present. I often imagine that the past was easier and think/stress over what the future will bring. For me, a few key things help me control my tendency to stray from the present and help make life more enjoyable in the process. I thought I would share my strategies. Of course, I'm still not perfect, but it's a start.

Track the Past 

It's normal human nature to remember only the best parts of your life, forgetting all your stresses and worries. Blogging and journaling are a great solution because they allow you to physically look back at your life and remember that no time has ever been perfect. Whenever I'm tempted to think "life used to be easier," a few clicks of my blog reminds me that this time last year, I was still stressing over finishing my thesis. Sure, I may have traded that stress for publication stress, but it doesn't mean worrying about the thesis felt any less significant at the time. There will always be a balance of positive and negative in our lives, and the sooner we realize that, the better off we are. Keeping a journal or a blog allows you to physically interact with your own past without getting consumed by it. I still read my journals from college and laugh now at the things I used to think about.

Everyday-Create Something to Look Forward to 

Whether it's watching a movie with Brendan, cooking dinner, getting a massage, attending yoga class, writing, or just taking a nice bath, I always plan something to look forward to. I think about this little thing all day long, and it really inspires me to stay focused on the day. At work, I set attainable goals and complete them, so I always feel like I've "earned" what I'm looking forward to. I am a big fan of to-do lists, as long as the list stays focused to the day at hand.


Everyone has dreams, and I used to be afraid to verbalize mine because I didn't know if they would come true. It's okay to write down or communicate what you want for the future, just don't spend much of your present thinking about the future. Writing down what we want helps us realize what we can and cannot control (a trick my friend Corley says is key). So, if you have control over some aspect of your future, take action. If you don't have control, accept that. Do what you can and leave the rest to life. Whether you believe there is some master plan or not, you aren't in charge of everything, so you'll have to learn to cope!

Feel Good Now 

What are you doing right NOW to make yourself feel good about the present? Answer that question honestly. Thanks to my friend, Jennifer, I picked up some vitamin B-12 and have been taking that everyday. I also have been focused on eating healthy-lots of veggies, water, small meals, and snacks in between. I could do even better with exercise, so I'll attend yoga tonight. I'm going to start watching my alcohol intake (2 glasses of wine can leave me useless by 9pm, not cool). I've got a good book to read, which is essential to being able to unwind (for me). I'm working on a creative project (a music bio for my friend Corley), which I'll complete by the week's end. So answer these questions for yourself, are you really doing all you can? If not, make some small changes that make the present a happier place for you.

Positive Planning

It's okay to think about the future, but only in a positive way. Stressing about the future is not worth your time because you cannot control it, but planning things to look forward to (things you can control) is worth your time. Things I'm looking forward to next month: Brendan's parents visiting us, going to Lake Charles, LA for the 30th anniversary of our M.F.A. program, and Amy Fleury (poet/MFA program director from McNeese) coming to Midland for a reading/contest judging (I think our friends the Shews might come too). When I think about these aspects of the future, I feel happy.

Things Are Good Now 

All of the above strategies are good, but this may be the most important one. Write down 5 things that are good about your present situation. Write down 5 things that are good about today. It may feel silly, but it's really helpful. My 5 things for the present would be: Living with my best friend, we have money to support ourselves, we both like where we work, we are both making progress in our careers, everyday is a little different. My 5 things for today would be: I have a light work day, I get to go to yoga tonight, I get to see my friends Heather and Kristen tonight, It's a beautiful day, and I'm healthy. When we realize what is great about the present, we're less likely to want to delve in thinking about the past or future.

What should we write about next: What is the challenge in your life?

Hope this helps!

<3 S, B, L&Z

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