Finding the Elusive ‘Present Moment’
There is a time in everyone’s life where we worry,
“Is this it?”
“Is this all I will ever be?”
Some compare themselves to successful moms with two published books and three well-behaved children. Others measure themselves against those written up in TechCrunch, IPOing on a successful company. Did we somehow mess up? Did we miss the boat? Should start an immediate auto correct plan?
Many take a methodical approach in self reinvention, setting up small goals to achieve master success before they hit 40…and can retire. Others, like me, panic, and scour both their hearts and Google search for a rapid plan to ‘create meaning’.
If reinvention had a solution like diet pills or a get rich quick scheme it would sound something like this:
“You too can solve the world’s problems and become famous in 3 weeks! Possible side effects include nervous energy, schizophrenic juggling, and complete inability to enjoy the present moment.”
The worst side effect is likely the last where we become so obsessed with bettering our future that we forget to slow down and enjoy today.
The last time I felt a “what am I doing with my life’ panic come on, I booked myself on a retreat in Troncones, Mexico called none other than “The Present Moment.” I practiced yoga, stared at the sea, and enjoyed the luxury of being alive while I relaxed in a bikini. My ‘impact’ was merely appreciating the world….while drinking a margarita.
From a beach chair at “The Present Moment” I wrote,
I do not understand the businessmen that slave away their best years under dimly lit excel spreadsheets. Nor the needy women who waste their youth in a state of panic over getting married and having children. Life is so fleeting-shouldn’t we just take time to enjoy it? Why worry, why panic…in fact why live anywhere that doesn’t allow you to wear your swimsuit 24/7? When you spend enough time on a beach reflecting, the things that usually demand brain space (career ladders, dating etiquette, ummm….wearing clothes) become so trivial.
Fast forward two and a half years later. I had completely lost my “Present Moment” wisdom and felt another “impact panic” come on in full force. Was I making the right career moves or the right relationship decisions? Should I be further ahead like my neighbors? If I died tomorrow would people put my obituary on the fridge as a reminder of a woman who had “done something” ? Any by that I didn’t mean possess the uncanny ability to still recite ‘Ice Ice Baby‘ from heart.
Before I polled my friends on that very question, I went back to Mexico …only this time I didn’t go to a remote beach.
I instead went with a dear traveling companion to the busiest place on the earth-the heart of Mexico. Mexico City is the place of fancy nightclubs, Mariachi squares, taco stands, armored cars, kidnappings, and more. If I could stay in the present moment here (and not get kidnapped), then I could anywhere.
Once in Mexico City, I stopped my internal whirlwind to watch and listen. The rhythm of the Spanish language seeped into my pores, coating my tongue in picante syllables to correspond with the locals. My mouth savored each morsel of food from high end restaurants to street side taco stands. My hand took that of my companion, for once not worried about our future. I neglected to think about my career and became fascinated with local art and literature. I didn’t think about impact at all, rather I happily crawled inside the depth of each minute I was in.
Unfortunately, when I came back into my San Francisco tornado, I became just as tormented as before I left. This desire for success had became a demon, creating an unquenchable thirst to show I was just as valuable as dot com millionaires and philanthropic geniuses.
After annoying those around me to no end with my internal frenzy, I realized that I needed to recalibrate. My times in Mexico had been different not just because I was on vacation, but also because I redefined the definition of meaning and success. If I could do that in Mexico-couldn’t I do that here too? After all, no lessons are any good if they are just implemented while south of the border.
Perhaps instead of amassing a net worth of $X, it’s hosting a dinner party with a newly created recipe. Instead of being written up in Tech Crunch it’s getting a short story published in a small journal. Maybe I didn’t need to start a whole foundation but could go back to my ESL tutoring with recent immigrants.
All of these activities could create tiny impacts that would allow me to enjoy those insides of minutes every day. Perhaps they will build and end up creating something truly grandiose. Perhaps they won’t. But regardless, the real impact is enjoying every day, sharing my heart with others, and being grateful for the things I have done, instead of those I have not.
If we can all do that than perhaps the answer to the questions, “Is this it? Is this all I’ll ever be?” will be, “Yes, and it’s the most amazing thing in the world.”