The Moment of Now

I am in this moment. I cannot do anything but remember those moments that have come before and be informed, but never ruled, by them. Now is the only thing I can control and it mostly takes care of itself when I am not desperately clinging to its inevitable passing. I know it is easy to be at peace on break from my day job, when all I have to do is write and wander. Fall will come again and with it a return to my trying day job. Winter will come again and steal the outdoors from me for three months. I can’t do much about that that doesn’t sound like suicide or nomadism, neither of which sound appealing.

Now is a nice place to be. My wife Amber is at my side, the Hudson Valley clouds are neon cotton candy, life is interesting, my mind is calm. Outside the clarity of the moment, everything seems in tumult. The world is changing — change is its only constant — but my panic improves nothing. Anxiety has its place, but only when directed toward something I am capable of changing. I cannot heal the world’s brokenness with fretting, but I can manage my own brokenness and take care of my people as best I can. As far as I have ever seen, personal kindness tends to ripple out into the world, but that is a secondary effect.

I have never had an experience that was anything other than one in a series of moments strung together, but I have spoiled countless by missing them because I was too fixated on what came before and what I wanted after. Sometimes this is because I am allowing my animal desires intrude into my consciousness — it is still a trial to remain in the moment when I need food or a bathroom — but mostly it is because I am mistaking the moment for the something it is not.

I once tainted my relationship with an amazing woman because I couldn’t disabuse myself of the notion that I had let her down because I didn’t stop her from being hurt. I barely knew her when this abuse occurred, but I had such a guilty savior complex that I couldn’t forgive that she had been mistreated. I had no time machine, but I acted as though I could talk my way into fixing her. I treated her trauma as my problem, which was insulting and unnecessary.

Likewise, I stressed myself out for years that I was underemployed. I was certain I was in danger of losing my teaching certification without paying for almost two hundred hours of professional development credits and maybe I should go back to grad school and get another degree in a more marketable field I liked less, ignoring the forty thousand dollars in student loans I already had. When I got my current job, I accrued the required hours in a year. Next year, the state should forgive all my remaining loans. Everything worked out fine and did not require the torment through which I put myself. I battled against a situation that wasn’t happening rather than facing the present moment and doing what it alone required.

True, nights will never be as vast and mysterious as they were when I was a child, but they may be something else worth exploring. Only by trying continually with my eyes and hands open can I discover how exquisite new experiences may be. I cannot alter the past. I am only ever in this single moment. I have only ever been here.

My peace is under attack, by nothing so much as my own mind. I can observe my thoughts and anxiety, so they must not be the core of who I am. They are things that happen to me. I need to defend it, in part by separating myself from people and situations likely to cause pointless upset. (When I am frustrated with someone’s behavior, I need to remember that they are only doing this because it has worked before, no matter how little it works with me. They are trying to satisfy a want or ease their suffering. That doesn’t make them my problem.)

When I am anxious, I am not interacting with the world as it is, but the world as I am choosing to see it (or how neurochemicals are leading me to see it). I have driven myself literally crazy by perseverating on illusions my mind has conjured up, giving more weight to the what-ifs than to the moment I am actually in. Much as I am not the chemicals coursing through my veins, the world is not my thoughts about it.

Originally posted at Xenex.