Living in the Moment
Every time I sit down, click “Write a Story” and begin pounding on my Macbook keys, I find myself talking about something emotionally heavy and how it’s tied into my life experience with CF. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that since CF has been the leading influence on my worldview, so of course everything in my life is interrelated to my experiences with CF. But this post is a bit different.
This post is my acknowledgement that one thing I never realized I didn’t understand is how to truly live in the moment. Living in the moment is a really complicated feeling to grasp. Living in the moment is inherently bittersweet. It’s the realization that no moment may ever be that way again. It’s the realization that every decision in life has led you to this moment and everything after this moment may lead to you to remember that moment. It’s the actual real-life experience of something before it’s glossed over with the beauty of nostalgia.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always looked forward. I’ve looked forward to summer all Spring semester, then I look forward to October all summer, then I look forward to Christmas. Then I look forward to my future when I have a stable career, then I look forward to when I’m a father and can raise a child like my parents raised Alyssa and I. And while I’m doing all of this, I look back at when I was younger and my biggest stressors were whether or not I’d get to hang with friends tonight or this weekend.
What I’ve come to realize is that in nearly every single moment of my life, I’m either looking back at memories that have been beautified by nostalgia, or looking forward to memories yet to be made with hope and excitement. What gets lost in this dizzying obsession with “better times” (whether in the past or the future) is that I’m always thinking I’m currently unhappy and that I’ll be happier at some other time, even though in reality, these good times are passing me by while I’m in a haze.
I’ve written a lot about how it’s likely that my health will eventually degrade and how I’m going to embrace every single day, but I have to stop lying to myself. Writing these posts and then putting them out to the public has always been a way for myself to express myself in the most creative way I can, and then expecting accountability. But that has to stop. The accountability has to come from within. I can’t expect those around me to hold me responsible for enjoying the short time I’m given on this damn beautiful planet. It’s up to me; nobody else is responsible.
So this post is different: CF has absolutely bred in me a hope and despair unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. But enough is enough, it’s time for me to hold myself responsible for the way I live and stop making excuses and blaming CF and the hardships I’ve been through.
So the question is, how am I going to get over the mental roadblock of viewing the past and future as better than right now? For one, I’ve got to philosophically change my understanding of happiness. I’ve always aspired for the happiness where everything is just going right and I’m feeling on top of the world. First and foremost, I have to get over that. Most of our lives never get the luxury to reach that point. For my family, Alyssa and I have appointments every few months which could turn into hospitalizations, antibiotics, and anything else. For us, it’s fairly unlikely that things will go right for more than a few months at a time.
I really have to do my best to understand that happiness isn’t what I used to think it was. Happiness isn’t about being only happy. Happiness is this abstract concept that so many of us are fighting for. What I need to get is that happiness seems to be really just realizing that all moments of time are where we are right now and no matter what is happening, we really really really need to be able to have a laugh if something makes us laugh, or smile at someone who looks like they may need it. Happiness is when we’re in the depths of despair and sadness and someone puts their arm around us and says “I’m here for you” and we feel a tinge of “ya know, things really are going to be okay.”
Next, I have to really grasp that life happens. What I mean by this is that things are going to happen that are out of my control. I can only be concerned with outcomes that are within my control, things where I can wake up and immediately affect them. For example, I can control some outcomes with my health. I can wake up everyday and exercise and do my meds and that’s it. I can’t 100% prevent a CF exacerbation, so I can only stress about the aspects I can control.
At the end of the day, I have to stop romanticizing happiness. Things are going to be okay. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be hopeful. It’s okay to be excited. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. It’s okay to realize that things aren’t what you hoped they’d be and to be upset about it. It’s also okay to realize that the future is going to come, whether or not you want it to.
And to myself, the one thing that isn’t okay anymore: letting life pass by forgetting the reality of all of this. I’m 22 years old on this awe-inspiring rock that’s hurling through the universe at incomprehensible speeds and I have the audacity to let time pass me by while I’m watching it go by with glazed-over eyes. It’s time for me to live in the moment.