My friend Diana was lamenting the idea that she feels un-spontanious and incapable of throwing it to the wind for the sake of… well, I don’t know, exactly. A good time? Less stress? I’m not sure. Anyway, she asked for the advice and insight from friends and several chimed in.
The sources were legion. Accountants, designers, step-moms, writers, print shop owners, and the unemployed (hi). It occurred to me that living in the moment is nothing I struggle with regularly. I’m a bit of a master at it, frankly. I’m not talking about mooning the car next to me while screaming down 90 or running off to be a groupie, more like just the pause-taking that happens here and there. Changing leaves, a really good nap, the color of Lake Michigan on a clear day, the depth and amazingly deep character of a particular porter, a stolen kiss; these things matter. They can make or break a minute. They are life, in its very essence.
I waited for the flurry of advice to pour in from all sides before I decided to contribute. I don’t think it’s anything I’d deliver at a commencement speech but it’s my personal credo, I guess. Just in case you also need the encouragement to let it go every now and again:
When I worked at [very busy local coffee shop] and the line would get 20 people deep towards the door and I was at the register, I would get completely flustered at the eight people I could see behind the person ordering (let alone the 12 behind her). I wondered how I would get them ordered properly, change made correctly, smile, say thank you, and not screw it up. I felt so rushed. Then it occurred to me that my only responsibility was to deal with what (who, in that case) was immediately in front of me. The people behind that person would wait, they were already there and waiting, after all.
That has become a mantra when I start to freak out and overthink. By extension, it forces me to live in the moment by making decisions and dealing with what is immediately in front of me and not the three things behind it in addition. Sometimes all it is, is the difference between turning right or left because I’ve never gone down that street before. Or going an extra few blocks on the scooter because the day is gorgeous and I’m in the zone. Have the third beer after you said you’d only have two. Buy the ticket. Go on the trip. Stay out late and dance your ass off at Late Bar. Damn the (mental) torpedoes.
At the end of it, all we have are our experiences. No one on their deathbeds recounts all the glorious days at the office or grocery shopping. Sure, we have to do the responsible things in life but when there is very little harm in taking a breath and doing something else in that moment, do it. That’s what it’s all made of and that’s what you remember.