From my earliest memories until some point in my twenties, there was a span of time that seemed every bit as long as a hundred years. It felt like birthdays and Christmas only happened every five years or so, summer vacation must have lasted two or three years. Now, the years, even decades, fly by so fast it leaves me exasperated.
A day as a young person was an entire adventure in itself. Whether at school or home on summer vacation, a day was long period of time filled with countless experiences. I can remember being bored sometimes as a kid. I’m never bored any more. There isn’t enough time to get done all the things I need to get done, let alone have time for something as frivolous as boredom.
It’s not just the passing of time that is different now. I experienced things more completely in my youth. I still remember the bathroom door of the old house I grew up in. The paint had flaked off leaving the silhouette of a fat man with a large nose. I can still see him in my mind. I remember the sound our screen door made when it slammed and rattled the entire framework of the enclosed porch walls. The large tree in our front yard had two raised ridges that extended from near the roots to three or four feet up. It always looked like a set of legs—I’d imagine a gnome or leprechaun had been swallowed up by the tree trunk.
Currently, I have locked away in memory none of these things about my own house. The bathroom door is just the door. It keeps my family from having to watch me do my business, but if not for that, it could disappear, and it would take me a week to notice. I can’t hear the sound of my screen door closing in my mind. My trees are just trees that I mow around, with no leprechauns trapped in them. What has happened to me? Why does time speed by so fast? Why don’t I really see and hear the things I look at and listen to every day?
Life is a razor line of the here-and-now sandwiched between memory and hope.
As kids, we spent our days almost entirely in the here and now. All that mattered was what we were doing, seeing, and hearing in that moment. As adults, we shift much of our living from the present to memories of the past, as well as the hope, fretting, and planning about the future. Our here-and-now becomes more of an obstacle we must get past in order to reach the next appointment, payday, or Dancing with the Stars episode.
I want some of my here-and-now back.
Getting married and having my own kids has taken away much of my here-and-now. Unlike when I was a kid, it’s no longer just me that I live for. I don’t regret this loss of the here-and-now. I willingly spend time hoping, planning, and fretting for their benefit. Luckily, this time doesn’t account for all of my missing here-and-now. I think there is still room to get some of it back.
A person needs to spend time planning and plotting our futures financially, socially and even physically, but after I do that, and have reached reasonable conclusions, my mind isn’t satisfied to stop there. I run an endless loop of rethinking, worrying, figuring, hoping. I need to set time limits on my forward thinking, and when that time is over, write down my conclusions and shut it down.
I give too much time to the future.
I spend a lot of time being nostalgic. I love to drift back to the good ole days. Part of me needs it. But it can be a slippery slope. It’s easy to get stuck in the rut of wondering why your here-and-now seems so lackluster compared to yesterday’s. It Maybe it’s just a matter of reclaiming your here-and-now so that it evens out with the past. I love all those yesterdays, but I need to give the here-and-now a fighting chance.
The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it is a thief when it comes to the here-and-now. Cyberspace is not the here-and-now. If I add up all the two-minute Facebook glances, news headline checks, endless opinion pieces and funny cat videos, they take up hours of my day. If I’m not currently on my phone, I’m often wondering how many new likes I’ll find when I do check. If I factor in Netflix, there are some days that the two together account for all my spare time—time that could have gone towards the real world here-and-now.
Two things people have said when facing the end of their lives have always stuck in my head. When Warren Zevon made his last appearance on David Letterman before succumbing to lung cancer, Letterman asked him if his grim prognosis had taught him anything about life. Warren’s answer was, “How much you are supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”
It sounds funny, but that mindset is exactly what I’m hoping to gain. Slow things down a bit. Enjoy that sandwich, conversation, or sun on your face for the simple pleasures they are. We have a finite number these small joys. Don’t ruin them by trampling over them with incessant planning, fretting, or Facebook. Katie Cassidy, daughter of David Cassidy shared that her father’s last words were simply, “So much wasted time.” These last words hit me hard. I must wonder if part of that statement was in reference to the present, and the squandering of it.
I’m not under the false notion that I can just throw all responsibility, planning, and screen time to the wind. Playing grownup requires a certain amount of living outside the here-and-now—maybe even a lot. I just want to make sure I’m capitalizing on every scrap of it I can salvage. I want to see my bathroom door and hear my screen door slam. I want to enjoy every sandwich.