This is your time. How do you want to spend it?
I’m playing tennis with my son (who is soon to overtake his old man on the courts…but not yet), and, while I’m having an incredible time hitting the ball and talking about everything and nothing, there’s a tinsy problem. I feel anxious and sad. Not because I’ve lost “a point”, or because a topic we are actually talking about is upsetting me. No. That’s at least something I could get behind. I’m upset because I’m thinking that soon he’ll be back at college and these tennis matches will be limited. I’m upset because I’m thinking that, although soon my son will be doing exceptional things with his life, I’ll be much less a part of it. I’m upset because, honestly, I’m not here playing tennis. My mind is fully invested in a story that’s leaving me feeling sad and anxious about a future moment that hasn’t happened yet, and I am totally missing out on the amazing time I am having with my son right now…
And the clock hasn’t stopped.
It is a high quest indeed to decide to be in the present moment. If it’s good, you fear it won’t stay that way. Then, when shit hits the fan, you pat yourself on the back feeling the validation of just how right you were. While you are waging this war in your brain trying to find the pitfalls in the future, or the possible chinks in the happy moment that you’re presently in, your life is passing along.
The clock doesn’t stop running. It doesn’t stop running while you are looking for the perfect moment where you love your work, your kids are grateful for everything you’ve done, you’ve finished your first marathon (or PR’d it…good for you by the way :), all while earning your doctorate in awesomeness. Tick tock–it doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if you’re struggling with acceptance of your son’s graduation and, while the party is going on, you sulk in your room instead of being in this tremendously happy moment with all of your family outside at the barbecue YOU threw for him. Tick tock–it’s still going.
No time outs. No putting time back up on the clock because you suddenly realized you had made a mistake. It may be a universal clock (the only one we know of on this tiny planet), but it sure as heck is your time. How do you want to spend it? Do you want to spend it allowing your brain to create story after story, fogging up your mental glass to the happy and fulfilling moments going on all around you? Having the feeling of fear, scarcity, and doubt running continuously in your head of everything that will go wrong or come crashing down if you dare to trust being in the present moment and enjoying what it has to offer?
You only have so much time. How do you want to spend it?
An easy way to spot our mind’s “tell” (poker term for when someone is bluffing) of when we’re creating fear or anxiety and blocking ourselves from being fully present in our happiness is what I call “A Top-to-Bottom.”
What is this? – A top-to-bottom is literally when you notice for a brief moment that you might be caught in your mind’s ‘fear fiction’. You STOP yourself, and instead of ducking and dodging it you actually allow yourself to acknowledge the fear you feel in your body and chew on it a bit. Do a self-diagnosis (a scan) of what it feels like from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes.
Why do this? When you allow for your fear, listen to it, befriend it as best you can, you can learn what your fear is trying to tell you. You can decide for yourself if the information it is giving you is useful or not.
What to do next? Look at the present situation that you are in: the celebration, the quiet moment with your family and friends, and look for ‘proof’ that the emotion you’re feeling matches the moment.
If it doesn’t? You are running a full on story–that is, your brain is creating all the potential ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ scenarios, keeping you fearful and unable to be fully present in the moment that you are actually in.
So then try this: Take 30 seconds to a minute to fully focus on something outside in your field of vision that you can count that will need your full attention and/or reasoning abilities. Count how many chairs are in the auditorium of your son’s graduation. Count the number of seconds at your high school reunion that it takes for one of your childhood friends to say something truly funny. Or, better yet, count how many white lines make up a tennis court, so you can be fully present and enjoy the fact that you can still school your son in tennis…at the moment. 🙂