I would like to make the case that “I can get through this” is no way to plan your life.
It’s true, we can get through hard situations. We are every bit as strong and capable and vulnerable as we need to be to take on this sometimes tricky (and if not totally painful) world. My point is not to say we should give up or accept ourselves as too weak. Rather it is this: nothing happens how we plan it to, and most things in life are completely out of our control. So, with what we do have power over, why not make our present as joyful and fulfilling as we can? Maybe it sounds obvious, but I often catch myself compromising my present for the promise of something in the future, and I’ve seen people around me doing the same.
The truth is, there is really no promise of anything in the future. And while today might be hard, nobody has ever claimed that when life gives you lemons you should just suck it up and bite into them so that maybe you’ll get lemonade next time… right?
Look around, people do this all the time. In fact, people are trained from a very young age to make sacrifices now for something to come later. In highschool we sacrificed to get into college, in college to get a job, and in work to climb our way up. We pour time into training and preparing ourselves when we don’t really know how life is going to test us anyways. The truth is, life lived this way- imprisoned in the thought of what’s next- will escape you. We did work through things to get to where we are, and we will have to work through things today. But if we’re always preparing for what we may have to work through next, how will we ever enjoy where we are now?
I make this point because I’ve been there. Over-scheduling, over-committing, over-working with the justification that I was strong enough to “get through it”. I sacrificed repeatedly because I believed it was temporary. Moreover, I didn’t want to make a change because I felt like maybe I would be letting people down.
I did get through the work like I knew I would. But in doing so, I compromised my ability to enjoy precious time.
I get it- enjoying the present sounds almost adorably idealistic, and it’s not like we haven’t heard that advice a million times over. Of course, it’s easier said than done. So as I start trying to reorganize life with this in mind, I have come up with a method to make it more concrete: setting goals for today. I address what is going to help me feel the best that I can at this moment. And tomorrow… the words “should have” are erased from my vocabulary. Believe me, they’re useless.
What I’ve learned is that not only is it difficult to be present, it’s scary. In fact, it’s kind of terrifying- that sense of letting go. The idea that we really have no control over what’s to come can make us feel powerless. Or maybe, if we let it, it can make us feel free. So, why not try? Wouldn’t you rather feel like your riding life’s wave than constantly trying to catch it?