Buddha once said, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present wisely and earnestly.” I will admit that for most of my life, I’ve been a hyper-organized, super planning, control freak. By middle school I had most of my life planned out and went to seriously extreme efforts to stick to my plan. There are many of us out there: we try to stay at least two steps ahead of where we currently are, with each breath we take we are thinking of something that’s at least six months in the future. People see us as “having our shit together,” but they never stop to wonder why we are like that.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, there are events in our lives that often occur that are completely out of our control. These moments would blow anyone off their feet, but for people who try to meticulously plan out every single second of their lives years in advance, these moments traumatize us and leave us on the ground helplessly begging for someone to save us.
After two beautifully complication free pregnancies that resulted in the birth of each of my amazing daughters, the thought of a miscarriage was not even close to being on the radar for me. Yet just seven weeks into the pregnancy of my third child, there I was knocked to the ground and unable to pick myself up after a morning I’ll never forget. The perfect life I had planned was crumbling beneath me yet again, and there was nothing I could do to piece it back together. The months immediately after the miscarriage were a blur of lazy days of Netflix and pajamas, excessive drinking, and attempting to just “go through the motions” at work and home. I stopped caring, I stopped trying, I just wanted to die.
What I didn’t realize, though, was that with all the years I spent planning out every single detail of my adult life through death I was actually missing out on something so much more important: the present. When you’ve got your head in the clouds, you miss everything your feet step through on the ground. When you’re caught up in that mindset, though, you don’t even realize what you are losing out on with each breath you take. There was so much I never knew had happened right before my eyes and all the time that had slipped right through my fingers.
This revelation started back in the fall, when I was reintroduced to The Serenity Prayer in my group therapy. I’ve spent years going through cycles of utter frustration when even the slightest wrench would be thrown into my plans, but I never understood why my plans would get foiled. The answer was simple: I cannot control everything and everyone. I needed to accept the things that I lack control over, meaning I needed to let go of planning the future. But what would I spend all my time doing if I wasn’t planning everything out?
It has taken a few months of dialectical behavior therapy, but I have slowly started to become acquainted with the concept of mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is literally training your brain to stay focused in the present moment. It involves developing skills and awareness of your body, your senses, and what is happening around you. It can be quite an awakening for someone like me who has unintentionally become out of tune with the world and my daily life.
I am nowhere near perfect at staying in the present, but I am learning to catch my brain when it tries to run away with thoughts and redirect myself to the moment. I find myself noticing small things more often, like the way that my head tingles when the hot water makes contact in the shower or the change in the texture of cereal in my mouth the longer it sits in the milk before being consumed. I also find myself participating more in play and activities with my daughters or striking up conversations with coworkers during lunch instead of being absorbed in my phone. I am more in tune with my body, with how to describe pains or discomforts and especially with what it needs. If I start having those feelings that plans are going awry or that I’m becoming overwhelmed by sudden changes to my day, all I must do is take a moment and focus on my breathing to ground myself.
As I slowly learn how to focus and live in the present, I find my frustrations and my sadness starting to melt away. It will take more time, constant practice, and frequent reminders from my therapist, but I think that living in the present is the key I have been missing through all these years of being a control freak trying to make my life this perfect little puzzle when it just needed to be a work of art in constant progress. A life worth living is one that we enjoy, and the enjoyment comes from being present and experiencing all that each moment has to offer.