I want to share another big reflection I have gained in this process of delirious transformational life change, by now defined by massive amounts of uncertainty and introspection. I have come to realize that my source of happiness until this point has been derived all too much from my expectations on my own future. Throughout my entire life I have basically lived my life in the future, almost never looked back and being the dreamer that I am, it has been a constant struggle for me to stay focused in the present. Also, I have always had a plan for the next step, even before I was taking the first one, I have always looked ahead and I have always been so certain of where I was going next. I was sort of like a coal train. The train was going so well, I was so fired up and excitedly fed the engine with coal constantly as it picked up speed. The steam was exploding, shooting a tall tower of smoke far into the sky, who wouldn’t be excited? I got so busy laying down tracks in front of me as quick as I could to keep the train’s impressive speed, that it mattered less where the tracks led, as long as they were being laid quick enough.
As I finally stopped laying down the tracks and put the train to a halt, uncertainty came rushing over me, and with it my so far greatest source of happiness crumbled. Once my relationship ended as well, which was one of my last big sources of happiness in the present, things turned really difficult. The past few weeks have been a constant and conscious struggle for me between the past, the present, and the future. Previously I have lived my life perhaps 90% in the future, 9% in the present and 1% in the past, meaning that out of a hundred thoughts in a given day, 90 were about something that hadn’t happened, 9 were about the moment when they happened, and 1 was about something that had already happened. I was at the very happiest when I had fun things like a trip or a big celebration coming up and when I envisioned the dream I would be in within five years. I always had to have something exciting planned in the near future to feel happiness.
After the break-up, I started looking back more than I ever have before, I started going through memories from our relationship in my head to try to figure out where it all went south, as well as prior life events that have shaped me, but I think a part of me was also searching for something. What started as a search for proof that what happened was right, turned into a subconscious search for sources of fleeting happiness through memories from our past time together, I couldn’t find happiness in the future nor the present anymore so I subconsciously turned to the past which brought with it a lot of other bad feelings. At the same time, I worried about my future and had to face all of my fears of failure, a pressure to perform and realizations that I wasn’t where I had planned to be by the time I was 30. A majority of my thoughts were still about my future, only thoughts of hope and excitement had been replaced by thoughts of fear and doubt, and the previous 9% of joy from the present had increased and been replaced by painful memories from the recent past. Seeing how miserable worrying about the future and feeling sad about the past made me, I quickly came to realize how unsustainable both the future and the past are as sources of happiness. Our past changes constantly as we live our lives as well as how we evolve to understand it, and our view on our future can change in an instant. The only thing we are ever truly in control of when it comes to ourselves is the present moment. The present is the only thing that is real.
Once this realization hit home with me I started intentionally and consciously to try to live more in the present, initially much as a means for me to avoid ending up in depression. I picked up meditation as a tool to stay more grounded in the here and now and to keep my thoughts away from the future and the past, and I started practicing appreciation and gratitude more. I have no idea where it came from but I started with this daily practice one morning when I was holding my hot morning coffee in my hands, moments before I was about to drink it. My mind started visualizing every person along the value chain involved in the process of making and getting that coffee into my hands and I verbally thanked each and every one as I saw them in my head, everyone from the person picking the berries in the field, to the roaster, I even thanked an imaginary guy sitting in a suit in an office working for the coffee brand, the truck driver and the shop keeper. It sounds silly but it was such a powerful exercise. Something happened inside of me and that cup of coffee was the best coffee I’ve ever had. For the first time in a long time, I was smiling and I couldn’t stop it. I felt so much love.
I started to realize that I could actually shift my sources of happiness to come more from how I am perceiving and living in the present, and by doing that I could reduce the grief from the past and the worry of the future. Even without the practices, just the realization bumped up the split of thoughts of the present to perhaps 30%. I started to feel like I could actually handle this, and I started to feel an ignition of energy and lust for living coming back. Now, I am still struggling with the grieving part and my sadness from the recent past currently sums up to about half of my thoughts and the remaining 20% I worry or plan for my future, but it’s more manageable. I have to be honest that before this I wasn’t very aware of my thoughts and how this split actually looked like for me, and as with most things in life, just gaining the awareness makes half the difference. I would love to hear other thoughts on what a healthy split could look like but at least I am now focusing on making the present thoughts a majority of my consciousness. I have come to realize that the present moment is the only source of happiness that is sustainable and steady, that is the only source that is real and that I can control.
All love and no fear,