Finding Peace In The Present Moment
No one wants to be in an airport. It’s a place of transition and flux and it’s not a final destination. Being in an airport means you’re in process towards something. You haven’t arrived anywhere yet.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I spent almost 8 hours at Chicago O’Hare airport last Thursday waiting for my parents’ flight to land. The quick logistical background is that the cheapest flight from Boston to Chicago arrived at 9am and my parents’ flight from San Diego didn’t arrive until 5pm. We were hitching a ride with them in their rental car to Rockford, IL (1.5 hours away) for my cousin’s wedding and figured it would be easiest to wait for them in the airport.
We had plenty of work to do and ample free internet–not to mention our brown bag frugal weirdo snacks of homemade peanut butter sandwiches, almonds, bananas, and a waterbottle–so we didn’t mind it one bit. But, it was a day spent in an entirely impermanent place.
Impatience With The Present
Being in airport for a full day caused me to reflect on the ways in which we handle transitionary times in our lives. In many ways, we’re constantly in progress. Life is an unending succession of waiting for the next big thing to happen. But I dislike feeling as though I’m hoping for time to elapse. I don’t want to wish my life away, but I know I do it all the same.
Mr. FW and I are in a sort of holding pattern at the moment, anticipating a number of major life changes to be wrought. Our first baby is due in five weeks, and in a few short years our ultimate goal will come to fruition: we’ll both quit our jobs and move to a homestead in the woods. For the moment, however, none of this has come to pass.
At times, we’ve both felt frustration with the fact that we’re merely working towards these dreams and haven’t attained them yet. We’ve set up Babywoods’ nursery, installed her carseat, researched infant care, picked out a name, and tried to prepare Frugal Hound as best as one can prepare a dog for the impending arrival of a tiny human. But she’s not here yet.
Similarly, we talk about our homestead daily, I write about our homestead often, we look at homestead properties with regularity, we research homesteading, and we make plans and decisions in the present that’ll yield this future lifestyle. But we’re not there yet. We’re in the proverbial airport of our lives right now.
The Peace Of Living In The Present
In my (free) yoga class the other day, I had a moment of realization. My fellow yogis and I were dutifully crouched in chair pose, which as you might’ve guessed, entails bending one’s legs to resemble sitting in chair–minus the support of an actual chair. Needless to say, this is a fairly uncomfortable position since your thighs are essentially parallel with the ground and your arms are stretched above your head. Not exactly a posture you want to be in for the long term. In other words, it’s a transitional pose. But on this particular day, the teacher had us hold chair pose for what felt like 5 minutes (it was probably more like 1 minute).
As we did so, she asked us to embrace the sensations we were having. She didn’t advise that we think ahead to after class, or even to the next posture. Instead, she calmly instructed us to honestly feel the emotions and pain of the pose. To breath into the burning, to be OK with the sweat dripping down our noses, to be thankful that our bodies were strong enough to support us, and that our minds were clear enough to allow us to persevere. She told us to close our eyes and simply be present in the moment of the posture. To fully submit to it and ultimately, to accept it and be grateful for its role in getting us where we were headed.
Soon enough, we moved out of chair pose and the temporary discomfort was forgotten. But what stayed with me is this idea of breathing completely into the present and living it wholly and without reservation.
Rather than constantly looking ahead and planning for what’s next, can we find peace and acceptance in the imperfect present moment, regardless of how far away we are from our ultimate goal?
Our financial independence goal, like all financial aspirations, will be achieved slowly over time. No one decides to reach financial independence, or become debt free, or buy a house and then immediately has it happen. Rather, these lofty objectives are realized slowly and through ongoing perseverance. For most of us, it takes years of sound decision-making to bring about such large changes. But playing this long, slow game is what renders the greatest happiness. Frittering away our money every month might bring us temporary excitement, but it would prevent us from achieving the monumental ambitions that’ll bring us lifelong gratification. A challenging goal is the best kind of goal because it strikes at the core of everything we want.
Finding acceptance for the length of time these endeavors will take is a key aspect of happily living in the present while maintaining a focus on the future. Time will elapse no matter what we do, so we might as well constructively pursue the things we actually desire.
Nostalgia For The Past
At every significant turning point in my life, I’ve lived in breathless anticipation. For example, I barely remember being engaged to Mr. FW because I was so anxious to get married. What I often seem to remember most from the twilight days of one life event is just how much I was visualizing the next big move. I’m now actually nostalgic for those “missed” times. I was so driven, bound, and determined to get to the next thing that I didn’t allow myself to comprehensively live out the lead-up to those changes.
While I think it’s of paramount importance to plan ahead, have specific goals, and not wing it through life, I sometimes skew too far to the opposite direction of being entirely destination-oriented. I lose the present in the process. With this latest slew of preparatory time, I’ve resolved to live it instead of wishing it away. I’m actively engaged in enjoying my pregnancy and not hoping for the time to birth to pass quickly. Babywoods will be born when she’s ready and I’m in no rush.
And while our sights and minds are set on our eventual homestead, we savor living in our current city and taking advantage of the fun it offers. There’s nothing wrong with relishing the present while simultaneously and methodically mapping a different future. What I’ve realized is that there are so many benefits to each mode of life and not embracing them fully leaves us with a life experience deficit.
For me, this is the time in my life when I’m pregnant, working a traditional job, and living in a city. I’m not an early retiree writing full-time on a homestead with my kids already born. I’m not there yet and I’m at peace with that. Because I know there will be times in that homestead future when I long for my days as a childless career woman in the city.
I also aim to be proud of my past self. With each stage of life, no matter how ephemeral it seems, there are opportunities to bring joy to others, to experience fulfillment, and to do good work. I want to look back and know that I did my best at each juncture: that I was the best pregnant lady I could be, that I was the best city-dweller I could be, and so on. There’s no reason to create regret for how I handled situations or for rushing through time with family or friends in my haste to summit my next accomplishment.
Loving Every Day
Something I notice in my yoga practice is that if I give my entire effort to each posture–going deep, holding it, and breathing through the pain–I feel amazing at the end. My body knows I worked hard and knows that I reaped every possible benefit from each pose.
A dear friend of mine, L, who won her battle with cancer a few years ago once told me that she loves living every single day–whether she’s at home with her baby and husband, or at work, or at the grocery store–she sees every moment as a gift. She explained, “What more is there than loving every day? What more could anyone want than to simply be allowed to live?” Wow. I can’t imagine a more perfect articulation of the importance of living each moment to its greatest potential. What more could any of us hope for indeed?
How do you stay grounded in the present while looking ahead to the future?
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