Reprinted with permission from The Odyssey Online
Stop living for the next season or holiday, and remember to live in the now.
Another summer has flashed by. Summer is my favorite time. Contrary to popular opinion, I love hot weather and blazing sunshine. I love green and growing things, summer sunrises, and spending time outside. I despise, loathe, and abhor winter, along with every other synonym you can think of. January is a detestable month, filled with windy gray days and depressing landscapes of brown. I spend the entirety of winter balled up in one giant muscle cramp, desperately trying to keep warm and battling what I suspect is a raging case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
As much as I hate winter, however, I do my very best to not wish it away. It has its good points, though they be few. Winter is a wonderful time to catch up on reading. The comfort food of winter time is superb; I adore soups of all kinds and make some at least once a week. For a little while, before the chore of it becomes burdensome, I enjoy building a fire in the fireplace, listening to the logs crackle and soaking up the unique warmth that a fire provides. Much of it wears thin within a few weeks, but still, I do not hurry spring.
Have you noticed our society has a habit of hurrying the seasons along? It worries me, to be frank. How can anyone enjoy the now, when we are constantly being bombarded with what is to come? My kids went back to school in mid-August, and there were Halloween decorations on the aisle adjacent to the school supplies. What the hell kind of bizzaro world are we living in? I love Halloween, but I do not want to be contemplating costumes while sipping a margarita next to the pool. It makes no sense. I’m not saying we should not look forward to things. I’m saying we should do it with more presence in the now.
It is barely Labor Day and already my news feeds on social media are crammed with Christmas countdowns. Seriously, people, this is not necessary. One holiday at a time! Just because retailers have lost their collective minds does not mean we all should as well. Halloween will be “over” long before the actual holiday arrives, and Thanksgiving will be next on the chopping block. Before you even sit down to your yearly feast it will be full-tilt to Christmas, and on December 26 it will be time for Valentine’s Day. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
This all worries me because the trend I see is that most people today have no idea how to be happy with their lives now, as they are today. There is a sense that the next season, the next holiday, the next celebration will be The One To Fix Everything. The sense that this summer we will have that perfect beach body and everyone will ooh and ahh and we will, at last, have body confidence. The sense that this Halloween we will have the most amazing costume ever and be the belle of the ball. The sense that this Thanksgiving the family will get along marvelously, and that all the old hurts and grudges will be forgiven. The sense that this Christmas we will all be able to give and receive the perfect gifts, and at last we will achieve the inner peace that Christmas is supposed to be about.
This is far too much burden to be placing on any season. Because what we end up finding out when that season or holiday finally arrives, is that we are still who we are. We still have the same cellulite, the same hurt feelings, the same flaws that we have had all year long. We have forgotten how to love ourselves, forgive ourselves, or accept ourselves. We place expectations on a season to magically fix the things that we should be working on, regardless of what a calendar says. We have forgotten how to live in the now.
Now is the only time we have. Yes, we can and should look forward. But looking forward too far, placing too many expectations on a season, is setting ourselves up for disappointment. No Christmas can live up to the Norman Rockwell expectations that we carry. Looking forward is good; planning is necessary to a peaceful and ordered life. Looking back is good; learning from our failures and successes is also necessary to a peaceful and ordered life. But NOW is where we live. Now is the time that matters. If we do not confront our issues, needs, problems, and quandaries in the now, they will only follow us to the next season. And shoving them along down the calendar does nothing to resolve them.
Much of this is driven by retail. They know exactly how to tap into our insecurities and neuroses. They have whole corporate departments devoted to sussing out our weaknesses and exploiting them. This is why Walmart will have a trailer full of Easter candy parked behind the store before Christmas arrives. This is why we see bikinis in the stores next to Valentine’s Day items. They do not dare waste a moment’s time forcing the next season down our throat. They are fully cognizant of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. They know what a huge driver this is to a populace that has forgotten how to live in the now.
Resist the urge, my friends. Resist the message that we should be looking months down the road for perfection, rather than doing our best to be happy in the imperfect now. Use the now to work on the things you fear, or are angry about, or that make you afraid. Because working on those things now will only improve the seasons to come. Most of all, enjoy the now because the future can be snatched away from us at literally any moment. I have sadly discovered this, on far too many occasions, in a very personal way.
The now is all we have. Live it.