04 Nov Present
My brain was going just about as fast as my minivan was down the Kansas interstate, which was roughly 80-85 miles per hour (the speed limit on I-70 is a wonderful 75mph). I was trying the best I could to not think about next year, about our building plans for our future home, all the things we’d need to do to get our small farm bed & breakfast up and running. Ideas, lists, to-do’s were swirling through my head. So many ideas, and yet, an inability to start on any of them, because we are still in the period of “the wait“.
Frenzied, and in an increasing state of agitation, I turned to Nick, who was sitting calmly in the passenger seat, completely ignorant of the fact that I was running through one-year, five-year, and “when the kids are off to college” plans for our future in my brain.
With a big sigh, I asked him, “Honey, if you had to give someone advice on how to live in the present, what advice would you give?”
He looked at me, perhaps a little bewildered, trying to track with where I had gotten to this random question that appeared to materialize from thin air. But after 10 years of marriage, he knew me well enough to understand that I had obviously been submerged in some distant thoughts, far from the highway on Kansas.
“What do you mean?” he dug a little deeper for context.
I tried to keep it casual. “Well, I mean, if someone had trouble keeping their mind on things of the present, and tended to think always about the future – planning for things, looking forward to things – making it hard for them to feel content in the current, and potentially causing some anxiety, what would you tell them? Because you seem to be really good at living in the present and not worrying too much about getting to the next thing.”
“Oh I see.”
“And specifically if there were things that couldn’t be done. But the person wanted so badly to get them done, but it wasn’t the right time, and you know, they had to wait.” By now he had picked up on where I was going with this.
“Uh huh. So you mean you with the land and the farm and stuff?”
“Ummm, heh, yeah… but I mean, if you had any advice for anyone who might deal with the same struggles as me.”
“Ok… well, let me think.”
I waited for his response. Knowing my husband, I knew I couldn’t rush him. He wouldn’t give me a response until he had thought it well through, and could stand by his answer. I kept my eyes on the expanse of road that stretched out before me. I love driving through Kansas, it’s so open, and flat, with so few cars, and everyone obeys the “stay right unless you’re passing” rule. Honestly, I think my 8 year old could probably drive that stretch of Kansas, though I’ll wait until he’s 12 before I let him try (JUST KIDDING).
“Are you looking for, like, one main answer?” Nick started.
“I mean, maybe three to five points? But if it’s just one, that’s ok too.” I knew what he was going to say next was going to be good.
Here is what my dear 9w1 husband responded, I roughly organized them into three points:
ONE / Pick one thing to focus on. It’s ok if it has to be a couple things (like family & work). But ideally, no more than three. It’s easier to get distracted when you fill your time with too many things. Do the few things well and then don’t worry about adding on anything else. If you’re so focused on doing your one or two things well, you won’t have the space to be preoccupied about “what’s after what’s next”.
TWO / Aim to have a consistent schedule. Day to day, week to week, it may not always be possible because life throws curveballs, but develop a routine and try to keep to it. This ties back to the first point of focus. If you have clear expectations of what is happening on any given day, it is harder to get distracted by bright shiny objects. Your mind will be less likely to wander off into the what if’s. It’s not bad to dream, to consider opportunities and make plans, but if the future takes up so much of your brain space that the present is no longer given its proper place, then you have to reel it back in.
THREE / Make time for things that bring you joy. Take a walk, get out in nature, paint a picture. Don’t do it because it’s an achievement or something to check off your list. Do it because it is enjoyable and refreshing. God took the time to enjoy his creation on the seventh day. He modeled the importance of finding enjoyment as a key to rest. It’s a reminder to stop achieving, stop planning, and just be.
I ate up every one of his words. Honestly, it wasn’t the advice that I had expected. I thought he would go with things like “Be thankful for what you have” or “trust God with the future”. All of those are very true and very good things. But here it was, Nick’s secret to living contentedly in the present – simple, yet profound. Which is why I asked his permission to share it with you, my friends.
What do you think of Nick’s points? Are there any you might adopt as your own?