The present. It surely is.
I’ve been thinking about it this past week. Even if the past has been difficult, and the future remains unknown and unpredictable, the present is exactly what it sounds like. Our gift.
We each get to choose what to do with our gift, the present. Some of us use it to look back at the past. But looking back can’t change it. Some stress about the future. But that typically results in a lot of worry. A dear friend of mine told me a few years back that “It’s not a problem until it’s a problem.” Follow that, and you’ll worry a whole lot less.
As for the present, I want to begin with a post I read in my local Nextdoor.com. Here’s the post:
Airplanes flying over our house. We live in Bloomfield Twp which is 32 miles away from Detroit metro airport and approximately 35 minute drive, yet every evening between 5pm and 10 pm as we grab a glass of wine to enjoy the peace and quiet and sit by the bonfire in our backyard we are bombarded by the loud propeller noise [from low flying airplanes] . . . Who do I complain to? Who can do something about this? We have had enough.
As I read the post, rather than tuning into her complaint, I was thinking about how nice that regular bonfire in their yard must be, under the stars, sipping wine. My posting neighbor, on the other hand, was spending her present focusing on the negative, complaining, and even seeking to recruit others in to her annoyance.
Both points of view, and infinite others, all exist in the present. But for many, their choice appears to them to be their only choice.
The choice we all have with our present, including the choice to be happy, is exemplified by a short parable I wrote called The Zen of the Steam Room. It is a story first articulated to me as a young man by a wise old “steamer”, a man who’d survived the Nazi concentration camps:
Some people walk into a steam room, sit on the lowest benches where it’s coolest, and quickly get uncomfortable and walk out. Others go into the steam room and sit low, and you can tell they’re stressed but maintaining. Yet others walk in and go right to the top benches where it’s hottest, seeming to embrace as much heat as there is.
How could that be? It’s all the same heat.
The answer is that it’s not the heat that counts, but our response to it. We can fight the heat or we can embrace it. And the heat in the steam room is no different than the heat we may feel in many aspects of our lives. We have financial heat, job heat, family heat, health heat, and more. Ultimately, it’s all just heat. What defines us is not the heat but how we deal with it. Choose happiness.
How we look at the present is a choice we get each get to make. Make it magical. And make it happy!
With happiness and in the present,
Alan B. Havis and Alice B. McGinty