Always Living in the Future
I guess most people getting to be about my age start musing about the missed opportunities of their lives, the moments recalled that seem like only yesterday and were gone in a flash, never to be relived. I’m a busy, happy person, but I have these recollections of melancholy more and more as my life goes on and goes into its final chapters.
My moments mostly center on my children, my parents and my childhood friends, and sacred moments that came and went so quickly before I ever realized what was happening. The little girl in the pink dress, the costumes she designed, that excruciating day of the automobile crash; the little boy watching the piano fall, the Pinewood Derby, the wonderful trip to Hershey; the other little boy struggling to understand, playing the saxophone, running the high school race. And the other little girl, the baby everything was for, but a baby not long enough, and a daughter not anywhere near long enough.
Childhood friends who, like Leo, helped fashion space helmets out of Quaker Oats boxes for the Planet Club that met in the cellar of an abandoned house, where we smoked and conspired, and who would meet me at midnight as we sneaked out to fulfill the double dare of the midnight walk through the cemetery. Or like Bob, who packed down the snow so we could play catch as the Red Sox opened spring training camp in Florida, which might as well have been on the moon for all we knew, and who made the last out for me, saving a win for my relief pitching in a game with the big boys neither one of us will ever forget.
I shouldn’t whine because my friends my age all have similar melancholies, and we discuss this fact of life from time to time. I guess it’s behind the old saying that youth is wasted on the young. The real problem is, I feel that, more than most others, I spent way too much time working and planning for that wonderful future that was to come and not nearly enough time enjoying the moments of the present I already had.
I was standing in a checkout line at the SuperWalmart with a week’s worth of groceries and other miscellaneous items in my basket, while a clerk-in-training tried to deal with a welfare mother and her problems. Although I’m retired and have no particular place to go, I can feel my blood pressure rising as my heart starts thumping and my head starts to hurt. I am getting more and more impatient as I suddenly have a thought, “Why is it I’m always living in the future?”. All my life my mind and my attention always seemed to drift away from what was happening right now – to what I was going to do or what I would like to have – sometime in the future. It’s so bad that, as soon as I get to a party or some other enjoyable function, I start thinking about what I will be doing later on.
It’s not ‘carpe diem’ for me, it’s waste the day. More and more I spend time now thinking about how fast life went by, and how I wasted so many special moments by sliding into the future again and again. I just learned recently that my older son was a huge Bruins’ fan at the same time I was. How I wish I could have shared that with him at the time.
So while standing in line I had the thought, “How can I just enjoy this moment?”. After all, my life is pretty good. Yesterday I went to a Boston Red Sox – Minnesota Twins spring training game in perfect 80 degree weather; tonight I’m going ballroom dancing with a group of friends; tomorrow I’m going to a rodeo with another group of friends – and so on. I decide to focus on the people around me and try to guess what their lives must be like. If my attention starts to slide, I manage to think about the fact that if I just stay in the moment, maybe my life won’t seem to be rushing by so fast.
Later on at the dance that night, I started to think about the Tampa Bay Lightning game on TV and when it might end. Let’s see, if we leave by 9:30, maybe I can see the end of the game. No, wait a minute, I’m doing it again. I focus more on what the people around me are saying, on the dancers, the music, the steps we’re trying to improve. That’s better.
A lifetime of living in the future and ending up wondering where it all went is hard to shake. I advise against getting in the habit in the first place.