I listened to an audio message yesterday, something recommended by my son-in-law. The focus was on gratitude, living in the present, accepting and valuing the persons, places, and things that surround you in the here-and-now; how to weed out the envy, jealousy, and greed that robs you of your joy and keeps you focused on what others have and what you do not have.
It is a valuable lesson for me.
This life we live is on a “slippery slope” (as they say): it cannot be put on automatic pilot; rather we must refocus each day, and stay awake for the ride. Falling asleep at the wheel brings regret.
So many things compete for our attention, do they not? Family, work, health, bills, relationship struggles, personal issues, etc. We are barraged with numberless voices calling out for our immediate and urgent attention. We must filter through the petitions for our time, sort out, prioritize, and act on them in that order, knowing that tomorrow will bring a new set of urgent petitions. It can be taxing; it can be exhausting; it can be depressing.
And all the while we are sorting through, pursuing various goals, and accomplishing tasks, there is an ever-present danger that hovers over all our activities (in truth, it takes up residence in our minds). And that is this: the danger of missing the moment, not living in the NOW.
There were moments in my parents’ last days where I was present in the moment, I experienced “the NOW.” At my mother’s bedside, I asked if she would like to sing a song; I was trying to cheer her in her final few days as she went in and out of sleep . . . and she mentioned an old song she used to sing to me as a boy, “Ragtime Cowboy Joe.” She grinned through the drugged stupor she was in, breaking its hold if only for a moment. And I was fully present; I was in the NOW.
Or sitting in my father’s hospital room watching television as a famous female singer sang a patriotic song for what must have been the presidential inauguration that January. My father chided her for unnecessary embellishment of the classic tune. And I was fully present in the moment with him; I was in the NOW, watching him in his weakened state, remembering the years and years of singing we had done together, drinking in what would be the final moments I would ever see him alive.
It can be as elusive as a Snow Leopard, and as fleeting as a comet.
But when one is actually in the NOW, life is being lived to the fullest; persons close to us are valued, and the beauty that surrounds us is appreciated. Regrets are kept to a minimum, because regret usually associates with the bedfellows of distraction and obsession.
If you find yourself with an opportunity to care for your elderly parents, embrace it. Then live in the NOW. Stay present through the days and months and years, through the hearing aids, the prescription bottles, the visits to a variety of doctors. Be there for the numberless medical and financial decisions, the nursing evaluations, the insurance debacles, and the quiet moments when everything seems normal again (albeit briefly).
If you want to live without regrets . . . you must master the art of living in the NOW.