I spoke to a group of high school students a few weeks ago and found myself diving into an old-person rant about cell phone addiction. These poor kids sat silent in neckties their parents helped them tie, trying to navigate their last year of high school before figuring out who they are and where they're going to invest their potential - and I show up and decided parent them for an hour like a traveling preacher.
Be present! I begged them.
I've been thinking about presence a lot lately. I picked up meditating, stopped listening to the radio in the car and I've enjoyed taking long walks again; I've started trying to taste every bite of my food instead of just choking it down. It's important to experience every moment as it rolls by. We were given a spectrum of emotions and sensory receptors and I believe we're meant to feel everything we're capable of feeling. How can one live a full life if they choose not to?
But what about when things get hard? What about when you need a break? What about when the needle has been paused too long on a feeling that's got you by the ankle - preventing you from moving forward?
One thing I've learned about living through pain is that sometimes you can give yourself the gift of seeing just two or three seconds beyond where you are now. I know I just said we're supposed to be present and feel everything - I'm not discouraging that - but I also think it's important and healthy to practice gratitude in a way that pulls you forward. Sometimes we need something to pull us if we can't push.
So that's why I think it's OK to believe in the small future that's just a few seconds away from now. It's that place you know exists after a sip of your coffee, after you turn the corner onto that street you like and the Texas Ash trees make a tunnel for you to pass through, after the line in that song that always pulls at the hair on your arms. It's the moment when you're walking to your car and pause for a second to feel a new coldness hanging on your earlobes and you remember every decisive onset of autumn you've ever experienced - and also flash ahead a few seconds into a chilly future - all at the same time. It's the brief secret you get to enjoy when you're with someone and know you're about to tell them you love them, but they won't know it until you speak the words three seconds later.
There is both stillness and forward motion at work here.
There is both the choice to feel everything in your body right now and also a blind hope in the things you're about to feel in the future - just a skip away from this moment.
And there can be a thankfulness for all of it.