So… on my quest to find self-help books that are actually helpful and not too annoying, I’ve stumbled across Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Maybe stumbled across is too disingenuous – it is, after all, a worldwide bestseller. I’m halfway through it, but the basic premise is that in order to be happy, you have to focus on your life in the present, rather than the past or future. And by present, he means this very moment, not what you’re doing this afternoon, or were planning on doing when the doorbell rang, etc.
It’s incredibly hard to do, and has made me realise how much I live in the future -in my head, that is. I’ve always been a daydreamer – I remember as a teenager thinking wistfully about what I was going to do when I became famous. I suspect I’ve always carried that with me, so that when I became a mother for the first time at the age of 31, I also had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to achieve some of the totally unrealistic dreams I had. Not that I think motherhood means the end of dreams – far from it – but my dreams were of being an actress when I couldn’t act, or a singer when I sang very averagely.
I have often found solace and inspiration in plans and schemes, and have spent a lot of my life identifying goals and working out how best to achieve them. The problem with goals isn’t the aim in itself, but the feeling that you’ll only achieve happiness when you get there. I found in my notebook the other day a piece of writing from about seven years ago which said “by the age of 35 I plan to have published my first book and be living by the sea with my family”. This did, in fact happen, and I truly believe in the power of writing down what you want and then working towards that.
The problem was, that I didn’t feel half as excited as I thought I would when I identified that goal. At the time of writing, I thought it really was my dream life, and that I would be completely happy when I was living it. But of course, I didn’t factor in the tiredness of having young children, the everyday stresses and strains, plus the banal reality that once you are living a life, you adjust to new changes pretty quickly.
So I can totally “get” the idea of living in the present, as that is all we really have. The challenge, of course, is to undo the thought patterns of a lifetime and try to live that way, being aware of each moment, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes. I hope it will also work on my impatience with my children, how each stage will bring its own difficulties, and yet i know I will look back and treasure these times.
So that’s my intention. I’m sure it won’t happen overnight, but I hope to at least be aware of my “future thinking” and to try and bring myself back to the present where I can.