Thoughts on present happy living.
Do you have plans for next weekend? What are you going to wear for the holidays? Can you believe how hard that work trip is going to be in a couple of weeks? Oh my God, when is this workout going to be over? Is it 5 o’clock yet? Where am I going to be living in 10 years? What if I can’t fit in my bikini in 6 months? And on, and on, and on. It’s so hard to get our minds to simply calm down and stop processing future events.
Or there’s this. What if I had made a different choice? Why’d I do that? What if I had never moved there? I wish I hadn’t eaten that? Why did I say that? Looking to the past is no better than worrying about the future.
I’ve been spending a lot of time hiking a trail here in northwest Austin. It’s a hard trail. A really hard trail. It’s made up of thousands of steps that magically wind their way around the Texas hill country and cascade down to hidden little waterfalls across a small creek. The trees hug around the trail and even though suburbia is mere steps away, you feel as if are lost somewhere deep in the woods. The only reminder of civilization are the brief shouts of “FOUR” from a nearby golf course that you can’t see but you can hear at one small section of the six-mile trek.
Since the trail doesn’t make a loop, I hike from the top trailhead to the bottom one and back again. On the return trip, I come across what I’ve affectionately named, and with great originality, “one-mile” tree. Once I hit that tree I know I’ve accomplished my 5 miles and I only have one left to go. The problem is, it’s the hardest mile of all. It’s almost completely a climb. A big climb. My knees can tell you all about it.
As I pass “one-mile tree”, many times all I can think about is “quarter-mile rock.” Because after a quarter-mile rock I don’t feel like I’m going to die on the last quarter mile back to my car. Recently, however, I began noticing something I’m doing. I begin thinking about the last mile even on my first mile. As I’m going down the steps, I start worrying about how I’m going to go back up them when I return to the same spot 90 minutes later. And suddenly I’ve allowed myself to be robbed of the joy of the moment. I’ll be hiking along in some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever laid my eyes upon and instead of taking it all in, I’m worried about what’s going to happen to me an hour and a half later???
The problem is, I do that a lot in life. I miss out on the amazement of current moments because I’m worried or even obsessing about moments to come or wallowing in regrets of moments long since passed. That’s not cool.
Recently, I had a really difficult work trip. For days on end leading up to the trip, I began to worry about how everything was going to play out. It was a lot of pressure. I kept worrying if I was going to be capable enough to pull it off. And I’m not going to lie. It was hard. Including fun moments like getting stuck in the hotel’s parking garage with nary an attendant in sight fully unable to pay my parking fee and escape its confines.
YOUR TICKET IS EXPIRED. Um, no, no it isn’t. Please, just take my money and let me out! INSERT CREDIT CARD Here ya’ go!! Take my money! YOUR CREDIT CARD IS INVALID. MACHINE OFFLINE. Ok, fine! Here, take my cash. YOUR CASH IS TOO WRINKLY, PATOOEY! I ended up finding another pay kiosk and inserted my card. Same thing. But then it spits out a second card that was stuck in the machine and charged me double. I paid it just to get out. Back to the gate. YOUR TICKET IS EXPIRED. (Insert many, many expletives here.) And just when I was prepared to ram the gate, (What? It was a rental.) I found an open gate and sped through it to make my flight back home.
The thing was, I was capable. It wasn’t easy, but I could do it. I just had to keep reeling myself back in to only deal with the current moment.
I do the same thing on the trail. Will I be able to finish the last mile? Because I’m pretty sure it’ll be impossible to drag my lifeless body out. Best to leave me to the dogs!
But that’s never how it plays out. I ALWAYS make it the last mile past the one-mile tree. I have no other option. The way that I always make it out is because I concentrate on one thing and one thing only—the step I’m taking at that very moment. It’s the only thing I can control. That one moment. Which shows that all that worrying is just allowing a thief in the night to rob me of my joy. You can choose joy at the moment always. Even when the moments are hard.
I also began practicing to make every step I take, the best step possible. If I’m doing my very best step, each time I take one, it only leads to another best step. Then another. And that leads to the best life. It doesn’t matter what it is.
There are tons of lessons I’m learning on this beloved trail. But I want to share these three lessons in particular that I’ve learned.
- Let go – Yep, the same thing I always say. Let go of your need to control things that are out of your control. It’s an illusion. You can’t control the past. You can’t control the future. Try as you might! You can only control the moment you are in. So do the best you can right where you are at.
2. Trust that you’re capable – You would be surprised how very capable you are when the moment calls for it. I really think I might have rammed that gate had I not been able to open it. But I kept working until I found a way. Trust that you will be guided and you will find a way to make it up the steepest of steps that life brings you.
3. Be the biscuit – Have you ever put a nice hot biscuit in a plate of red-eye gravy? The biscuit will soak up every last bit of the watery gravy. That’s what you do in life. You soak up those moments you are given. They truly are a gift. Maybe not being stuck in a parking garage, but hiking that trail is a great moment. I have to learn to really make the most of those moments and soak up everything I can. The fresh air, the smells, the birds chirping, the sound of happy dogs splashing around in the waterfalls, the squirrels dancing around the trees, even my breath, labored as it may be, is the greatest daily gift ever!
Life is a gift. We don’t have to live with regrets and we don’t have to worry about the future. We just have to be.