I’ve always been a goal-oriented person. I’m always working toward something, which gives me motivation to keep on keeping on. The problem with being a goal-oriented person is that at some point the goal is achieved, and then there’s an awkward period since I’m not sure who I am without something to aim for. In his book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle warns against being too achievement oriented. It’s not that he thinks we shouldn’t accomplish goals, it’s just that he’s wary of how so many of us are always focused on the future to the neglect of our lives in this moment. When I do that I’ll be happy. When I have this I’ll be happy. When we’re consumed by thoughts of the future, Tolle warns, we’re not appreciating what we have in this moment.
I’m currently rereading The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, and I appreciate the message more now than I did when I read it years ago. I’ll always have plans for the future, that’s too much a part of who I am, but now I’m learning to be in the moment. Right now I’m thankful that I have this time to write. I find that I have to remind myself to be grateful. It’s all too easy for me to get caught up in the negatives (some real but most imagined) since I’m a worrier. I could blame it on my worrier of a mother, or my worrier of a brother, or I could say it’s just my overactive brain’s way of processing the oddities of this world. But then I remind myself, as Tolle says, to leave aside the memories of the past and concerns about the future and focus on this moment, and in this moment I am fine. I have to remind myself that I have permission to simply be.
I agree with the heart of Tolle’s message—that now is the most important time we have since now is all there really is—but I do think it’s okay to imagine the future I want. I can’t live in the future, but now, today, I can take actions that will help me create the life I want. In a moment of deep understanding, so sharp and bright it was like a blast of sunlight illuminating my thoughts, I understood my goals in a completely different way. The epiphany that comes with an important realization is much like Dorothy understanding there’s no place like home; in other words, what you really want has often been right in front of you all along. What do I want more than anything? What do I love more than anything? Writing. I love writing. I want to make my living as a writer. I think that’s what I’ve always wanted, but the desire has been pressed aside for one reason or another. Further introspection helped me realize that I’ve been scattered in how I approached my writing. Either I pursued writing relentlessly or I let it fall by the wayside. I did a little bit of this and a little bit of that, seeing some good results here, some great results there when I was lucky, but I was never consistent in a way that allowed for sustainable growth.
I am at a point now where I’m learning to stay focused on this moment, as in right now while my fingers press the letters on my laptop keyboard, searching for the words and the meanings I want to share with you. I’m learning to be grateful for what I have when I have it. Losing someone you love really hits that lesson home, hard. I had to say good-bye to my cute little red-headed boy cat, Chuck, who lost his battle with cancer about a month ago. I’ve been staying strong because I remember all the joy he brought me over 12 years, but those of you who love your pets know that their loss is no different from that of losing a family member because they are family members. I’m in the moment when I play with my three girl cats because they make me laugh. I’m accepting where I am in my life, and at the same time I’m doing things that will help me enjoy my life more in the moment. For example, I just finished rereading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and, again, the book resonates for me more during this second reading. I’m organizing all my spaces, donating clothing and books and recycling old papers and magazines. Marie Kondo is right: there is magic in tidying up! Decluttering not only frees up shelf space, but also brain space. I’m not sure how the two are connected, but they are. I’m decluttering financially as well, weeding out expenses I no longer need. I cut the cord with my cable company, something I had been considering for some time since they raised my rates yet again and I found myself paying for TV channels I didn’t even watch. I’m considering what’s really important to me and what I really want from my life. The more I declutter both my home and my brain, the more I’m able to focus on the moment instead of being distracted by this, that, and every other thing.
For me, it’s hard to be in the now and not at all consider what the future might hold. I’m not as evolved as Tolle, I guess. But I am learning to be at peace with where I am in the journey now. It’s not about being obsessed with the future at the expense of being with those, human and animal, I love, and it’s not about spending every waking moment with a telescope pointed with one gleaming eye only toward the future. It’s about accepting where I am right and then making choices that will help me steer my ship so that my future heads in the direction I want to go. I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that success is not about external achievements: I have this many college degrees, I’ve sold this many books, I’ve been on these bestseller lists. Success is about acceptance, gratitude, and making peace with the journey. I feel like I’ve come back to writing with a new vigor, a new purpose, and a new vision. All the wrong turns were worth it if I feel at peace with where I am now.