“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” — Psalm 118:24
I learned many lessons about life at my first job. Rocky Home Dairy in Lakeside was a great place to acquire the basics of being a good employee. But one particular lesson came from a most unexpected source.
Every week we would get a visit from the Hostess man, a large Greek fellow with a bushy moustache. He would inventory the new Twinkies, Zingers and Snowballs so fast it was hard to keep up. Although he seemed to have a mundane job, he was one of the happiest persons I ever met.
He usually had a bit of wisdom to share, and it often came out of left field. I recall one time saying, “I can’t wait for the weekend. I wish today was Friday.” What followed my statement was a lecture about how I shouldn’t wish my life away, how each moment is precious, and that all we really have is our present experience.
Our objective reality is composed of a moment-to-moment existence, much like a tape recorder that is playing music from a cassette tape. Our experiences can be thought of as sequentially unwinding before our eyes as we live out our lives.
Subjectively, though, we worry about the future and ruminate about the past. At work we dream about that upcoming vacation in the mountains. While up in the mountains we worry about all the work piling up on our desks, waiting for us when we return.
Imagine what a tape recorder would sound like if it played music from multiple places on the tape at the same time. I bet it would sound pretty chaotic—just like our thoughts when we live in the past and the future rather than the here and now.
Worry and anxiety are what happen when we think about the bad things that could happen to us in the future. One of my anxious clients said, “What if the El Niño rains flood me out?” My question back to her was, “What can you do to prevent that from happening?” Rather than worry about it, the solution is to do something in the here and now to prepare for it.
Consequences of anxiety
Anger and depression are what happen to us when we get dragged down by the past. How many times do we replay painful experiences over and over again in our imaginations? This just adds to the emotional pain and it distracts us from living life in the present.
Have you ever sat down to a meal and rather than savoring the flavors of the food, you are, instead, caught up in a memory about the past or are dreaming about the future? Before you know it the food is gone and you barely remember eating it. You missed what was right before you and are left unsatisfied. There’s a natural tendency to overindulge when this happens.
You can be so distracted by the past or the future that the present experience is squandered away. It’s OK to eat a Twinkie from time to time, but choose to savor every bite and enjoy the moment when you do.
Staying grounded in this moment has been found to have very positive physical and psychological effects. People who live in the moment tend to be happier, more empathic and tend to feel more secure.
Maybe this is the way God intended us to live rather than in anxious anticipation or painfully replaying the past. If we can fully grasp that no matter what happens we can trust that our lives are in His hands, then we can safely stay grounded in the present.
To borrow a quote from Chris Tomlin’s song, “Sovereign”:
“In your everlasting arms,
all the pieces of my life,
from beginning to the end,
I can trust you.”
If you haven’t heard this song, please take a moment, go to YouTube and listen to the comforting lyrics.
Now is all we have, and with faith, that is enough.
— by Daniel Jenkins, Ph.D.
Jenkins is a licensed clinical psychologist at Lighthouse Psychological Services in Mission Valley. He is also a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. Learn more at www.lighthousepsy.com.