In the past year or two, I have learned my greatest life lesson. As a lifelong high achiever, it was extremely counter-intuitive yet it was right in front of me all along. First, a little background…
In the past couple of years:
- My father died.
- My aunt (and best friend) died.
- My cousin (who was really like my brother) died.
- My 19 year old cat died.
- We had our first ever family reunion.
- My mother's dementia has turned her back into a child.
Sure we all have great memories and are busy working at building even better futures, but ultimately it all boils down to:
All we have is now.
My pets have been trying to teach me this for years, if only I had listened. And now my mother is teaching me. They don’t really remember yesterday. They don’t care about tomorrow. But they really care about the moment. Intensely.
I have had to really slow down and let this sink in. When I visit my mother in her nursing home, we have a great time laughing, talking, visiting others, and of course, playing Jeopardy. We can’t have the conversations we used to, so we just have new experiences, one time only, in the moment, and only for those who are there. We never talk about the past and she simply doesn’t understand, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I haven’t stopped building my future, but I no longer sacrifice the present in order to get there. I have learned that the process must be as enjoyable as the outcome. After all, the process is “now” and the outcome is just an instant in time.
It may sound cliche, but everyone should take inventory of all the good stuff in their lives (especially other people) and make the most of it “now”. You’ll be surprised how quickly it’ll be gone. Don’t wait half your life to learn my most valuable counter-intuitive lesson.