A rapid-fire series of thoughts popped in my head when I read this quote when planning my next week's postings on social media:
[su_quote cite=”Joe Montana” url=”http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/joemontana649591.html”]I don't live in the past.[/su_quote]
First, “Well where do you live?” Clearly, at least to me, we all LIVE in the present. In the moment. NOW.
That's when I opened up Chrome (okay, I lied, I never close Chrome so it's always open) and looked for the quote in its entirety. I found the whole thing here.
Joe's answer to my question above just confirmed my own thoughts: “I just live in the enjoyment of the game.”
The game is life. And you must enjoy it. Now. Fully. As [su_accordion][su_spoiler title=”if tomorrow never comes”]'Cause I've lost loved ones in my life Who never knew how much I loved them Now I live with the regret That my true feelings for them never were revealed So I made a promise to myself To say each day how much she means to me And avoid that circumstance Where there's no second chance to tell her how I feel.[/su_spoiler] [/su_accordion]
I've lost a lot of friends to sudden death. Usually an accident. But sometimes, a heart attack. Two that stand out the most for me sort of “book-end” my life:
When my friend, Chris, blew his brains out with a handgun. We were 8, I think. I never really found out exactly what happened: Whether he did it or his friend did it. But it was one of those “accidental” shootings that was totally preventable.
My best friend, Dale, had a massive heart attack a few years ago on a fishing trip to Baja California. I'd been with him on a few of those trips. But not this one. I saw him a few months earlier. Didn't think it would be the last time.
A third sudden death:
And, of course, another big one for me: My dad died suddenly when he was murdered by his best friend. At least that's what the police thought. Because there was no struggle. No fight. Just slit his throat, from ear to ear. Christmas Eve 1979. I was 13.
I'd seen him a year or two before his murder. Before that, I'd seen him one other time that I can remember. I never really knew him. It's amazing how an event like that, to someone you don't even know, could impact your life.
Maybe there is a cosmic thread that ties us all together. I don't know.
It mostly affected me because it affected my mom so deeply. She never stopped loving him, even though she moved away and divorced him before I was born. He was a “weekend alcoholic.” She couldn't deal.
That was probably the best decision she made for me. I'm not sure it was the best for her, though.
Back to the reason for this post:
Lots of people live in the past. They look back on their life with pride but have nothing to look forward to. It's all in the rearview. My mom lived like that. I was always sad for her. I actually think it's a symptom of mental illness.
I'm not a doctor. But I've read enough and experienced enough to know it's not “normal.” (But then again, are any of us normal? Hell no.)
Often maligned, or disparaged, people who “live in the moment” are often the happiest people I know. They are thought of as short-sighted, not preparing for the future. Just having fun.
Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps one can live in the present and plan for the future. Just a thought. They aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
There's a difference between planning and obsessing. Often, people who “live for tomorrow” obsess unnecessarily with the future. They worry. Will I have enough to retire on? What about my health? Will I outlive my children?
That sort of worry, interestingly, often causes stress that the body, mind, and soul, collectively, cannot bear. Something's got to give. And does. Like that sudden heart attack.
Dale, for example, was set for life: He had a life-long job that he loved that allowed him to amass a small fortune, do what he wanted when he wanted, raise 4 boys and have more than enough to cover all his expenses, their college, and still have more than enough to retire tomorrow and live a few decades with no worries.
Now, was his heart attack stress-induced? Yes and no. His father died young of a heart attack. (Shocker, right?) Dale had massive arterial blockages 20 or so years ago. Doctors estimated the blood flow to his heart had been reduced to about 10 percent of normal. Yet the dude had more energy and enthusiasm than people half his age.
That's where our friendship was cemented. In that hospital.
See, I was his employee at the time. I was a store manager at Big 5 Sporting Goods. He liked me. He'd promoted me from a small store, to a bigger store, to the biggest (in terms of sales, not square footage) in his district, all in a couple short years.
But when I went to visit him in the hospital, he was truly touched. After that, our friendship was solid. We fished, drank, ate, and hung out together.
I quit Big 5 in 1996 or 1997. Our friendship grew. No longer encumbered by the stigma of the employer/employee relationship, we did a lot together.
Took a lot of trips to Baja, Shasta, Chabot, Del Valle, and Shadow Cliffs. Most of it was centered around fishing. Dale was a fisherman to his core.
After his stint (no pun intended) in the hospital, he came out more energetic than ever. He was a freaking Tasmanian Devil. A whirling dervish.
His energy was infectious.
However, I now think it was a major cause of his ultimate demise. He stressed about the future. About how he was going to succeed. I think the specter of his dad's early death also stressed him out.
He had enough money, energy, time, and incentive to take care of himself. But the last time I saw him, he looked like shit. He'd let his diabetes get hold of him and this time, it wasn't letting go.
After his heart surgery, he went on a diet. Exercised. Took care of himself. Diabetes went away.
But slowly, life stresses got the best of him. He went back to his old ways. And paid the ultimate price.
All due to stress. The future was never here and he chased it. Incessantly.
The point of all this?
Life is really all about balance. Perspective. The future is bright but it's not the be-all end-all. You have to plan for it, in case it comes.
But, to me–more importantly, you have to live in the here and now.
You can't love your future wife. You have to love the one you're with. Right now. Regret is a shitty thing:
- “I should have.”
- “I could have.”
- “I didn't.”
Rather than lament and obsess over the past (there's nothing you can do about it), learn from it.
- What did I do?
- How could I have done it differently?
- Could I have had a better outcome?
Nearly everything for me is an exercise in personal development & improvement.
- I analyze the situation.
- Assess what I could do.
- I do it.
- What were the results?
- What did I learn?
- How can I do it better next time?
ALL of these items are done in the present.
The past is a log of your potential learning. The future is planning how you will make your next present moment the best it can be.
But the present is where life happens.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. Please comment below. I read every single one of them and respond appropriately.
Like the story about the man who brought Buddha his 83 problems (my wife is unresponsive, the goat is drying up, my neighbor is too loud, & etc.).
“I’m sorry I can’t help you with any of that”, whispered Buddha.
Livid the man complained, “I thought you knew everything – had all the answers!”
“Well, I know you’re 84th problem”, answered Buddha.
“84?” screamed the man.
“Yes – #84 being I can’t help you with the other 83!”
So true. We get in our own way 99.99% of the time.
My genetic “father” passed away suddenly last year of heart/lung issues. I never really knew him even though I’d had a chance to meet him. I really didn’t anticipate that his death would shake me but it did. Death impacts every single one of us differently and few of them float on by if we have any stories we tell ourselves about the other person as it relates to us. I’m sorry to hear you lost your best friend but it sounds like you learned some really valuable lessons from it.
Thanks, Kimberly! Yes, death affects us all. I still have problems (memories, mostly sad, because it was the end) when I drive near my mom’s resthome. It’s literally on the other side of town and I avoid it as much as possible. It’s why I want to sell my mom’s house…it just brings up the memories.
As someone who spends too much time in the future, your post is a timely reminder to recognize the stress that results from this life stance.
I’m taking your post as a timely reminder to spend more of my life in the now, Bill.
Awesome, Phil. Glad I could be of some utility!
Bill, you are an incredibly insightful guy. Not many people I like reading online but you be one of them!
Thank you so much, Sara! If you want more, just subscribe. I send out emails almost every day 😛