***Updated on 31 March, 2021
How do you react when you don’t get what you want?
How to live in the moment - does this question ever crossed your mind?
Well, we have all collectively had a year of things diverging wildly off course, but to me often it's how we handle the little things, that can give us so much insight into how to handle the big things.
What I know is sometimes my expectations of how I think or want things to go, set me up for a world of pain.
I had a perfect example of this over the long weekend when we went away on holiday to a destination, not of my choosing. At the insistence of others in my family, here I was parked up in what looked like a ginormous dusty campsite seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
No surf beach to wander across the road to, no river to camp next to, no backdrop of native bush behind us. In fact, it looked like we were surrounded by cows and mangroves, and not much else.
This is not what I wanted, yet here I was. So what to do? How to live in the moment?
I realised I was looking at things through the lens of disappointment. Nothing measured up to what I thought I wanted. I was so busy figuring out how to get out of there, that I didn’t stop and really see what I had.
There, right under my nose, were so many opportunities for enjoyment, if I could only take off my blinkers.
This is a current theme in my life: always looking ahead to get the best of the next moment, to set everything up exactly right to maximise future opportunities. It's exhausting. Just writing that sentence was exhausting!
How to live in the moment: What about just stopping, and accepting where you are, even if it is not perfect or what you wanted?
I took myself off for a bike ride on my first morning, desperately in search of the ocean. I rode for 50 minutes. All I saw were cows, more cows, mangroves, and more mangroves.
Then something shifted. I let go of obsessing over what I wanted to see and started to really see what was in front of me.
When I really looked around, I didn’t just see cows and mangroves, I saw the most beautiful kingfisher sitting regally on a nearby fence post. I saw a field of wild grass, near the mangroves, with the most beautiful mix of autumn colours. I encountered other cyclists with a huge grin on my face.
I thought of how lucky I was to be away on holiday with my family when so many can’t right now.
What I thought I wanted to see was completely sabotaging what was right in front of me.
How often do we do that in life? We let our expectations of how we want things to go pull us away from the present moment.
Now just for the record, I am not saying that the answer to the question "how to live in the moment" translates to we should just passively accept things every time we get let down. Nor should we ignore our feelings of disappointment.
We can, however, learn to step outside our very real human feelings and widen the lens a bit. For me, it helps to kindly observe the part of me that is disappointed.
Don’t think for a second that because of this realisation that for the rest of the holiday weekend I was a total saint, filled with joy, laughter, and light because I certainly wasn’t.
But those precious moments when I could stop, take a step back from my clouded view, filled with wants and expectations, and just see what was in front of me, were so powerful.
In general, I don’t respond well to people trying to jolly me along too quickly after feeling let down by something big or small.
Comments like “just be grateful and blessed for what you have” are more than likely going to wind me up, even though I know I should be grateful and feel blessed.
I have found that coming to my own realisation, to still feel the pain of disappointment, to fully honour the feeling of being let down, and to accept that where I am is not where I wanted to be.
Then and only then do things start to shift for me, because I have taken the time to acknowledge that hurt part of me. Then I can move forward from a place of real acceptance.
They say we can’t move forward wisely unless we know exactly where we are starting from.
Let’s be honest, a million times a day things don’t go the way we want.
Tiny things like you slept in, your coffee was cold, you missed the bus, you got a parking ticket, or perhaps you wish you were taller, thinner, funnier, smarter, richer, kinder, more chilled.
Perhaps you want this pandemic to end, life to go back to the way it was, no more lockdowns thanks, no more border breaches, no more scanning QR codes, no more masks on buses, no homeschooling, no more not knowing when we can see our family overseas, no more holiday plans cancelled.
So many things are not going the way we want all the time.
Can you acknowledge for yourself that perhaps right now you want things to be different from how they are in your world, acknowledge the part of you that didn’t get what you want, know that deep down it’s okay to feel that way, then stop chasing after what isn’t here, and observe what is here?
And, if you want to know how to live in the moment, look closely. What do you see?