Significant tension exists between living in the here and now and planning for the future. Living for today tends to reduce worry, but potentially sets the stage for avoidable problems in the future. Planning for the future—and attempting to circumvent those avoidable problems—tends to sow the seeds of worry and diminish the joy of living in the moment. Recognizing the pitfalls of either, or both, incorporates stress into processes that are meant to do just the opposite.
The “obvious” response to the dilemma might be to seek the proper balance between living in the moment and contingency planning or mapping one’s future. But what is the proper balance and how does one go about identifying, much less achieving, it? I wish I knew. I wish I had the gift of prescience; that might make living in the here and now less dangerous to the future. Or, on the other hand, knowing what’s coming might make living for today virtually impossible. Foreknowledge of misfortune would virtually assure a pointless exercise in worry.
These matters are on my mind as I contemplate today and tomorrow and all the tomorrows that might follow. Contemplation is not the same thing as worry; but they’re blood relations. I can contemplate how I am living my life at this moment, but living for today almost certainly involves an element of recalling yesterday and anticipating tomorrow. Have I recently equated anticipation and worry…right here on this blog? I think so. I think the same relationship exists between the admonition to ” be here, now” and irresponsibility. If all we do is to focus on the present moment, we are shirking our responsibility to adjust for the moments to come. That is irresponsible. Isn’t it?
Depending on one’s personality, worldview, and mindset, the discussion I’ve set up with these paragraphs might be considered either a stupid, pointless worry or a philosophical sphere within which there both are no answers and every possible answer. Some people would laugh off the entire discussion as the rantings of a fool, while others would give it more weight and merit than it deserves. I firmly support both perspectives, as well as an indefinable middle ground somewhere along the spectrum.
The reason this convoluted, labyrinthine matter is on my mind this morning is that I am considering whether to sell my house. I told myself I would wait a year to make any such decisions; I think I lied to myself. I think now is as good a time as any, probably better than most. Though my wife’s death occurred just five months ago, her hospitalization and time in rehabilitation centers began ten months ago. So, in that context, a major change in my life began almost a year ago. With that in mind, I’m wrestling with just playing it by ear or aggressively exploring my options now. What would I do if I were to sell? I am not sure; that’s one of the horns of this dilemma. Would I stay here? Would I move? If I were to move, where would I go? With whom would I spend my time if I were to go someplace else? Who would I miss most? Who would miss me most? How would I rebuild my life around a new set of circumstances? Why move? Why not? Am I overthinking? Probably. And maybe I’m just reacting to the upcoming five-month anniversary of my wife’s death. Or maybe I’m allowing myself some freedoms to explore ideas I was unable or unwilling to explore before. Should I buy a motorcycle and lure an adventurous woman to join me on a cross-country exploration of the culture in which I live? Or, perhaps, I should give myself a years to explore living in Portugal. This is all such madness. But it’s not, really. It’s not. I need to remake myself. Or I need to try to be satisfied with who I am, though that’s much harder than changing, I think. Time, as always, will tell.
Yesterday’s plan to smoke a pork loin went up in clear, tasteless vapor. The bloody electric smoker apparently has a short. After I plugged it in, I went to get the pork out of the garage refrigerator. The refrigerator was not working. I quickly found a tripped breaker. I flipped the breaker switch, only to have the breaker immediately trip again. I suspected the plug on the deck, where I had plugged in the smoker, might be at fault. After a short investigation, I discovered it was the smoker. I then developed Plan B, which was to use the propane grill. I removed the apple wood chips I had placed in the smoker and wrapped them in aluminum foil, put the foil pouch on top of the burners at one end of the grill, and fired it up. Bottom line: inadequate smoke, but at least I was able to cook the loin without making a mess of the oven. The meal was acceptable, if not outstanding. Now: where can I discard the heavy black rectangular box that once was an electric smoker? The smoker was cheap to begin with; it would no doubt cost more to repair than to replace. But I will not replace it too soon; I may not want to haul a smoker around the country on the back of a motorcycle.
Getting close to people has both benefits and disadvantages. The emotional benefits are numerous, of course, but those same benefits can have a painful side. When one separates from people with whom he has grown close—whether that separation is intellectual/emotional or by way of physical distance (or a combination thereof)—the pleasures of proximity or intimacy recoil into emptiness and sadness. The only way to avoid that emptiness and sadness is to avoid closeness in the first place. But that provides a petri dish for depression. Reality guarantees that, no matter the way life unfolds, living will provide innumerable opportunities to feel both joy and pain. It’s best, then, to simply accept reality and to wade through it.
The sky has been light for more than an hour. The hummingbirds probably are getting annoyed that I have not put out the feeders, so I had better go about doing my job.