The future. A time full of the results of my good planning and my better luck. A time where the potential for me to get it all sorted out still exists.
The future has a lot of things going for it. There is still time before it happens, I can plan for how I want it to turn out by writing a list and it holds no regrets that I know of yet. The present is full of the clutter and noise of now and the unfinished business of the past.
In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend: ‘whenever she sees a beautiful place — [she] exclaims in a near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” It takes all my persuasive powers, to try to convince her that she is already here’ This is my challenge too — it’s so hard to enjoy this moment now, because I am already planning how to repeat it, or how to improve it or wondering what will happen next. The nature of my work means that I live in the future. We plan the next issue long in advance, and while my friends are thinking about Purim and hamantashen and whether the school dress-up this year is superhero themed or definitely not superhero themed, I am already thinking about seders and matza.
My mom-in-law laughs each year as March rolls in and I start mentioning the Seder menus and guest lists. “It’s too early for that!” she will exclaim with a wave of her hand. But I am already in that time. It’s Pesach in my mind and I can smell the brisket. I also love a good check list, and Pesach really brings out the crazy in me. (All that cleaning! The food preparation! The guest lists! My spreadsheet program never works as hard as it does in March.)
I have always looked up and forward, often at the detriment of the beauty around me. When I was younger, my Mom would interrupt my daydreaming, calling me by my childhood nickname, saying “Look, B, look!” dragging me from the future where my mind had flown to some lovely thing happening right now in real time.
I had not really seen the real value of the present my mother kept dragging me into until I had children of my own. Now I stop myself and try to remain present to enjoy the wonder of ethereal little things rather than planning all the could-be-wonderfuls of the future. My children won’t live in the present forever, soon they will also find their ways into the worrying and planning of adulthood.
For the time being though, they find an almost painful (to me) pleasure in the minutia of the present. A bug making its way across the lawn can provide total fascination. I lost the value of playtime and present time and total absorption somewhere between childhood and now.
You’ve probably had the experience of driving along a familiar road and suddenly realised you have no memory of the last 5kms. Or maybe you’re reading a book and your eyes have seen the last page but you cant recollect what it actually said. The best way to avoid such blackouts according to Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, is to develop the habit of always noticing new things in whatever situation you’re in. This creates an engagement with the present that ensures you don’t gloss over the beautiful details of the here and now.
This year at my seder, I want to take a minute, each hour, to be truly present. To appreciate my husband, leading the seder, dressed as Moses, throwing sweets at the kids as they answer his random Pesach-related questions, to see my children, in the precious moments where they react and laugh and absorb so independently of each other — the last seder in which they will be exactly as they are right then, to enjoy the guests who chose to spend my favourite holiday in my home. But even here, I could argue that instead of being in this moment, typing at my desk, I am already planning my utter mindfulness for a seder in a month’s time — hey, I’m a work in progress.
The present may seem full of clutter and noise but when you are truly in it, there is an eye of the storm where a peaceful, precious and beautiful time exists waiting to be experienced.
Wishing all our readers a Chag Kasher v’Sameach.