Being present: put tomorrow on the back burner.

I am 30, going on 31, unmarried, without kids, traveling around the world with my entire life stuffed in a backpack that’s half my size. I don’t have a permanent address and my passport is my most valuable possession.

What the f*** am I doing with my life?

This is the broken record that likes to play sometimes in my head. Sometimes…frequently. It’s the voice of generations before me, the people that care about me.  It’s the foot-stomping temper tantrum between what is expected and what I feel called to do. It’s the battle between my head and my heart.

Simple questions like “where do you live?” or “what’s next?” can send me straight to the turntable. The record is ready and waiting to play.

So how do I turn it off? How do I block out the noise? And should I?

While it’s easier said than done, the answer to that last question is yes. What is the point of worrying about a future that won’t exist without today? Why should we allow ourselves to get anxious over a life we haven’t lived yet when we could live the life we have right now?

The first two questions are a little harder to answer. But I’m working on it. I have added a few new practices into the fold and so far, I think they’re working. I have added a few habits into the fold to make the present a more attractive place to be. So far, I think they’re working…

  1. Smile. When shit starts getting tough or you start feeling frustration swell up, try to touch your left cheek to your left ear. Then the right cheek to the right ear. You’ll find that your forced smiles quickly becomes genuine. My grandmother always smiled. No matter what. She said that it takes 26 muscles to frown and only 8 to smile. “Smilin’ is easier, darlin’, so take it easy.”
  2. Find gratitude. Before going to bed, write down three things you’re grateful for. Don’t just think them. Write them down. Take the time to reflect on it and make them meaningful. You can spare five extra minutes. Honestly, some days this might feel harder than others, but getting in the practice of articulating what we appreciate does wonders on how we approach what life puts in our path.
  3. Sweat. Exercising requires your full and immediate attention. You can’t have your head somewhere else when you’re trying not to fall off a steep running trail or lifting weights over your head. Give yourself this break from not thinking so you can focus on what you’re doing. Plus, no one ever regrets a workout.
  4. Put your phone down. This is probably the hardest one (and the most shameful to admit). The other night I went to dinner and I looked around to find that nearly everyone was either playing on their phone or had their eyes glued to the TV screen behind the bar. It made me sad. What was the point of even being there when we could all ignore each other from the comforts of our own home? Limit the distraction, put the screens away and engage with the people around you. Give them attention. Get their attention. Everyone wins when we connect #IRL.
  5. Find the magic. Something good happens every single day. Beauty manifests in some way every single day. You just might miss if it you’re not paying attention. Open up to it. Change the perspective. Find some magic in the mundane. In doing so, you’ll be practicing a few of these habits…multi-tasking for the win!

What is life for if not to enjoy it? There is no tomorrow without today. Focus on today. Give today everything you’ve got.

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