I work at a major tourist attraction. I have been there for several months now and have noticed a few things about human nature. This is something I have done myself, many times, so I am in no way passing judgement. I watch people walk into a room but instead of enjoying the room they are in, they start careening their neck to see what’s up ahead. What is there to see next? Then when they get to the next place, it happens all over again.
I used to be, and still am from time to time, the person who would make a plan to visit someplace. Then stress while we were getting there. Then once there automatically start thinking about the next stop. Then get home and wondered why I felt empty inside. I totally missed the views on the way to the destination because I was more worried about parking, time or some other thing. I missed the destination because I was worried that I spent too much money and or time to get there. On the way home, I would be thinking of all the things I had not done that day, for example laundry. When I finally got home from my “fun-filled” outing, I was exhausted and disappointed. Two things I felt all the time. Now I notice I am not the only one.
I remember my first video camera. I loved taking videos of events and people. When the tapes were full, I would put another tape in and keep going. Then one day as I was cleaning up in preparation for my epic journey, I found boxes of tapes I had made. The realization hit me that I had never looked at most of them after they were made and I completely missed the time with loved ones and friends that I could never get back. I was so worried about preserving the moment that I forgot to live in it.
I have been Mary from the Bible. Remember her? Jesus came to visit her home and she was so preoccupied with food preparation and house keeping, that she nearly missed Jesus. I may not have had Jesus at one of my parties, but there were people important to me that I missed because I felt I had to have perfect food, perfect decorations and a spotless house. I missed the real moments because of things that would not be all that important in the long run. Who cares what you ate or what wreath was on the front door. I missed being with people who are no longer with me. I cannot get those moments back.
So why do we as humans prioritize in such weird ways? I cannot speak for everyone, but I know a few things I have felt in the past. I was always afraid that I was going to miss something really big. Like the best thing I could ever see was going to happen up ahead and I would miss it if I wasn’t looking that way. I felt I had to put on a show of how organized and efficient I was, even though I was falling apart on the inside. Maybe I thought the people around me would always be there. Little did I realize that would not be the case.
I believe humans, for the most part, are optimistic beings. Looking ahead has brought about magnificent changes in our lifetime. Sometimes you have to look ahead at better times when the times you are currently in are not so good. I now understand the difference. If you end up looking ahead all the time or focusing on unimportant things, you miss being in the moment. It’s like buying a book you have been waiting to read, but reading the last chapter first. Knowing how the story ends does not explain how the story got to that point. You miss the journey when you head directly to the destination. That is an empty feeling, I know.
Now I try to remember where I am right now. I may think of the next stop, but not to the inclusion of missing this stop. I still plan ahead, I cannot live without that structure but I am learning to enjoy the here and now. Once this moment has gone, it will not return. I could videotape it or take a picture but I run the risk of missing the most important thing, this very moment. Good or bad this moment is unique in my life and I want to experience it, not spend a sleepless night trying to remember what I should have seen.
Every day the saying “enjoy the journey” takes on more meaning. Now I am off to enjoy the moment of doing laundry….it’s all a part of living.