One of the great lessons I have learned as a therapist, hearing human stories from every age and perspective, is simple:
In any given moment, we are as authentic as we know how to be. And the only moment we have is this one.
Picture a piece of string, fixed to one wall and stretched to the other.
This is your life. One small strand, whether you live to be 2 or 102.
We have a certain amount of control over that life span, with healthy living choices and self-preservation. Yet we are very fragile creatures, subject to injury and disease and depression, and sometimes to the poor or violent decisions of others.
And that timeline string follows rules. You can only move chronologically along it, from left to right, like flowing water. Each moment you exist feels real and vibrant and full with whatever you are feeling and experiencing. And then another moment goes by and the one you were living becomes memory, for now you are living another.
Along this timeline, we can look back at what has passed, viewing it from our present. And we can look forward with wonder or dread, also from our present. But even those moments of reflection and wonder are quickly replaced by another.
And so we face each moment with the amount of authenticity we are equipped with at that exact moment.
When I was five, and I sat in the driveway at my house feeling like my world was going to end because my mom went to the store without me… well, that’s easy to smile about now, but at that time, the pain was intense and real.
And when I was thirteen and my face broke out in terrible acne, and I looked at myself in the mirror with horror and anguish, that was real.
And when I was twenty-two and felt overwhelmed by college finals mixed with a full-time job and mounting bills and religious obligations, and I felt I would crack, that was real.
And when I was thirty and held my oldest child, newly born, in my arms for the first time, and my heart expanded to twelve times the size, and I felt elation and fear and responsibility and love beyond anything I had ever known, that was real.
And when I was thirty-four and I dropped off the divorce papers to the courts, and I grieved my marriage and my faith deeply while looking forward with steadfastness and strength and resolve and hope, that was real.
And now I’m thirty-seven, and I’m sitting in a coffee shop, and it’s cold and dark outside, and a policewoman sits next to me looking weary, and my coffee is luke warm, and my soul feels inspired, and… well, this moment is real as well.
I have been through some terrible things in my lifetime. We all have. It’s part of the human condition. I have ached and cried and hurt and struggled. And I have been through some wonderful things in my lifetime. We all have. It’s part of the human condition. I have rejoiced and basked and thrilled and sang.
And each and every one of those moments are moments that I have lived, authentically. And each of them has passed, as they will continue to do so until my timeline is complete, and I know not when that will be.
And the end of life, people say the same things, lessons learned with full perspective: that we should live for the now, that we should live without regrets, that we should be ourselves and be true to ourselves, that we should embrace our loved ones and spend time with our friends, that we should travel and love and dance and climb.
No one, with perspective, wishes they had spent more time in pain, more time grieving losses, more time surrounding themselves with those that do not love them, more time in debt or disease or obesity or anguish or abuse.
We must, simply put, lean ourselves toward love.
I have had times in my life where I felt I wasn’t worthy of love, happiness, or peace. I felt burdened down by financial expectations or weight or religious requirements or relationship responsibilities or physical constraints. And there will always be things to hold us back. It takes a very careful balance to find love and peace for the beings we are, and to work on changing and amending our beings toward happier realities over time.
For if it took me four years to put on eighty pounds, it will certainly take me more than four days to lose it. I can’t erase tens of thousands of debts overnight. If I have suffered from heavy depression for years, it may take several months to get used to feeling hope and joy again. If I have hurt others with my choices, it will take time to reestablish trust. And if I have lost a loved one, a period of grief is necessary for healing.
The quest to find ourselves in a happy present is a noble, difficult journey. And once the present is found, we have to continue finding it, for it is always new.
But oh, what a worthy journey, when we find ourselves on new horizons with the sun on our skins and the air in our lungs, for we are miracles, all.