Retirement Advice: Savor the Present.

What’s the rush?

Why is it that the future always seems more important than the present? I’ve spent a good part of my life looking forward to future events. When my kids were infants just eating and pooping, I used to think about what fun it would be to play with them as toddlers. Then, of course when they got to the toddler stage, I couldn’t wait until they could play catch. In high school I was longing to get out of my small town and go to college and then when I got to college I was anxious to start my life. It seems like a good part of my life has been dedicated to anticipating future events and discounting the present. It is, of course, good to look forward to things and to plan your life but life is more than anticipation. Looking back I can see the downside to all this future think; I never learned to enjoy the present.

All this rushing through the present to get to a wonderful future just sets you up to be disappointed when you finally get there. What I was missing is the understanding that the present used to be the future. What happened in the meantime to make it worthless? At one time this very moment was a greatly anticipated event that I rushed in eager anticipation to reach. Now that I am here, it is merely a way station on the way to another, more exciting future event.

When I was in the Army, I used to fantasize about spending a Saturday morning eating toast, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper all by myself. Because I couldn’t control my time or privacy I would dream about how wonderful my life would be once my service was completed. Once back in civilian life, I completely forgot to appreciate those simple pleasures. Leisurely Saturday mornings became signals that my life was empty and boring and I longed for something to fill the vacuum.

There is nothing I can do to change the past but I resolve going forward to savor each moment. I am looking for pleasures in the present – ways to enjoy the everyday routines of my life. Shampooing my hair is an example. It has always been a daily chore to rush through on my way to something important – like breakfast. This week I paid attention to the feel of the shampoo on my fingers before I rub it into my scalp. Then enjoying the foam as it builds to engage all the hair on my head; massaging my scalp and enjoying the way if affects my body and finally watching the foam swirl down the drain as the shower spray rinses my hair clean. It’s a zen moment.

There is no great meaning in those moments during the shampoo. I get no feeling of accomplishment and, if anything, I probably slow my progress to something with more significance. But I have transformed those moments into an event. Those nuisance moments of no value have become small treasures of sensory focus and appreciation for my body and mind. The present is my new frontier. How many more of those moments are out there waiting to be turned into pleasure?

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Bob @ JuicyMaters.com November 2, 2010, 3:25 am

    We chase happiness…hard to catch and fleeting when we do.

    I finally crashed to earth chasing it and found a much more attainable…and satisfying…goal…

    Contentment.

  • Mike Yeager November 2, 2010, 8:17 am

    Thanks Ralph for reading and commenting on some of my blogs. When you think about retirement and our currnent age, one doesn’t want to be pushing to the future too hard. This is definately the time to appreciate life as it unfolds. I use the internal statement “Slow down, pay attention and breath” to help with this phenomenon.

    • Ralph November 2, 2010, 8:49 am

      Mike,
      At least I find that it is easier to slow down and appreciate things in retirement. Part of it may be that the future isn’t so appealing as it used to be.

  • Blanche November 3, 2010, 7:06 am

    There are many good things to say about the present. You have a chance to influence the future. When you are younger you aren’t aware that everything you do will matter.

    Going slow gives you time to see the options. Faster isn’t better, and the process is what counts. Enjoying the trip is the one of the things we lose sight of.

    When we are young everything is new and in front of us, when we are mature there isn’t much that is new and in front of us.

    The one thing we may have is we know what has value.

    All the comments are so true.

  • Ralph November 3, 2010, 7:36 am

    Blanch,
    Up with the present. I like that.
    Ralph’s last Blog Post ..Retirement Health- The FDA is killing people

  • Bob Lowry November 8, 2010, 8:14 pm

    I had an interesting discussion with a friend last week that applies to this post. Most major religions include a belief in eternal life after our time on this earth is over. But, the definition of eternity is something with no beginning or end. That means the present is part of eternity. So, rushing through the present to get to the future makes little sense. We are living eternity right now.

    If you think of the present and future as part of the same time line there is even less reason to want today to turn into tomorrow.
    Bob Lowry’s last Blog Post ..Blogging – Why Me

  • Ralph November 9, 2010, 9:59 am

    Bob,
    That is such an interesting point. If we are rushing through our short physical life how will we cope with eternity?
    Ralph’s last Blog Post ..Healthy Aging – Barley is a superfood

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