There’s been a lot of talk about living in the now, being in the present moment. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now really knocked me out years ago and I find his message as powerful as ever. But what if you’re still hopelessly mired in the past? And what if you don’t even know it?
In the next few posts I want to share with you 3 sneaky ways you may be letting yourself get sucked into the past without even realizing it. These may not be a problem for you, but they sure have been for me. To complicate matters, these activities are almost universally considered pleasurable and very popular. To identify them as unhealthy is going to push some buttons. Relax. Breathe deeply. If you feel angry as you read this list remember I’m not talking about you. But just in case you think I am, please, thank me, and consider maybe I’ve touched on a nerve that may merit further investigation. (That’s where I leave off and your life coach or therapist can step in.)
Are you ready?
Puts on Sinatra and starts to cry…
Sign Number One That You May Be Helplessly Drifting Into a Wasted Life of Living in the Past
- You prefer listening to music from your youth (and secretly – or not so secretly – you judge anything produced since as intolerably inferior.)
Steely Dan’s Reeling in the Years is my portal to wistful recollection of carefree times in Washington, D.C. right after college. How Long by Ace transports me to slow dancing with Bonnie at Albert’s Plum above the South Kensington tube station during my exhilarating semester abroad in 1975. 10cc’s I’m Not in Love brings home the pain and melancholy of returning to the States later that summer after being blown off by the selfsame Bonnie.
In and of itself this line of thinking is not necessarily bad. However, what I noticed was that I began seeking out older songs in order to create a mood-altering experience that always left me pining for “the good old days.” That’s not helpful if I’m genuinely interested in living now, in this moment. To put it bluntly, it’s insane. Now is all there is. The past doesn’t exist. To believe my life was better in the past is not much different from saying I’d rather live inside a favorite movie. (Like Local Hero or Field of Dreams. Mmm, dreamy.)
What makes listening to these songs more nettlesome is my tendency to view myself in the past through a kind of “sad poet” filter. I go negative and am soon engulfed in self-pity. In this haze I see myself as heroic for soldiering on, but oh so sad. Or I see everything as a rose-colored vignette, tragically beautiful compared to the agony that is my life today as I inch closer to death with every labored breath I take. I forget that I have a wonderful wife, amazing children, a blog that is read by millions and I end up feeling depressed and unhappy with this awesome life I have right in front of my face, here, now. Again, utter insanity. Like super-slow-motion suicide of the soul.
Remedy: Ask somebody younger than you to recommend a new band, prepare your mind to be receptive and welcoming, and give ’em a listen.
Brownie points: If you do see that you’re inclined to romance the past, ask yourself “why?” Are you avoiding something? (I’ll tell you more about my deal a little later.)
In posts ahead: Craving old movies, wallowing in ancient love letters, getting hooked on black and white TV, and my journey back to the present.