The only thing we have is the present moment.
There’s truth that these words are easy to dismiss. That the gravity of this sentiment can be instead seen as a shallow platitude, or cliché. But it’s in fact the most important principle you could live by.
Now is now. It doesn’t matter how badly you fucked up a ten years ago, or yesterday. The only thing for certain is what’s immediately in front of us. The only thing we can change is how we are, right now.
There are moments when I really feel like I’m snapping into the moment, like I’m coming up for air from underwater, gasping in somewhat-horror that I was underneath for so long without realizing it.
The past is an immovable rock in a large field–and we can only reshape the landscape. We can change our narrative around it, seek alternative perspectives, but there is no altering the events themselves. It is a uniquely permanent, stuck ordeal. We cannot relive our glory from the good days, and conversely we do not get a second chance at the bad days.
The future mustn’t be planned without having a full appreciation for how much is outside of your control–which is far more than we care to recognize. In it’s whole entirety, the future is wild and uncertain. The year so far should be all the proof you need of that. Having an anti-fragile mindset is useful–and helps maintain our livelihood in times of chaos and confusion, but that exact philosophy stems from shifting your mindset to now.
Now is now. Cultivate a false sense of urgency if you have to. Light a fire underneath of yourself by any means necessary, and apply overwhelming force.
When we do manage to come to our senses regarding the present moment–what’s the next step? For myself, often I find myself sitting down and trying to organize all the millions of things I need to do. An attempt to sort myself out. I slowly recollect all those important, but not urgent tasks that have been bubbling underneath the surface.
And then, all of a sudden without me realizing, I’m more focused on the organization itself. To be prim and proper, and to have a perfected, centralized place for what I ought to be doing. Spreadsheets, bullet-pointed notes, dozens of bookmarked tabs, planners, schedules, kaban boards.
In the words of Ze Frank, I’m merely taking the time to sharpen my pencils, not write with them. In a tragic comedy, despite my acute awareness, I don’t actually start doing anything meaningful or important. Because I’ll eventually run out of energy or time in the day, and I’ll have a cohesive amount of numerated, interconnecting tasks ahead of me that I can’t begin to work on.
Perhaps I don’t really want to start working on them though, do I? Maybe this voice of wanting to act intentionally and meaningfully in my life is once of performance. I think the idea of performative productivity is one that’s not looked at enough, or recognized as even existing. To have the vanity, whether its towards others or yourself, of looking as though you’re a busybody with goals and ambitions, but spending the majority of time just making sure it looks like you are.
Pinch yourself back into the moment as often as you can, and for as long as you can. This is truly all we have. Don’t squander your time in preparation the same way it’s squandered when we’re on auto-pilot.
Realizing what you need to do–despite being difficult at first–is far easier than starting it. Your pencils will eventually break if sharpened too much with no use, and even dull ones will make a mark. The same way a blank canvas is beautifully pristine, but lacks any sort of fulfillment. Overplanning is mere procrastination. Start writing, and start ruining the canvas.