Over Labor Day weekend, my family got to tag-along with the in-laws for their annual camping trip. I am not the type to get excited about camping – all the preparation, discomfort, and endless outdoors keep me from being a full-on camping enthusiast. Yet a week prior, I found my excitement for this trip growing as my eagerness to check out from reality grew.
These past few weeks of real life have been very . . . real. There were increased global threats to our long-term safety and security, creating a nice base of anxiety. Then, within the circle of those close to me, many members got sick with COVID-19, had other health-related issues, and experienced financial devastation. This was all topped off with one of my college friends almost dying in a car accident. To say I was worried about everything is accurate.
When I am excessively concerned about things outside of my control and am sinking further down the whirlpool of worry, the only thing that can save me is a change of scenery. Like a hamster on a wheel, I will keep obsessing until I am physically removed from the wheel.
Getting out of the house and driving far enough away to spend the night is often exactly the jolt back to my own reality that I need. While being home is a great comfort, sometimes it becomes too comforting. At home, you’re free to mull and obsess over all the daily items that go into keeping your life running; I think that is necessary but not sustainable without breaks. Out there in the great wide open, I found that everything was so new and different that my brain didn’t have the time or mental space to think about the list of things I would normally worry about. There wasn’t a void to fill with anxious thoughts.
My friend Paul recently shared (via Alan Watts) that there “really is no future or past, only the eternal now; thoughts of future or past are simply thoughts in the present.” For those of us with multiple calendars and plans, this is a challenging concept to embrace. My first thoughts were defiant: “if there is no future then why are there days mapped out on the calendar for eternity?!” and “if there is no past then how did I get here??!”
It wasn’t until we pulled into town after our trip that I realized I had not concerned myself with the past or future, I was focused solely on what was happening right then and there. I experienced the eternal now. It was lovely. More importantly, I learned it is possible.
So, the next time Anxiety or Worry show up at our door, let’s focus on what is really happening for us in only that one single moment. By turning our attention to right now we can live fully in the moment.