I often heard my mother discuss the fact that she felt time was going more quickly as she aged. I often thought it couldn’t go quick enough. But then I was young and rarely reflected on the fact that we are not here on a permanent basis. Lately I find myself connecting to many of my mothers’ statements especially the ones around how life seems to whoosh by with each passing year. It seems that I just had Thanksgiving dinner and now it’s here again. How did that happen? And Christmas is just around the corner. Of course it’s not easy to forget either holiday since the media relentlessly feeds us their ads to buy, buy, buy starting in late August. Christmas decorations are already up and we haven’t even cleared the Thanksgiving dinner. Black Friday is closing in on us, but now there’s some stores that will be open at 9Pm Thanksgiving night in case you have an obsessive need to go to a store and leave your guests in the living room. Forget hanging out and reflecting on the day’s gathering. It’s much better to think about what you’ll be going to purchase while you’re chewing on a drumstick. We have turned life into a constant need to access the future without living in the present. This shift in how our culture lives their lives creates a great deal of stress My mother and her generation seemed to savor each holiday without feeling obligated to discuss the one coming. I have talked to many people about this phenomenon and it may be time to reflect on spending more time honoring the moments we’re in rather than anticipating or dreading the ones that are coming. This is not an easy practice in a society that has come to value “doing” rather than “being”. However, perhaps the gift you may want to access this season is reminding yourself throughout the day to just breathe. When you’re stressed out you breathe more rapidly. The simple act of inhaling and exhaling slowly and purposefully allows you to be aware of the present moment. Every moment that we honor with a deep breath allows us to feel more peaceful by helping to quell the inner critics that never stop reminding us of “what’s next”.Try it when you’re at the Thanksgiving dinner table and Aunt Hattie tells you the turkey is dry, or when you’re lying in bed worried about how you’re going to get all your shopping done, or in dozens of stressful situations that pass and soon become part of the tapestry of life. Just breathe!
I wonder how many of us live our lives going over our regrets on a daily basis. I know I used to spend a great deal of energy ruminating over what I “should” have done. It included ; could I have been a better parent, why did I get divorced, might I have been a more devoted daughter, and what if I had been less invested in my career, would that have made everyone around me happier? I have also self flagellated over gaining weight, not flossing every night, having hair that’s too curly and ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Regrets have a place in our lives, if they wake us up to attempting not to repeat the past or if they give us new insights and possibilities. But the majority of us seem to savor our regrets in some dark and mysterious way as if feeling the guilt over and over will somehow free us from them or the pain they inflict upon us. There is research that says “swimming to the island of regrets” can help instill a healthy conscience but make sure you can swim back. After all never feeling any regret for untowardly behavior is the basis for being a sociopath or psychopath. One of the biggest problems individuals have that continually fret and share their regrets is that there are always individuals who have memories like elephants who simply won’t let you forget even if you want to. My mother loved to reiterate over and over her mantra “Didn’t I tell you”! She had the rhetoric down pat and could have given it as a graduation speech at Harvard. There are others with a similar mindset that I have shared the errors of my ways, who are masters at reminding me of them over and over. In fact if you allow them to hold you hostage, you’ll be their prisoner for life. They like my mother have taught me to practice discernment as to what I say and to whom about my regrets. I have also learned to forgive myself for being human . Scott Peck, the author of “The Road Less Traveled” made himself famous with the first line in his book, “Life is difficult”. Yes it is and often we set out to do all the right things for ourselves and those we love, but “stuff happens” and we make decisions based on immaturity, and unfulfilled needs. One thing is for sure, our time on this planet is very short, and so we must try to focus on moving forward in the best possible way by learning from our pasts so that our days are filled with the joy of what we did right rather than what we didn’t do.