My husband and I share quite a few phrases just as we share endless inside jokes. A common phrase that has been part of our dialog since marriage is “I’m really looking forward to ____” We looked forward to getting a dog, having a baby, finishing school, finally settling down. We look forward to better daily habits, starting a garden, developing new skills, completing lingering projects etc.
It was a helpful phrase for that phase of life when we were in constant transition. It held off impulse buys, soothed feelings of uncertainty, and spread out rosy unlimited possibilities in our future. But it is time for it to retire.
Because it can be oh so misleading and pacifying.
I was struck by this a few times recently. The first time was when my husband said “I’m really looking forward to eating more vegetables.” I looked down at our dinner which included fresh summer tomatoes, delicate crook neck yellow squash, zucchini, crisp cucumbers, red pepper and roast fennel bulb. This phrase ignores the efforts and accomplishments of the now, in this moment spread before us.
It would at least need to be tweaked to be rooted in the present. Something like “I’m so glad we eat so many vegetables. I’m looking forward to many more meals like this.” gives the much needed attention to our current actions.
We never started in the gift of the present, we always looked to an undefined future.
While sorting through laundry yesterday I caught the phrase “I’m really looking forward to when we have more than one laundry basket.” languidly listing through my mind. How many times have I thought that in the past 3 1/2 years of marriage?
That’s three and a half years of marriage with one teeny tiny laundry basket. When would that undefined time in the future be when I had more laundry baskets? That phrase gives you that warm fussy feeling that the future will hold action, it even holds an action for you in the moment – “looking” – but not too much can really be accomplished by merely looking.
Later that day I went to Target and bought a laundry basket.
Now we are actively changing our phrase. When we catch ourselves saying “I’m really looking forward to something” we take the time to analyze the underlying themes.
If I am looking forward to walking the dog more, what does that mean? Do I feel guilty for not walking the dog enough? What is enough or more in this situation? Basically I’m taking my occupational therapy training and applying it to my everyday life by defining manageable and measurable short and long term goals. So now I can say “I’m glad I took the dog on a walk today, we all had a great time. I will continue to take him on a walk at least once a day.”
We are acknowledging the accomplishments directly in front of us, we are appreciating the talents and gifts we have already mastered, we are living in the present which dictates our future. I cherish the blessing of being here in this moment.
Take the time to look at the now in your life. What are some steps you have already completed to achieve a goal? What are future steps to achieve your goal? How and when will you follow through? The future can always be filled with possibility, but it is the now that will see what kind of fulfillment tomorrow brings.
I am looking forward to the now. What are you looking forward to?