In some notes I took on Saturday, I have written, "A side note - avoid moving backwards. I was simultaneously looking too far ahead and looking backwards." Don't we all do this? Like one of those self-helpy e-mail forwards proclaims, people have a tendency to look at their life and say, "If only X changes; then everything will be better." Sometimes X changes, and, if we were to believe the e-mail forward, people will then look to X2, the next change. But I think another possibility is that people find themselves happy with a percentage of their life, let's say 75% (for this example.) They don't want that 75% to change at all. They want to change the remaining 25%. But what usually happens is that, when you get that 25% where you want it, the other 75% has changed either because time passed and things happen or because it's not possible to have both the 75% you liked and the 25% you wanted. For example, let's say you have lots of time, but you want a second job so that you can have more money. You will lose that time. Duh. It is pretty obvious, but some people still work toward this impossible 100% regardless. So they're not just looking forward to a change; they are looking backward to what was and trying to get it back, to reunite themselves, with that 25% newness, to the 75% former happiness. I know I do this sometimes!
I also think it's just as common to look backwards as it is to look too far ahead; what I mean is, I think that even though the directions are opposite, the situation of Looking Backwards and Looking Ahead are similar. It's like the difference between traveling 10 miles east or 10 miles west; one of those is -10, but they're both 10. They both are moving equally far from 0. Both arise out of a dissatisfaction, out of the same feelings toward the present.
Self help e-mail forwards, aphorisms, and your friends and family will tell you to look to the present, to look for the good in today, but as I wrote yesterday, sometimes that mindset is hard. You can't just flip a switch because someone tells you, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," or something like that.
Anyway, a lot of the things I am reading, seeing, and hearing lately all go back to this idea of enjoying the present, moment to moment, because we don't know what's coming next, and right now I'm receptive to it. So on Saturday, I made a little list of things I like about the present, things for which I say, "thank you!", and it got longer than I planned. It is as follows, edited for clarity:
A pretty day; birds were singing while I scraped the ice off my car this morning and the sun shone through the blinds and curtains of my windows as I got ready for class. While I waited on a long line to pay for my parking spot downtown, I stood under a clear blue sky. The cold sunny morning made downtown Portland into a display of vivid colors, and the outlines of the buildings - both the new buildings' straight lines and angles and the curves and curlicues of the older architecture - were clear, crisp, and sharp. It was nice.
My apartment is fairly clean and will be easy to move around; it won’t feel like an obstacle toward what I need to get done this week.
My new scarf that I just finished. Also, I have plenty of projects to work on with my old stash yarn and the interchangeable needle kit I got for Christmas three years ago. Even if it's not the ideal tool for what I'm making, it's perfectly functional and I don't need to go out and buy new needles unless I want to. Making something beautiful AND functional is a stress-relieving activity for me.
My past in NJ and my present life in a new environment, the things I've learned from both places, and the possibilities I have to move around the continent/world and learn more in the future.
The multitude of books in the public domain that can be read for free online.
French press coffee for free! (I have a friend who works at a coffeeshop and gets more free coffee than he needs, so I get all I need; since my utilities are included in my rent, even the hot water is free!)
Friends you can have over without needing to put your laundry away first.
Living in a building with a washer and dryer in the basement - and the dryer is fast!
Housemates/neighbors around whom I can leave my laundry in the basement without fear of annoying anyone or anything being stolen.
Student loans stuff got cleared up. (That is its own post and not very interesting. Basically, because of some hiccup probably with the government or computers, my student loan money that I was supposed to get this term was in limbo and I had to wait, getting poorer every day, for some paperwork to clear.)
Water stations at restaurants. (I love love LOVE that in Portland, most places you go to eat have water stations with the silverware and condiments so that you don't have to buy bottled water. I don't mean sit-down restaurants, I mean places where you order at a counter, where you usually can't ask for a glass of water. Unless they have a water station.)
"Fast" food that is healthy. (I'd had lunch at a place on campus that was pretty cheap and fast, where everything was organic but, more important to me is that it was all *food.* I got a bowl of rice and beans with avocado and other veggies on it; it was all *food* and not unidentifiable edible substances.)
This was Saturday; now it's Monday. There's plenty more I could write about, but I'm going to go back to enjoying Monday.