Friday, December 4, 2015

Content not to be haunted

A friend commented that, he tried to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack him at once.

It got me wondering, why do we feel the need to take (cope, handle, tackle) a day? Why does a day become an obstacle to be overcome, and several days seem like an impossible hurdle? Of course, as with my friend, health issues can make getting through each day difficult. But I wonder if sometimes our expectations about what each day should be like, are too idealistic, too demanding for our situation. Didn't the apostle Paul say that he had learned to be content whatever his condition? I wonder, when things get too much, if we are actually finding ourselves a little wanting in the 'contentment' department?

Many years ago, I made a conscious decision to try and cultivate contentment. Initially, I was concerned with possessions - I wanted to learn to be content with less; to live more simply. It wasn't easy to shift the goal-posts, it wasn't easy to detach from want, and less easy to let go of what I was already holding - even in an emotional sense. I don't think I was entirely successful, but I do now lead a simpler life.

A few years back, I got sick in a debilitatingly permanent way and, over time, another shifting of goal-posts occurred - a shifting of expectations about my senior years. I had to learn to be content within the limitations of my health. That didn't mean laying down and waiting to die, but it did mean not expecting too much of tomorrow. If the day turns out well, then I can grasp it and wring as much out of it as possible but, if it turns out to be a bad day, then I need to work with that; to go with the flow. As far as I know, this is the only way to embrace contentment in the midst of sickness and uncertainty.

Mentally planning tomorrow can upset contentment. If I plan tomorrow in anything but the most general of ways, then I set myself up for discontent should the day turn on me. Those who practise mindfulness or other meditative techniques understand the importance of the present moment, the 'now' in which we live. My diary contains plenty of future events which may or may not come to pass, but 'now' is the only reality; everything else, including all those future events, is imaginary - until and unless they become 'now'.

I like 'now'. Right now, I am being a writer. As a writer, I am feeling no more sick than the healthiest of you. Right now is good and I intend to experience every drop of its goodness while writing this and listening to Brooke Fraser. But, even if I were on my sick bed, it would still be for 'now'. Now is not tomorrow. Tomorrow is not 'now'; tomorrow is a dream; a spectre.  By living 'now' as fully as I am able, I can embrace contentment and prevent several days ganging up on me and haunting my life.

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