I like to think of the world as a huge and perfectly-directed orchestra with God as the conductor, guiding each of us through His masterpiece. He reminds us when it’s time to come in, when it’s time to boldly crescendo, when it’s time to fade into a soft pianissimo, and when it’s time to simply be still and rest.
Sometimes, though, I feel like the restless clarinet player, taking my eyes off the conductor and going off on my own. Getting just a bit ahead of myself and my fellow music-makers. The results can be a bit chaotic!
All my life, I’ve been a planner. Planning for college, then career, marriage, a house, a family. It’s all worked out pretty well, but I also admit that I’ve had the tendency to forget to relish today because I was so preoccupied with tomorrow.
Sometimes anticipation can be fun, like planning the next vacation before arriving home from the current trip; or dreaming about a beach house even though it won’t be a reality for many years (if ever). Other times, focusing too much on tomorrow can bring fear and trepidation. In all cases, taking our eyes off the conductor and looking too far ahead robs us of the joy and melody of the moment. It distracts us and diminishes the gift of today.
When Mom became ill nearly four years ago, my whole outlook changed. After her initial diagnosis with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of an especially vicious type of cancer, I became consumed with the future and words like prognosis, treatment, research and lifespan. I soon realized that as hard as I tried, I could not control the future, or even really plan for it.
Recently, I spent the morning paying my respects to the father of a long-time friend. Sitting in the pew of my hometown’s Catholic church, I had plenty of time to think. The mass was in Spanish, leaving me with an hour or so of piecing together a word here and there, thinking about my friend and her family, and thinking about my own life, too. Being just weeks from the first anniversary of my sweet mother’s memorial service, I was especially lost in memories of her.
In those final years and months…and especially the final weeks…of Mom’s life, I was given the greatest gift. I learned first-hand the real meaning of “seize the day.” The value of this moment. I learned that tomorrow’s symphony has already been written and will be played regardless of my planning – or fretting. I learned to focus on the people (and the dogs and the music and the sights) I love, along with the moment we’re in. I learned to turn from the allure, romance and even the fear of tomorrow, and instead to find the joy in every today.
I learned that the present is, indeed, a gift and I intend to open mine each and every day!