Buddhists, New Agers, psychologists, health professionals—they all seem to spout the same advice: True happiness comes from living in the moment.
The argument goes like this:
If you’re stressing over the bills you have to pay, you’re living in the future (where nothing is guaranteed, so you might as well wait and see what happens).
If you’re dwelling on old hurts and mistakes, you’re living in the past (and you can’t change it, so you might as well move on).
The only place we can ever really be content is NOW, in this very moment.
I get the theory. I do.
But what are you supposed to do when your present moment sucks?
Call me a pessimist, but in my life, the undeniably good moments have been few and far between. I’d go so far as to say I’ve never actually experienced a pure moment of unspoiled joy.
For me, the only possible happiness lies in the anticipation of something better in the future, the belief that someday, my life will (finally) be at least halfway decent (see? I’m not asking for great riches or fame—just “halfway decent”).
I have to look to the future for happiness, because the present moment really blows.
Take right now, for example—this exact moment.
I’m writing this in a dark, stifling room that belongs to someone else, so I can’t open the windows or let in any light. I have a head cold, dueling ear infections, and it’s raining outside (again), so every joint in my body aches.
Other than (maybe) the fact that I’m currently alive, I can’t really come up with a whole lot to be “happy” about in this moment. (And despite all these facts, I DO manage to come up with at least 10 things a day for which I’m grateful—go figure!)
Even on “good” days, it’s tough to find the bright spots in my life.
I remember the day of my wedding, which is supposed to be one of the happiest days of a person’s life.
Even on my wedding day, the “moments” were terrible. As each one passed—as I watched my bridesmaids get drunk while I struggled to get dressed alone, as my bridal party fooled around like idiots throughout the photography session, as the limo jolted around and seemed to deliberately hit every pothole in town on the way to the reception (preventing me from drinking the expensive champagne I’d bought, which spilled all over the floor of the car)—I recall thinking, “I can’t wait to get to the good part.”
Only that “good part” never came. It never does.
For me, the present moment—that magical place everyone else seems to be raving about—is solely about surviving whatever agony and misery I’m currently facing (there always IS some; that’s not even a question).
The present moment is not a happy place. It never has been and I’m beginning to fear it never will be.
And yet, I keep hoping that the moment after this one will finally be good for me. Call me delusional, an eternal optimist, or just plain stupid. But you never can tell, can you?