It’s a cloudy Monday morning and there is a wailing child in my house. But I’ve already got my run in for the day, I’m listening to Josh Radin’s “Brand New Day,” and I’m thinking that today is good.
I like to live in today. Live in this moment. It bodes well with not missing the actual living of the days. Yes, I’m a worrier, especially when it comes to my kids. But when I can keep the crazy from spinning out of control in my head and heart, I try to stay right here. In this moment.
Finding today to be good enough to fully live it did not come naturally to me. I was the child terrified of tomorrow and horrified by yesterday. But then my first newborn curled his fingers around my finger and I felt myself stop and take the time to enjoy the moment. Being the parent of a newborn helps that process. Your parenting skills are as new as the life held in your arms; simply being a parent takes all of your attention and energy. But then those babies grow up and it becomes easy to fall into the traps of looking forward to tomorrow when something is supposed to happen and remembering yesterday when something else did happen.
Now that my kids are 12, 8, and 6, I really have to work at staying in today instead of looking ahead at what might never come or behind at what I can never recapture either to re-do or re-experience.
Parenting may have shown me the way, but now I know that it is the only way. For me at least.
In my professional world, I often talk about the path we travel on. I realized today while I was running that one thing I don’t verbalize in the conversations I have at work is my belief in living in today rather than yesterday or tomorrow. I’m not sure if this is an oversight or some subconscious decision on my part. But realizing it gave me something to think about as I ran in the weak sunshine trying to break through the clouds this morning.
I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I questioned their relevance as a child and my life experiences have strengthened my thoughts on them. I have absolutely no problem with other people giving them credence but they don’t apply to me and how I live my life.
Because I live my life in today. Not looking behind me or ahead of me, but right now. I live today as best as I can in order that I might be the best person I can be, today and every day. Today is enough.
As a tiny girl, I attended church with my grandmother. It was a squat concrete building in the middle of what geographically is considered high desert. The pastor during that time in my life was a rather stern man and the essence of his sermons that remains with me all these years later was that I was a sinner and I would be punished for those sins. I would burn in hell because I was a sinner.
These dire warnings from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday terrified me. Sitting all around my grandmother were the matriarchs of the community, nodding and looking serious. I was five. I knew nothing about tremors associated with Parkinson’s or the ability to look like you are paying attention when in reality you are visually reorganizing your canned goods. What I knew is that I was apparently a bad, bad person and all these elderly ladies agreed with him. Hell became a reason to worry — what if that time I stuck my tongue out at my father’s retreating back meant I would burn alive for all eternity? After I started school I worried about missed questions on my math worksheets — was I sinning because I hadn’t gotten everything correct? I worried about telling adults about things boys said and did that hurt me — I didn’t want to be called a liar which would mean I was destined to spend eternity in hell.
And heaven, like being Mary in the Christmas pageant, was some inaccessible thing on the far side of today, shimmering in the distance like a desert mirage.
As I got older and visited area churches with friends, the use of fear and judging became more and more of my church experiences. I never felt a part of a community. I felt like I had sat in the wrong pew, I didn’t know how to pray correctly, I couldn’t take communion because of rules and regulations I didn’t know.
By the time I was a young adult I knew that living in the fear of hell and in the hope of heaven were simply ways to control me. And so I chose to stop believing in their Biblical interpretations.
I looked around at the homeless Vietnam vets begging on the street and I knew what hell must be…to be ignored by the very people you tried to protect. I looked at the elderly couple walking through the park, still holding hands and still very much in love and I knew what heaven must be…to be cherished by the very people you cherish.
Now, all these years later, I don’t worry about heaven or hell. I neither look forward to getting something better tomorrow nor look backward in regret at yesterday. Because I can only live this day, today.
Bad things will happen and it won’t be because I did something that needed punishing. And good things will happen and it won’t be because I did something that needed rewarding. Those things will happen because today happened.
Just the very fact that I got to have yet another today is good enough for me.