There is something about smells that transport us to another place in time. One whiff of hairspray and I’m in the dressing room again, getting ready for opening night of another show. The aroma of pine needles and coffee brewing takes me to my childhood home on Christmas morning. I’ll stand in the men’s deodorant section at the grocery store – smelling each one until I get to the scent that my husband wears. One sniff and I’m in love all over again.
I like going backwards in time. It’s why I take a million pictures and go through them frequently. It’s why I keep every single journal and reference them often. It’s why I look at Timehop first thing every morning. (#tbt!)
But the problem with turning our gaze backwards is that we stumble on the path before us.
We make a lot of big talk about living our lives to the fullest, making every moment count, being thoroughly present each day. “Wherever you are, be all there,” was a quote I plastered everywhere during high school. “Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” (Jim Elliot) This appears to be the trajectory most people want to be on – it seems like it will lead us to a thriving lifestyle, the abundant life we’re all craving.
Why is it, then, that we go through so much of our lives with our eyes fixed on the rearview mirror, wistfully longing for days gone past?
“Remember when,” and “I miss those days,” seem to be regular phrases in my conversations and in my head. If only we could go back, even just for a few days.
But the problem is, if we went back to the times we have stored in our memory as the glory days, it is likely that we would still be dissatisfied.
Nostalgia plays tricks on us. It traps us in the habit of measuring our current reality to our past reality. It makes us feel like the days that we have left behind were the sweetest, that our present life is lacking something we used to have.
“Nostalgia is a dangerous form of comparison,” author Brene Brown writes in her book Daring Greatly. And it’s true. We compare today with yesterday and suddenly we are no longer content.
The thing is, in a few years we will be nostalgic for the days we are living right now.
So what if, instead of looking behind, we started to look down? What if we noticed the earth beneath our feet at this very moment? What if we looked at all the life happening around us every hour? What if we took time to notice the world we are inhabiting – this very second? What if we actually lived each day to the hilt?
It requires a full stop in the midst of our daily lives to remember the beauty of the present moment. Without taking time to slow I charge into each day, to-do list in hand, ready to conquer all tasks and projects. And though I am still accomplishing things and though I am being productive, there is no opportunity to savor the thousands of little gifts scattered along the path of my current reality. I miss out on the chance to relish the sweetness of the current life I’m living.
You only pass this way once. No amount of pictures or journals or throwback Thursdays will bring us back to this day.
So what does your day hold? What moments do you normally miss that you can be awake to? Can you create time to stop in the hustle of your day and notice the life that you’re living?
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. – C.S. Lewis
Ten moments I am stopping to notice today:
- The color of the sky just before dawn
- The taste of hot coffee on my tongue, warming my insides as it goes down.
- The warmth of my husband’s half-awake body as we spend the last few minutes in bed before starting the day.
- Our perfect studio apartment and how it feels to live in a dream home.
- The mixture of winter and spring that April in Colorado always brings.
- The luxury of a three-month-old baby falling asleep in my arms – the delight of having a job I love.
- The smell of the mountain air, mixed with fresh snow and rain.
- The dream come true of running my own home and fixing supper for my husband, greeting each other with a smile and kiss as he comes home from work.
- The magic of being able to see notes on a page and make them sound out on a piano.
- A stack of books – each one inviting and insightful in its own way.