Remembering from my mythology courses, Janus is the Roman god with two faces — one looking ahead, into the future, and the other looking backward to the past. Our current month, January, takes its name from his.
And so it is apt, from our friends at The Daily Post, that today’s prompt is “What are you looking forward to?”
It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I actually look forward to things. Oh, I look forward to vacations, or long weekends, or to the prospect of eventually having grandchildren — pretty much the way everyone does. However, I’ve had problems throughout my adult life because of an immature and mistaken interpretation of the advice to “Live in the moment,” or “Take one day at a time.”
My Dad died of lung cancer when I was a senior in high school — now almost four decades ago. And I remember how, during his times in and out of the hospital, that it was impossible to set any kind of long-range plans. Impossible to plan whether I could go to a sleep-over with friends, or go to a concert, or basically do anything. I now respect my mother’s frantic attempts to leave all options open. “Let’s play it by ear.” “We’ll see.” “Let’s just take it one day at a time.” It was great advice, at completely the wrong time in my life. You see, I was very, VERY smart. And I was a quick learner. My interpretation and adaptation was that I instantly lost all interest in school, or the future. I got the one and only “D’ in my entire academic career (in Senior Economics), and it’s a miracle I got it together to audition and apply for college at all. I was left with the terrifying and miserable present, and I lost the ability to project in any way into the future, or into any imagined reality of my own creation.
So I’m here to tell you that being in the moment — just like its cousin, awareness — frequently is not all it’s cracked up to be. The present moment is precious and unique, and it can also be excruciatingly painful. I think our ability to “deny” our reality, to “escape” into the future, or to imagine a better day, are crucial to our humanity and our sanity. My study of the Feldenkrais Method has added the vital element that was missing all along: embodiment. To be able to feel my body in its wholeness; to notice, without judgment, the state of what is at this moment, accepting it and the fact that it will change; and that the experience of this embodiment is, in large part, what it means to “be present:” if I had known then that my body was the barometer for sensation and expression, I might have emerged healthier and more resilient from the ordeals of my youth.
But resilient I am. I learned that there is glory in claiming the status of “survivor,” but also there is some brittleness and fragility. Resilience has a springy character: the ability to “bounce back.” You have to be willing to live a little, to risk and experiment, to be willing to fail, to experience that resilience. So, all these years hence, I am finally learning to master my creative imagination. It has taken decades to reclaim my creative potential to have a dream, to use my imagination, and to anticipate and plan for some kind of future.
I can still be in the moment — but even more exquisitely so. The present moment is no longer a prison, merely a constraint. And so, the silky texture and taste of bitter dark chocolate can be savored. Every detail of my partner’s touch, his scent, his glance, is imprinted on my consciousness: a delicious sensual memory in the past, and an eager future anticipation is encapsulated in each encounter in the present. The richness of the sensory information makes the present a lovely place to be. It also enables me to really look forward — to tomorrow’s meetings over coffee, to reunions with clients and friends, to concerts this weekend, to snuggling into bed this frosty evening, and to summer travel. Past, present, and future provide balance and stability — and, paradoxically, a dynamic impulse to move forward.