Friday, June 24, 2011

The Days of our Years

You can go ahead and ignore the title of this post if you want. It’s sappy and it makes no sense. It comes from this super depressing short that I first saw on MST3k, if you’re interested.

My walks with Cypress are usually the time in my day when I can think through deep thoughts and ponderings, in between getting super frustrated with the dog for eating cat poop or sniffing a single fern for 5 minutes. Today as we were walking, I realized how little I was enjoying it since it was raining and somewhat cold, and how I was more or less biding my time until the walk ended rather than enjoying being outside with my dog.

Since I wrote my post on appreciating the people in your life while you have them it got me thinking about how I approach the present. I began to realize that my need and my yearning to express my love and affection for those I’m closest to, though an extremely positive impulse to have, comes mostly from my inability to live in the present.

(Note: I have talked about my difficulty with living presently here, here, and here, but it’s something I struggle with daily, so I hope you’ll indulge me if I begin to sound repetitive.)

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been waiting for what’s next. A common refrain you would hear if you lived inside of my head (God help you if that ever happens) would be, “I just have to get through [the next 4 days, months, years, etc.] and then [some event] will happen and I’ll be okay.” In college this tendency grew even stronger than before, as I was always counting down to the next time I’d see Rob, summer vacation, spring break or what have you. In more recent times I hear the same refrain when I travel for work—I live for Thursday, my travel day, and the two glorious days I’ll get to spend at home.

It happens with literally everything—as an example, right now I have two countdowns on my phone: our trip to Florida (190 days) and my first tattoo session with the matryoshka (4 days). I did the same thing for our wedding, for the end of my last project, down to my walk with Cypress today. If I can just make it past this one spot, then we only have about 10 minutes until we get home.

What is interesting, however, is that when that magical event does happen (finally see Rob again, finally experience warm weather, finally get home and dry off) I find myself anticipating when it will end and what stressful situation I should be dreading next. When Rob was in the Army he would frequently become annoyed with me, because as soon as we were reunited I’d start stressing about when we had to say goodbye. I could never and still cannot live and enjoy the present because I’m always considering what will happen next and what could potentially cause me stress.

As I’ve gotten older I realize how the passage of time increases almost exponentially in speed with each coming year. Recently I’ve often found myself thinking, “I can’t believe we’re halfway through 2011 already,” or, “It’s hard to believe that Rob and I have been married for almost a year.” I feel like there are whole stretches of time—like last summer when I was knee-deep in a stressful project and aching through the week until I could get home—that I have little to no memory of. I think if I continue to hurry along my days until random events, and then stress about when that event will end, I will eventually wake up 30 years older with only a handful of memories and even greater stress levels.

I started seeing a counselor this week, and one of the main goals I have for my time in therapy is to learn how not to “awfulize” a potentially stressful situation and to be able to spend more time focusing on what I’m feeling in this exact moment.

So today during the walk I started to make a checklist (I love lists) in my head of all the good things about our walk:

1. It’s pretty awesome that I have functioning legs and can use them to get me places. Many do not have this luxury.

2. I only have, conservatively, 5-10 years left with Cypress, and those years will go by in a flash if these last few years have been any indicator. I know when she does depart from this earth I will yearn for these times with her, cat poop-eating and fern-smelling and all.

3. We are really lucky to live in such a naturally beautiful area, with a fitness trail that allows us to walk our dog off-leash without worrying for her safety.

4. It may be a little chilly, but it isn’t 30 degrees and there isn’t any snow. I’ll long for 60-degree-days when the harsh Maine winter comes.

I plan on trying to do this with each unpleasant or stressful situation I'm trying to bypass.  Because really, I have a kickass life and it's about time I stop focusing only on the negative.

I think that living in the present takes considerable and focused work. Our society is such that we’re always focused on the future rather than taking a breath and appreciating what we have now. I’ve decided to add living presently to my summer goals with the goal of eliminating the ever-present knot of anticipation in my chest and becoming a generally happier person.

What do you do to try to live in the present?

P.S. - I'm at 94 GFC followers - 6 more and I'm going to host an awesome giveaway courtesy of an amazing Maine craftswoman :)


  1. I don't think I have ever told you that I get very excited about a new blog from Caitlin...every time! And most of the time, it speaks directly to something I am also in the middle of learning or experiencing. Eerie..and awesome. Thanks for sharing this. I am in the middle of...well.. I am always in the same unbalanced act of trying to balance present moment joy w/ the pace of the rest of the world and it is not easy to say the least.

    I'm going to take this cue from you and run with it. Thanks chica. <3 xo

  2. I love this post, Caitlin! I can completely relate to 'countdowns' towards the next thing, because I do the exact same thing! (at the moment, I'd LIKE to be counting down a Kurz/Sullivan reunion...teehee) This subject is actually something I've thought a lot about the last few months, specifically since Ian's death 4 months ago. We'll never know when we might take our last breath, or our lives will be drastically altered in some way. I think that's one of the hardest things to remember going through life, and sometimes it takes some sort of tragedy to really comprehend the value of everything little thing we do. Anyway, I love all of your posts, too! xoxo, Katie

  3. what a beautiful doggie! And its so nice to take walks and just think of things that are wonderful in your life!!

  4. I find myself experiencing many of the same thoughts you have so eloquently described here. And on top of it, I then realize the thoughts I'm having, and begin to fear I'm wishing away, or fearing away, my life - for no good reason. Thank you for sharing. I think the blog world offers some really great therapy. :-) -hugs to you-

  5. I totally know what you mean by this! I have the same problem. The weird thing is ... I LIKE being busy with things, so it makes no sense why I have this absurd need to GET THROUGH IT ALL RIGHT NOW. Even when I get work projects and they are hours upon hours of work, I want to finish them up instantly! And then I complain because they are over and I have to figure out a new project. I am hopeless.

    Good to know I'm not alone while hopeless. ;)

    Let me know how counseling goes for you - I've considered this myself.

  6. I love your little checklists. Whenever I am in a bad mood, I like to go for a walk and just think about all the things that are good in my life, then the stressful things don't seem so bad, or seem totally worth it.

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  8. I totally found myself doing the EXACT same thing- anticipating the NEXT moment I'll love instead of enjoying the one I'm in.

    It's actually a proven fact that 3/4 of the reason any event boosts your happiness is the actual anticipation of the event, so I always try and enjoy both the anticipation AND the event itself.

    I try and just take mental snapshots of something when I know I'm going to miss it the next day, and I try and just memorize little details of things. I do that a lot when I meet someone famous for my job that I absolutely adore. I never know if I'll get to meet them again so I try to enjoy the butterflies beforehand and just remember every little detail.

    That's a bit of a random one but yeah, I definitely know how you feel. This comment just became a huge ramble but what I really wanted to say is great post, haha :)

  9. I'm like that too, waiting for what's next. I used to always think about getting married to my husband. Now that I'm married, all I can think about is having kids! :/

  10. lovely thoughts! nothing like people (and pets) to love that helps you appreciate the current moment : )


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