After our recent holiday break, a colleague shared how much she enjoyed visiting with her elderly grandmother during our time off. “One thing that is so great about her,” she explained, “is how she absolutely lives fully in the present moment!”
“Of course,” she continued, “she then re-lives that moment again…and again…but each time, she’s really present!”
We chuckled as she told that story, and I was reminded of a lunch with two important people just a few years ago. One was a high school teacher who was, and is, one of my most valuable mentors. Mr.“A” invited his mentor, Mr. “G,” to join us. Mr. “G” was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, still physically capable but already showing signs of impairment to his short-term memory.
As we ate our lunch and told stories about our past experiences with one another, Mr. “G” delighted in telling one particular story about Mr. “A”from the “old” days at Miller High School. We laughed, and in a matter of moments, Mr. “G” began to tell the same story again, with the same delight and detail as if he were telling it for the very first time. And, recognizing that his illness had limited his memory to that present moment in time, we enjoyed the story with him, just as if we had never heard it. We did so again and again and again.
Of course, I would never minimize the devastating toll that Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia take on those that develop those conditions, and their loved ones, but the experience with Mr. “G,” and the story of my co-worker’s grandmother, serve as somewhat of an example to me.
Mr. “G” had no recollection that he had told that story just minutes before, because his condition had robbed him of his past. His ability to project and plan for the future were limited as well. And he lived happily in that present moment, unburdened by regrets of what had happened before, or worry about what was to come. He had no choice.
But I do have a choice. I can choose to re-live a conversation when I might wish I’d said something different… to re-hash a time when I’d been wronged and think of all the reasons I was right… or to fret over what might happen tomorrow, next week, or in a few years if my “best-laid” plans don’t work out according to my obsessively detailed blueprint. Or I can choose to enjoy every second of this present moment with the people I love, doing the things that matter, however significant or mundane they may be.
There is an old adage: “No time like the present.” But, truthfully, there is no time but the present, is there?