Single File: June 2014 Essay
It's a complex challenge, this single life. On your own, shunning both dependency and isolation, after a while you adjust and learn to be in the present moment. Sleepless nights have taught you not to voyage too far into the future (what could be) too often, nor to dwell in the past (what might have been). The fancy footwork needed to balance that threesome takes conscious effort and gobs of discipline. Still, it's the only way to be sure your singleness is complete. In other words (before this concept gets tangled in its own verbiage), this is your great chance to build an interesting life for yourself.
Simply put, to stay current you must think in all the tenses -- while at the same time honoring both the lessons of the past and your dreams for what is to come. True, all of us must find balance on that tightrope, married and not -- but it's imperative that the single person be aware of their choices, since in the final analysis they are the ones solely responsible for the quality of their lives. And their outcomes. True, no one has a clear road map leading to tomorrow; all we can count on is instinct and gray matter. But what we're exploring here is the possibility that those two gifts -- when combined with awareness of the past and the present -- are more than enough to shape a fruitful life. We all agree on the wisdom of past life lessons (if we care to remember them) and the fun of visualizing with anticipation what can be just over the hill!
But most of life's richness comes from being in the present moment. And oddly, that seemingly simple task takes the most effort. There are scattered thoughts that intrude on our clarity, making what the Buddha calls the "monkey mind" -- mischief-makers that have a way of injecting downbeat what-ifs before our gleeful moments can live out their joy. (Putting them back in their place, though, can add precious moments of glee to those high points that make life worthwhile.) For that, it takes a strong mind and even stronger will. Will is the aspect of our psyche that sets priorities, that says this is worth extra effort, but that can be an also-ran. It's what makes many of us heroic, able to do more than we knew we didn't know we were capable of. It is our personal overdrive, and we put it into gear many times in a lifetime. Mostly when we're thinking of someone else's needs. (!) Will is the crown jewel of our humanness, giving rise to the best in us: kindness, compassion, selflessness.
But before we drift into the murky waters of metaphysics, let's come back to you and life in the present tense. The fact is, it's all we have. But try telling that to the lovelorn, the bereaved, the very young. Age and stage play key roles in the tenses we live in, which is the reason I'm making this plea to all of you in the community I treasure so, the unmarried. Being in the moment can become a mantra, a vow to oneself to taste and savor each moment, to live fully. And like a mantra, from time to time it may require some gentle editing. That, believe it or not, can be a healthy exercise for the mind.
Honor the past days of your life. But always -- always -- strive to BE in the now. That seems a simple assignment, but I assure you it's anything but. The first few attempts at this mental shift will be unsettling. Frustrating, yes. Annoying, to be sure. But oh, so rewarding. So much so, in fact, that you may choose to put it into action with the next interesting person you meet. And if you find it working its magic, well, you might bring it up in conversation. And whenever you do, you might just discover the fun of living in all the tenses.
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