I've got two acquaintances--each opposites from one another, and both miserable for totally different reasons.
I've one acquaintance (let's call him Tom) that goes through life with a sense of dread and foreboding about the future. Tom worries about the kind of world his kids are going to grow up in. He doesn't think they're going to have the same kind of opportunities he had. He worries about global climate change and the great floods and death that he believes are coming. He worries every day that he's getting older and time seems to move more quickly and there's so much he wants to do before he dies--this guy isn't even 50 yet! He wakes up each morning with a sense of dread because each day brings the world one day closer to this cataclysmic ending he's convinced is just over the horizon.
I've got another acquaintance (let's call her Lori) that goes through life angry and upset over things that have happened months, years, and even decades in the past. Lori goes through life holding onto every slight, every hurt, and every insult she's ever suffered intentionally or accidentally going back as far as her memory goes. She carries grudges for decades--so long she often can't even put her finger on the exact reason why she detests some people. She goes through life carrying this bitterness with her everywhere, and she sees the world as a very dark place, and views everything with a judgmental eye. Her life has become a stage play where she plays a role of a normal, happy person, but other than fooling herself, it's not very convincing. It shows in very obvious ways. Her anger and resentment has tainted her view of the world. She's convinced that most people are out to get her, and that she has always been the victim. You just can't hide that.
I don't understand either one of them. One is stuck in the past, and the other is afraid of the future. I don't want to live that way.
Let's talk about Lori first. I've been through some very rough patches in life--disappointments, anger, divorce, death, and illness. I've done a few bad things, and I've had some bad things done to me--everyone has. It's part of life. It's part of learning. It's part of growing as a human being and becoming wise. But I'm certainly not going to live those painful moments over and over again by dragging them along with me everywhere I go. Yesterday is gone. I'm just not going to carry pain, anger, and resentment with me. I don't want somebody angry with me over something I did, accidentally or intentionally, years ago and I'm certainly not going to stay angry with somebody for something they did to me. You know how you go through life without regrets? When you are wrong, you apologize, and when you are wronged you forgive unconditionally--in other words, without an apology. It's just that simple. But just because it's a simple concept doesn't make it easy. I've gone back over the last fifteen years and mended a lot of broken fences. It's a basic Christian principle to forgive and ask for forgiveness, but there is nothing more liberating than to do so, and be able to move on in life without regrets.
And then there's Tom. I have to admit, I worry about the world my daughters are growing up in. I tend to agree with Tom there. I wonder if they're going to have the same opportunities. It's common. I saw a survey the other day that said 65% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong course. But I'm not going to wake up each morning like Chicken Little, waiting for the sky to fall. You know how you change the future? You change the future by changing today. We've been through dark and dangerous times before and made it through. I'm not ready to toss in the towel quite yet. I'm not ready to start building a bomb shelter and hording supplies and ammo--I don't believe the end is near. I believe there are still good people in this world, and that it is still very possible, and very likely, that we will steer ourselves eventually onto a better course than the one we're on. I'll be part of the solution today rather than give up and prepare for the doom we may never come tomorrow.
I don't have all the answers. I have bad days, and I have good days. I have days where I do good things, and I have days where I make very stupid decisions. People still manage to piss me off. I am a human being. But I make sure I apologize when I do the wrong things, forgive when I'm wronged, and I make sure I take a moment to be thankful for the things that go right. And every day when I wake up, I truly believe that everything is going to go the right way, and something great is going to happen. And when I go to bed at night, I believe tomorrow is full of promise--it's a lot easier to do when you don't carry decades of emotional luggage around with you. You can't change the past, and the only way to change the future is by changing the moment you're living in right now. Right now is the only thing that really matters, and right now is the only thing we have absolute control over.
The present is where the rubber meets the road.