Passing by her to put in my coffee order, she spoke into her phone, “This must be finished today, before my meeting in San Francisco tomorrow! This is the presentation, this is tomorrow, and today is tomorrow. This is the future. Do you understand? We must get this done.” My thoughts circled around perhaps someone in a managerial position. Maybe she was a VP at a big company pressed to meet a deadline. But, I attended to my Latte. After receiving my triple shot, extra hot, large Toffee Nut Latte, I sought for an empty chair, and sat down next to her in the only available chair in that Starbucks.
Still on her phone, she spoke in a different tender tone, “Ok, sweetie, mommy will see you in a couple of days. Yes, I wish I could see you play soccer this week, but maybe next time. Sweetie, I have to go now. I love you, bye bye.” As she put her cell phone down, she mumble underneath her breath, “My daughter, you’ll understand when I am paying for your college tuition.”
As often is my habit, I observe people. I noticed several things about this frustrated woman. First, she was a very attractive woman. Yes, I can say that because I told my wife Kathy about it! lol Second, her clothing appeared expensive. Now, I am not an expert on women’s apparel, but when I see a purse that has a Saks Fifth Avenue logo on it, I am thinking, “Not cheap.”
With that, my coffee, and my Kindle, my mind began to focus upon other thoughts. Then another outburst erupted from the woman that startled me a bit. I thought, “What must be going on in her life right now? What are her pressures? How old is her little girl right now? Is college really such an important concern today? Is the presentation really that critical? I wonder if she enjoys her job at all? Does she enjoy a satisfying home life?” My pondering went on and on over the next ten minutes or so.
At that point she noticed me, as the tables were quite close. “Oh, sorry, I am really stressed today,” she stated in a rather apologetic tone. “No, no problem. Wow, sounds like you’re really a busy person?” I replied pensively. She spent the half hour sharing all the hard work she involved herself in to provide a better future for her company, her daughter, her career, her retirement, and her ultimate happiness.
I interrupted her gently and asked “May I ask you a few questions?” She agreed and I began, “What sense of fulfillment does your job give you now? Struggling she retorted back, “Well, ah, yes, of course, it brings a lot of happiness.” "OK, that's great, but what sense of fulfillment does your job give you today; right now?" I pressed. After at least three minutes silence she responded, "None, none really." It was at that moment I brought up the concept of "living in the now."
I asked her, what do you really want to do today, right now? Her response surprised me, "Well, I just really don't have any options. I have to do this today and tomorrow. No choice." I gently pressed, "Really? You have no other choice? Isn't there always choices?" So, the conversation continued.
Towards the end of our two hour conversation she made a few phone calls. The meeting in San Francisco was rescheduled. Her clients agreed to meet another time. Airline arrangements were changed. And, mom made another call to announce her presence that day at her daughter's soccer game. I can still remember the expression of gleeful emotions exuding from phone from that little girl after hearing the news.
Sometimes, in fact I think quite often, we sacrifice the "living in the now" because of our apprehension of the future. Yet, while planning for the future is wise, none possess any assurances there. What we do possess, is right now. Right now, this very moment is a precious gift each of us reading this blog enjoys right now.
Tomorrow may never come. Yesterday is already past. Now is here. Now presents itself today. Perhaps, learning to "live in the now" is the best investment one can make for living in the future.
During my many years in South Africa, lessons on life were a constant. One constant life-lesson came from that of an elderly Zulu man named Simon Dube. Simon, whose Zulu name is Umdlandlankulu - that's why we called him Simon - taught me among many things, his Zulu language. Over the years conversing both back and forth from English to Zulu, one thing Simon seemed often inquisitive about was how I viewed the future. He often said in a rather instructive tone being thirty years my senior, "You whites from America seem to think and worry much about tomorrow." By 'tomorrow' Simon meant the 'future.' Simon often added to the question asking, "With so much to concern yourself with today, why do you think so much about tomorrow?" Simply put, Simon's entire energy always focused upon day to day living; one day at a time.
As a respected elder of his area, he often taught me in the same tone as he did the younger men of his clan. "Jabulani," he would call me by my Zulu name, "When you spend so much time thinking about this thing called the future like retirement and growing old, well, you give away your power for today. You see with your power for today, you capture the entire day. When you give away some of today's power thinking about tomorrow, you lose some of the goodness of this day, the possibilities of this day, and the problems to meet in this day."
This was vividly demonstrated when violence erupted in the township he lived just twenty minutes away from my home. At age seventy-two, Simon and his family disassembled their home and moved it to a barren piece of dirt five miles away. My visits to Simon during this time of rebuilding never ended without a small lesson in daily-living.
One particular day while assisting Simon, he proclaimed, "There, for today that is enough." My reply, "But, we've only laid twenty cement blocks for your home today." He smiled with a familiar look, and immediately I knew another one of his metaphoric personal lessons was well on its way, "Yes, you are right, we laid only twenty cement blocks today, but they are twenty very good cement blocks for this day, and there is much day to enjoy and many many more things too." Bewildered, I shot back, "But how will you ever get your house done at this pace?" He leaned back and chuckled, "My friend, the house will be finished. Of this there is no doubt. But, soon this day will be finished, and that can never return. I choose not to concern myself with tomorrow, but live in this moment in this day. That is enough." As the bewilderment on my face showed, Simon added, "Have you ever watched a bird build its nest? It never finishes building. Every day the bird adds, takes away, and rearranges. That is how I build."
Simon, a very poor man by western standards owned so much more wealth than the richest person I ever knew. For him, the day in which he awoke was all he ever possessed. No person owned more than the day in which he awoke. Everything else, whether money, things, or wealth meant nothing beyond only one day. In the twenty years I'd know Simon, he buried no less than eleven family members. He often reminded me, "Today is today, and tomorrow will become today tomorrow, so all you can grasp right now is today. Today is all anyone really has. If you concentrate only on tomorrow, the thing that you love today may never be present to love tomorrow."
I often remind myself of Simon's words when I find myself caught up with the "what about the future" scenarios. You know the worrying stuff like, "Do I have enough? How much is in my retirement account? I hope my health holds out. I wonder if this or that will be possible."
Simon taught me that the future is really is today. This day has enough happiness, challenges, rewards, pain, and worries on its own. When concerning myself too much with tomorrow's perceived issues, I willingly give away some of today's power losing ability to chew and savor every moment that the current day presents.
So, give all your power to this very day for this very day is the only day that presents its self with fullness and potential. Tomorrow will be tomorrow, and today is today, and yesterday was yesterday. Capturing today's possibilities requires all your power today. Thank you Simon Dube.
Just My Thoughts