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How to Live in the Present Without Annoying Yourself

Later is a lie we tell ourselves.

09.09.16
How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Emoji

I can’t stop thinking about a short email I got from a friend a couple weeks ago. It read:

“Can you do a story on Janis Joplin? I mean, she’s the best. I loved her before but, after seeing her documentary on Netflix, I’m moved to tears. A quote handpicked for you: ‘Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, man.'”

I’ll admit that I know little about Janis Joplin and, in the time since I received this email, that hasn’t changed nor have I pitched a story about her. Sorry, friend, but also, thank you. I haven’t gone a single day without reflecting on that little handpicked quote. It’s followed me like the back of my head.

Tomorrow never happens.

It’s all the same fucking day, man.

It’s wild, isn’t it? Particularly because the agenda those words are pushing isn’t remotely novel — ALL WE HAVE IS NOW — but the spin is so original it leaves me captivated. It’s all the same day. When I turn it over in my brain, I think of the tumultuous relationship I’ve fostered with the future since I was a kid. One where regardless of my relationship with “now,” I’ve always been (at best) curious about and (at worst) haunted by “later.” It started when I begged my mom to take me to a psychic at age seven and, in the 20 years since, I’ve left almost no future-oriented concern unturned. But later doesn’t really come the way I think it will. I’m always just me. Here. Now.

Remember the moment you realized your life was happening? That, actually, your life was the things you were doing every day and the things you were thinking and feeling and all of it wasn’t some preamble to your actual life? The moment that hits is like a punch to the gut. It’s like ripping the mask off reality.

It’s a difficult mental exercise, but one worth practicing. Maybe that sounds new age-y or Drake-ish, but living for today doesn’t have to look like meditation or hedonism or YOLO or carpe diem. It can be an easy everyday practice. Here are eight ways to live for today that don’t give you permission to run up your credit or eat 34 cookies, but do help you avoid the dangerous mindset that life will happen later.

Because tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, woman!

Maybe I’m writing a story about Janis Joplin after all.

Buy and keep clothes that fit you.

How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Size

If the desire or intent to lose weight is something that informs your shopping habits, reconsider buying clothes that fit a thinner version of yourself or holding on to clothes that flatter a smaller you. Don’t body-shame yourself. Think about the items in your closet that have seen your body through its ebbs and flows and have a relentless ability to make you feel okay and like yourself.

Clean as you go.

How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Clean House

Have you ever head the expression, “If you clean your bathroom every day you never have to clean your bathroom?” It’s such a ridiculous thing to say but I love it so much and can’t wait to shout it when I’m a cranky old grandmother. But that’s later. OOPS. Cleaning up after yourself in real time is the easiest hack ever. It increases your capacity to handle chaos and disorder in other areas of your life, which are more inevitable and unpredictable than the physical space around you. In other words: Stop leaving shit around for YOU to pick up later.

Be willing to forget.

Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Camera

I’ve always maintained a fear that I was forgetting my life and have formed habits to prevent this. Journaling, photos, videos, etc. Only recently did it occur to me that in the future, I’ll have a new reality more worthy of my attention than the past — so why don’t I stop trying to desperately capture what’s happening now for later review?

Try enjoying something without documenting it. Free yourself from that fear and the present might feel more special.

Call the people you keep meaning to call.

How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Calling Mom

How many times do we hear, from people who have lost parents or loved ones, that they wished they’d called more? Whatever is holding you back from making the call now is probably still going to be there later. Screw it and do it. Feel free to take that as your personal slogan.

Start working on a project or dump it forever.

How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Projects

Rarely do you hear of someone finally getting to a project because everything in their life lined up perfectly to allow it. They realized that was never going to happen and just decided to start one day. Approach your dreams and projects with the same attitude. The timing will never be perfect. Start it now or dump it and move on to something you’re willing to put your energy into.

Practice eating in moderation.

How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Portions

Extreme diets that are only sustainable for a short period of time (I’m looking at you, juice cleanses) aren’t helping you develop healthy habits and are a perfect example of living for tomorrow. They’re also typically followed by an equal slip in the opposite direction. Newton’s third law, etc. If you eat sane amounts of stuff that brings you joy but doesn’t make you feel like you want to sleep for three hours in the afternoon, you’re recognizing that now is forever.

Be realistic about your inbox.

How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Inbox

If you’re anything like me, you say “I’ll deal with that later” for 95% of the emails you receive. But SURPRISE, this imaginary later at which point dealing with email actually sounds fun will obviously never arrive. And when you’re finally forced to deal with them because you have responsibilities, you realize they were SO FREAKING EASY to handle and now you’ve spent the past two weeks with an unnecessary anchor on your mental to-do list. AVOID.

Be willing to learn the hard way.

How To Avoid Living for a Figurative Tomorrow Man Repeller Emoji

So many of us hold ourselves back from doing things now because we’re worried it’s not the right move or we’ve seen how it hasn’t worked out for others. But are those fears serving us? Maybe we have to move forward not because we’re sure it’s right, but because we’re willing to find out for ourselves. Be willing to learn the hard way.

We’re always better at remembering the lessons we learned ourselves, anyway.

Illustrations by Lily Ross.

figurative-tomorrow

Get more Brain Massage ?
  • HALEY THIS WAS AWESOME AND EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED THANK YOU

    • Haley Nahman

      ANYTHING FOR YOU JOSIE

  • KayR

    Great post! I have seen this JJ documentary and it is terrific – perfect takeaway and great themes for living in the present. Love your writing Haley.

    • Haley Nahman

      Okay okay I’ll watch!!

  • Mallory Harmon

    Haley, this is a great one! I am one that struggles with being present, and I tend to be a ball of stress and worry, especially about the future. My favorite tip you listed is “be willing to learn the hard way.” I think negative self-talk as a lot to do with this point as well. I know, for myself, if I have a goal in mind that I want to accomplish, I get really motivated to begin with, and then the negative self-talk sets in and the “you’re not qualified” thoughts flood my brain. In these moments, I think it is extremely important to focus on the present and remind yourself of all of the great qualities and qualifications that made you want to achieve that goal in the first place. Furthermore, if you do not even try to get what you want, you’ll never know if it was possible, and I fear that may play a role in developing regret. I am working on adopting a new attitude in which I strive to achieve true, deep-rooted happiness, and a life where I can wake up every morning with a smile on my face and say “this is living!”

    • Haley Nahman

      IT IS LIVING! That’s such a good line.

    • Mariana

      Mallory, your comment could be mine, specially “I know, for myself, if I have a goal in mind that I want to accomplish, I get really motivated to begin with, and then the negative self-talk sets in and the “you’re not qualified” thoughts flood my brain.” SO ME! We have to find a way to deal with it, because this mindset prevents us of living our maximum potencial.

      • Mallory Harmon

        Mariana, I couldn’t agree with you more in that this thought process prevents us from maximizing our full potential. I think it is really important to do or participate in activities that push us out of our comfort zones in order to build that confidence and avoid the negative self-talk. Also, I think some of that thought process has to do with vulnerability and the fear that accompanies vulnerability. Like I said, I’m adopting a new attitude and really want to allow myself to experience life and overcome those negative thoughts.

  • sara beth walsh

    “in the future, I’ll have a new reality more worthy of my attention than
    the past — so why don’t I stop trying to desperately capture what’s
    happening now for later review?” A THOUSAND TIMES YES. Thank you so much for this.

  • Max

    There is a part from Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier that has haunted me FOR YEARS and feels relevant to ‘remember to forget’:
    “I cannot decide whether it is an illness or a sin, the need to write things down and fix the flowing world in one rigid form. Bear believed writing dulled the spirit, stilled some holy breath. Smothered it. Words, when they’ve been captured and imprisoned on paper, become a barrier against the world, one best left unerected. Everything that happens is fluid, changeable. After they’ve passed, events are only as your memory makes them, and they shift shapes over time. Writing a thing fixes it in place as surely as a rattlesnake skin stripped from the meat and stretched and tacked to a barn wall. Every bit as stationary, and every bit as false to the original thing. Flat and still and harmless. Bear recognized that all writing memorializes a momentary line of thought as if it were final.”

    • Haley Nahman

      WHOA.

    • Natasha

      I’ve literally been agonizing over this for the past couple of weeks! I’m a natural writer, I love words and putting down my thoughts. But lately, as I’ve been navigating the worst time of my life (terminal sickness of a loved one), I was surprised to find I didn’t have the urge to write about it. I realized it was because of exactly this^ – I didn’t want to fix these feelings in place. I instinctively wanted to keep these feelings free – free to arrive, free to change, free to leave.

      So thanks for the quote! It made me feel seen.

  • Lily

    Haley! I love this. I was just talking to my sister about how hard it is to be satisfied in the present, and to question what you’re doing constantly – I’ll start with these suggestions. Thank you!

  • Such a good post. Thanks <3 It's all the same fucking day, man

  • Michaela Williams

    This really hit home for me today. Two thumbs up.

  • Gabriela S. Padilha

    Great post! Putting this in practice right now. http://www.alemdolookdodia.com

  • Claire

    Haley, this was absolutely perfect. I enjoyed it so much and it made me think of this other gem of an article I recently read: http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/07/ask-polly-advice-lessons.html

  • Shannon

    Man, this feels so eerily timely. I’ve been feeling restless lately and a bit sad that career prospects haven’t worked out the way I wanted them to. I keep looking at travel blogs and bloggers and reading eat, pray, love; wishing I could be that person. I realized I could and have created a savings plan that will allow me the freedom to do a 2 month eat, pray, love journey my damn self because the future is now and now is the future.

    Also, shout out to your friend. I grew up on Janis because my father loved her and watching that documentary was such a great way to learn more about her. It made me incredibly sad about her short life but, also grateful she was able to share her gifts while she could.

    • Haley Nahman

      Happy for you!!!

  • “Start working on a project or dump it forever.” This is a great one.

  • camila

    haley! i love you so much!

    • Haley Nahman

      !! love you back!

  • Alessia

    the first and the last one. sigh

  • kristina

    I love your articles, Haley! This one is so helpful. I read your 6 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Working before I started my first full-time job last Monday (real life!) and it really helped me navigating (literally and mentally) my first week.

  • Sadhbh

    Thank you for this, Haley.

  • Natasha

    Wow. This >

    “Remember the moment you realized your life was happening? That, actually, your life was the things you were doing every day and the things you were thinking and feeling and all of it wasn’t some preamble to your actual life?”

    It happened to me late last year. It was a stomach-dropping, disorienting, but kind of exciting moment too. I loved this article!

  • Jorah Griffin

    So so so good.

  • Emily

    How do I stop obsessing about stupid things I’ve said or done in the past? It’s not like I can change the outcome of the situation, but every time I have nothing to think about, my brain is like “hey remember that one time you embarrassed yourself? Let’s go over that again.” Any suggestions other than, like, stop?

  • I’ve really been internalizing the whole “living in the now” phenomenon as some what of a back to school resolution. There is an amazing book (I’ve yet to read but heard great things!) called The Power of Now. My friend swears it’s changed her life. So if you’re a philosophical junkie you would probably devour it.

  • “Remember the moment you realized your life was happening? That, actually, your life was the things you were doing every day and the things you were thinking and feeling and all of it wasn’t some preamble to your actual life?”

    “Maybe we have to move forward not because we’re sure it’s right, but because we’re willing to find out for ourselves.”

    HAYLEEEEEYYY!!!
    Wow. I feel like you’ve maybe been inside my head here in 2016, the year of realizing stuff.