Sunday marked two months until Isaiah and I ring the final bell and officially close our time of service here in Paraguay. We are keeping ourselves busy (at least through this month) with projects and that has really helped me stay in the present instead of getting too planny about the future.
One of my projects was to record myself reading some books in English for our friend the English teacher to use for herself and with her classes. It’s helpful to follow along in the books while listening to a native English speaker since pronunciation in English is anything but intuitive. For those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised that I loved the sound of that project and got to it right away.
I recorded about 10 kids books which were simple and short. Then I recorded two longer books that Elizabeth, the English teacher, was gifted by a former volunteer. They were both written by Dr. Spencer Johnson. One was called “Who Moved My Cheese?” and focused on how we adapt to change. The point was, change is inevitable and we just have to be flexible and adaptable if we want to be happy.
The second book was called “The Present” and the point of this one was, you guessed it, living in the here and now. Although I didn’t find the information in the book anything too amazing or different, and in fact found my mind drifting to other things as I read (and recorded) words about the importance of focusing only on the task at hand, it was still a good reminder of how crucial it is to avoid living in (dwelling, regretting, missing, longing for) the past or living in (dreaming, planning, wishing, hoping for) the future.
Being married to Isaiah and living Paraguay have both helped me tremendously in staying in the moment. However, it’s still a struggle for me because I get so excited for the next thing and can hardly remember to soak up the great stuff that is happening (or could be happening if I stopped thinking about the future) right now.
One part I especially liked about that second book was their tripod approach. In addition to committing to living fully in the present, we also must learn from the past, and plan for the future. That made me feel so much better to have the book validate a place for both our pasts and our future plans. The tricky part is striking that precious balance in learning from the past and then jumping back to the present, so that your present can be better.
And planning for the future, but then getting back to the now and noticing all the great things already at our fingertips.
With only two months of our service left, I’m concentrating on that triple threat approach: past, present, and future. (Is someone buying me a past/present/future ring? That could surely serve as a gorgeous reminder, eh?)
I’m learning from the past. Boy has Paraguay whittled some good lessons over on me. I’m staying in the present by enjoying Paraguay and teaching classes and hugging the kids at the comedor and planning stuff with Paraguayan and volunteer friends. And we’re planning for the future. We’re setting up insurance for ourselves for after we’re out of the wonderful umbrella of Peace Corps’ full insurance. We’re dreaming of the places we might want to visit come August as we slowly and freely travel our way north from here. And we’re giving thought to what part of the States could make a great next home for us and what we might like to do for work once we get there.
Sometimes the tripod teeters to one side or the other, and such is life. But there does seem to be something to that whole idea of cherishing the day, the hour, the minute I’m currently in without distractions or worries. I guess finding that balance isn’t just the goal for our remaining two months, but a goal for a happy, calm, and content life.
Any words of wisdom out there? How do you find balance? Or others for whom living in the moment isn’t a natural thing? What are your stories about making a big decision or preparing for a big move? We’d love to hear ’em.