Thirty-three years ago, I sat at the edge of my front yard, an elevated plot of land at the end of a cul-de-sac on which sat a dumpy little tract home. A large dirt hole marked the transition from dying lawn to hillside where a sprinkler line unleashed its wrath one day and let loose with an angry flow of water. That seemingly minor event created an exciting backdrop for many G.I. Joe battles that were fought against the dastardly, annoyingly-voiced Cobra. Scaling dirt walls of this hidden base to either fend off or assault the other side, my trusted 3.75 inch plastic companions did their best to entertain me day in and day out. They facilitated the demise of my worries of the future or regrets of the past and turned the days of being poor and lonely into sagas of adventure and prosperity. Snake Eyes, Duke, Flint, Destro, Cobra Commander, and others shaped what would be some of my fondest memories.
Growing up was a mix of over stimulation and disappointment. My parents divorced when I was three and my dad would take us on various weekends. If he did not have a hang-over or some other priority over us, we would spend time being spoiled for a day or two and return home to regular life, hopeful that the next meal would be soon. I do understand want versus need but sometimes the line between the two blur for me and when I take the time to reflect on that line and redraw it, I feel a bit ashamed. I had plenty of toys from the periodic excursions with dad, whom I love very much by the way, God rest his soul, but real life consisted of being hungry more often than was normal. Dad had his demons as we all do and I can’t fault him for one second for anything that I felt was particularly difficult to deal with. Life is just life and we all develop ways to deal with things differently.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. At no point in my life, for extended periods at least, have I told myself that everything should just freeze right here because this is as good as it gets. And yet, I pine for the days of sitting in the dirt, a little hungry, playing with plastic toys all alone. I want this over sitting in my office, belly full in a comfortable chair surrounded by cool pictures and statues. Why is that? Why would I trade what many people can only dream of having for what most would consider very little? I think I know and I am doing everything I can to recapture those G.I. Joe days without having to slip back into the old ragged off-brand shoes of my youth. Simply put, it is time to live in the moment. It’s time to embrace this moment here, right now in which I am typing on a keyboard and sharing that which is flowing into my mind.
We humans have been blessed or cursed with the ability to examine our past and contemplate our future. I do this so much sometimes that I forget the present. It is okay to reflect on days gone by and you should absolutely look to what is next, but not at the expense of now. No one wants to step off a curb into the street only to be hit by a car. Unfortunately the more now gets cut out of the picture, the less of tomorrow and yesterday there are to think about. The days I pine for are the ones where I was right there in the now. As a kid, there are lots of these days and they are amazing. We enjoy them so much because we don’t compare them to days gone by or wonder what future days will be like. We just play, we create, we imagine and we live. The irony is that we work so hard over the years to train ourselves to focus on past or future and erase our childlike sense of wonder and excitement for right now.
For those of you out there who don’t do this, I envy and could learn something from you. Experiencing life and letting it all just happen. Whatever that magic potion is, I want some of it. Until then though, I am going to start taking steps to make my own. The following is a list of ways I am going to change my outlook and become a kid again. This is my recipe for becoming Peter Pan.
Similar to, but not quite the same as exercise now, now exercises are those that bring you back to now. Unlike your mind, your body does not have the ability to think about what things used to be like or what it is going to feel like in five years. We impart those things on our bodies and create stress and may anthropomorphize them so that we think are bodies are doing it, but our bodies live in the now. Given that fact, when you find yourself starting to stray too far into the land of before or the land to come; do something physical to break that state.
Go grab some water or coffee
Stand up and stretch for a few minutes at your desk
Sing a song
Untie a knot
In other words, force yourself into something that is happening now.
Another way to come back to now is to organize your thoughts. Yes, there may be reflection on past events or what you have to complete in the future, but the effort is about organizing your current state. When you walk into your closet and it is a mess, you don’t ponder your career path in the next few years or look back at the good or bad times of your most recent relationship. You take the shoes and put them in the right spots, hang and fold the clothes and put everything where it needs to be now to be ready for later. Your focus is on now.
Create a to-do list
Start a project plan
Organize everything currently in the queue or on your plate by priority
Arrange the knick-knacks in your office.
As childish as it may sound, it is; play like a kid again. Grab a toy and make believe. Play a video game, write a story, or create something. Creativity is the most effective antidote to being stuck outside the now. Creativity happens smack-dab in the now. It requires active engagement of current thoughts to create and discover something new. Yes, you may draw from past experience or be inspired by what could be, but creativity is the magic in your mind that is going on right this second. Don’t be embarrassed by it or try to hide from it. Grab it and play like you did as a kid! Yo Joe!!