What is your favourite kind of sandwich? Me, I used to love these beautiful works of deli art found in the winding backstreets of Florence, Italy back when I used to live there. Hefty loaves of fresh ciabatta caressed their precious cargo in between, holding the likes of mozzarella, glistening white as a blushing bride’s dress, dancing alongside freshly sliced salami, sweating their oils out into the fragrant air. These are the sandwiches of my past, now only the sandwiches of my dreams.
But the times, they are a-changin’. Sandwiches of today still serve their purpose as an expedient yet delightful meal, even more so given today’s fast paced environment and our busier lives, though they fare less great when it comes to our modern day diets. Gluten allergies and awareness has painted bread suddenly with a large scarlet A, turning the once beloved staple into something of a social outcast. I’ve experienced this firsthand myself, having once counted bread as a Top Five Foods I couldn’t live without, suddenly I find myself shunning its very existence after delving into the rabbit hole of my gut issues. Now it’s bye-bye to my beloved, perhaps one day we will meet again (though this time through illicit affairs only, when my willpower has been whittled away).
But it has never been about the bread though, has it? What great sandwich does not truly lean upon its center components, the main filling that ultimately defines its greatness? Even peanut butter and jelly, that quintessential classic with minimalist qualities still requires a degree of spread to be able to call itself a sandwich. Otherwise, two pieces of bread would be just that – bread – empty and incomplete.
Now let us imagine Time as a sandwich, with the Past and the Future acting as bookends (our bread, if you will) holding in the scrumptiously full Present (a filling that’s just bursting at the seams) in between them. We’ve all heard the saying many times before, from our mothers, to our teachers, to our little cousin’s Tumblr feed: Live in the moment, Be in the present, Right here is where you want to be! Like any piece of good advice that would benefit us greatly and we should probably listen to, this little ditty goes in one ear and out the other. What does it even mean, anyways? Why do we need to struggle so hard to just be present?
Well if we are comparing the present to its counterparts the past and the future, it would be easier to compare what the present is not: exciting, that’s what. There just aren’t as many strong emotions attached to time in its present form, not when you compare it to the doozy of emotional storms stirred up by the past or the future. We can all relate to a situation when just the memory of some event popping into our heads is enough to change our mood, whether it be the remembrance of someone who wronged us, or the time someone helped us. What about when you are in a fight with your significant other, and they remind you of the good times you’ve enjoyed together in the past? Suddenly you are brought back to those memories and feeling those same emotions, never mind if the two of you in the present are far from the same place of happiness in real life.
Fantasies about the future create just as strong of a reaction within us as well. Events in the life will come along, but we never have the patience to wait for anything to actually happen to us fully, before we are off speculating about what possible outcomes each new situation can unfold. More oftentimes than not, we imagine the worst possible consequences towards which we then have real bodily reactions to – think panic attacks, anxiety and stress. The future has not yet happened, these illusions are just that, illusions, yet we are already reacting as if the worst possible situation has already occurred.
FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
In releasing our minds to wander in either the past or the future, what we allow for is the playing of emotional games. Our minds crave for stimulation, and whether that comes in the form of harm or good it does not differentiate. Give me something to react to, is the mind’s mantra, and it will seek this out in the two easiest places it knows how – by jumping back into the sea of our memories, or diving forwards into our unrealized fears and desires. Both of these arenas are pitfalls to maintaining the balanced equilibrium of one’s mind, far away from the place of true peace and happiness. And where can you find that? You guessed it: Right here in the present.
If the Past and the Future are acting as the bread in holding up this Time sandwich, then the Present is the meaty middle. It holds the bulk of the flavour, the lion’s share of what gives this sandwich its personality. In short, without the present, the two corresponding pieces would fall right off, lose their identity as a whole, and drop out of importance. They are simply the garnish, here only for structural support. And that is how you should be thinking about your past and future – they exist, sure, but they are of no high importance. For neither will enhance your life for the better – you cannot change the past because it is gone, let it go; you cannot live in the future because it is not yet here, do not waste time imagining things that are out of your control.
You hold the reins in your present however; whatever you didn’t like yesterday you can change, whatever you did like you can do it again. The present is where you paint your masterpiece, do your work to either better yourself or for the betterment of mankind. The present is where the magic happens, but it is not where the easy high of emotional stimulation occurs. The present demands work, and work is oftentimes unglamorous, repetitive, or even sometimes downright boring. Don’t give in to those times, because one day in the future those moments of monotonous trudging will be remembered as golden times on this meaningful journey, when you are sitting in the reality of a future that you could have only dreamed of in the past.
Be in the present because it is the only moment we will truly ever possess, and it is in this moment that we have all that we will ever need.
Author’s Note: Hello friends, it is way past January 10th, the date I claimed I would be back with new material but life does not always work out with all your T’s crossed and I’s dotted. I am shifting my priorities right now, changing direction from the work I was doing before (novel writing) and jumping in feet first into a whole new project (hello start-up world, why you so confusing…). Needless to say I am trying to figure my own stuff out one day at a time, and for the time being it means I am not always diligent in keeping to my own deadlines. This is something I make a priority to work on, and in the following weeks hopefully you will see some improvement in terms of my consistency – but if you don’t, feel free to call me out on it, I know when I am being bad and deserve a stern word or two. Anyways, happy new year all, and happy reading! New article out again next week (I say Wednesday but let’s be real…when have I actually stuck to that week on week…well improvements come slow I say!) Happy reading 🙂