The sun always shines. Sometimes the clouds cover it, but it is always there revealing things we would rather leave in the dark. What do we do with a day whose sun rises to reveal one doozey of a storm? A sun that rises on the evil along with the good? The criminals as well as the law followers? The hate-pushing extremists as well as the Democrats and Republicans? “Them” as well as me? What the light reveals can make the best of us want to go back to bed and wait until this mess is over. The phrases we tossed around pre-COVID—follow your dreams, live each day to the fullest—seem trite, or tone-deaf, or not applicable in the middle of a social hurricane. The opposite is true, though, if we want to harness the wind beating our umbrella.
When we wake up each morning not knowing what calamity the storm clouds have brought, we must have a different perspective of storm mode. It’s not just “baton down the hatches” or wait in the bunker until it passes. It’s piloting the Storm Tracker and flying into the eye to see what we can learn about our fears, our values, and our purpose. We need to verify the durability of our character in the gale-force winds.
What does it look like to live each day to the fullest, with everything we have, no matter the social climate? How does it take into account the past and the future?
In one instance it can question the arrival of tomorrow; either tomorrow isn’t coming, or it won’t be a very good one, so live today as if it’s your last. Dance, laugh, go to the beach, live it up, spend the money. You can’t take it with you. The past is the past, it can’t be changed, so just ignore it and move on. Survive the day. Hang on for the ride. Some people are dealt a better hand than others, so you be you and do what you gotta do.
Fact is, we cannot change the past. It’s done. But we can choose to view it as a treasure trove of fascinating lessons. We can learn from it. We can grow from it. We can understand how it shaped our current beliefs and behaviors and we can measure our progress from it. We can redeem it. The past is full of riches. Woe is the one who buries the gems of the past.
In another instance, we are fairly certain there will be a tomorrow. In fact, we’re so sure of it that we relish the thought of the many tomorrows to come with future dreams, future plans, future accomplishments. We take care of the responsibilities in front of us, but we endlessly build for all the future tomorrows of health and wealth. Tomorrow is always in our back pocket, it’s the perpetual assurance that another day is available full of time for that “thing” we are working for. And while we focus our intentions on how great tomorrow will be, we worry about the legacy we will leave behind. Will it have been good enough? Tomorrow is the drug of intention that clouds the view right in front of us.
We cannot predict our future as accurately as we’d like. We can plan for certain “what ifs” or “want tos” but when it gets right down to it, there is no guarantee our efforts will pay off. A year that started off with a strong economy and low unemployment is now in solid reverse in the midst of a global pandemic, civil unrest, economic downturn, and an impending presidential election. The future will happen, but to our anxiety we cannot fully control or predict it.
In a third instance, today is tucked neatly in balance between yesterday and tomorrow. The cliché’ “today is the tomorrow you were planning for yesterday,” is cutesy but appropriate.
Instead of waiting for the perfect tomorrow to live our best life, we can live today with the fullest of integrity, right here, right now, regardless what’s happening around us. We can be honest about the why’s of our decisions. We can be forthright with information. We can treat people with decency. We can be sincere about listening and understanding. We can stop waiting and procrastinating. We can be consistent with our words and actions in all situations, not just in those that suit us.
Today’s proper place between yesterday and tomorrow is the view from here. Here is where we can look back to see the steps of success and heartache travelled thus far. We can honor the past with braver decisions and wiser choices. Here is where we can look forward to see in the horizon the vast possibilities available to us. We can honor the future with those same brave decisions and wise choices, knowing the steps we take today will point us in a healthy direction.
But most importantly, the view from here is the intersection between what we’ve learned and what we will learn, between who we’ve become and who we will choose to become. Today is the when decisions we make are of tantamount importance. Today is when love is most effective. The homeless man is thirsty today. The single mom can’t pay her bills today. The neighbor is sick today. The refugee is in a cage today. What will we decide?
The sun always shines. Sometimes the clouds cover it, but it is always there revealing things I would rather leave in the dark. It reveals the hate in my heart, the apathy, the indifference, the depression, the selfishness, the procrastination, the fear, the anger.
When the sun rises to reveal one doozey of a storm, I can don the raingear to stand in this intersection of today. I can remember the God who chose me to be his. I can recall the countless times he has been faithful and kept his promises. I can choose to ask for peace and grace and forgiveness and healing. I can look for ways to help others. I can cling to the hope, rooted in trust, that this season, this world, isn’t the whole story. There’s more to come that will be bigger and better than my imagination can invent. I can choose to get to the basics of life in the middle of the storm. I can remember who I’m anchored to, remember whose holding me.
To watch the correlating podcast on this topic, go to the “Podcast Video Library” tab on my website to see the YouTube version of Episode 37, “Are You Living In the Past, Present, or Future,” by @TwoStepsAheadPodcast Highlighting the stuff we’ve stepped in so you don’t have to! Listen on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, iHeart, Stitcher) and watch weekly on public access TV in Santa Clarita, CA, Long Beach, CA and Pasadena, CA.
Tara Hoke Schiro is a Los Angeles based author, podcaster, blogger, and designer for Wear Your Character. All can be found at www.TaraSchiro.com