Because of OCD, I spend most of my time worrying about various and sundry catastrophes – when I’ll die, whether my kids will survive childhood, the countless ways I might be destroying my marriage, financial disasters, losing my job, etc. These songs are the never-ending background music to my life. The other day I was asked to reflect on some major event/success/change from 2013 and to think about a goal for 2014.
The answer to both, for me was encapsulated in one simple word: survival.
I don’t mean that in an I-might-kill-myself sense, but just in the sense that any variation of thriving doesn’t seem realistic for me. I can’t remember a time in my life when I felt I was thriving for any prolonged period of time. (Let me add that I’m in about as good a mood as I have ever been in as I write this, so I’m not saying this from a place of despair.) Childhood, adolescence, college, young adulthood, marriage, parenthood, career growth, promotions, accolades…none of them have created an “ahhhhhhh” period for me. Each one has come with new kinds of angst and new ideas for how my world might fall apart at any moment.
Lately I’ve been pondering the one day at a time philosophy from various vantage points. Christianity says, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” Buddhism says, “Let go of desire and be present with whatever exists in the moment.” AA says, “One day at a time.” Judaism’s God, when asked what his name is, says, “I am”…meaning, to me at least, “I exist in the present and nowhere else. I am not ‘I was’ or ‘I will be” but ‘I AM.'”
It seems more and more foundational to me that embracing what the moment has to offer is a fundamentally meaningful way to live, no matter who you ask. Thinking of the future leaves one anxious. Thinking of the past leaves one nostalgic (unrealistic) or regretful. But a radical commitment to making the most of the moment at hand can be life-changing.
My OCD wants me to live in the “what ifs” of life, all of which are outside the moment. In the past 24 hours, I’ve heard stories of a man finding his wife and daughter murdered in their home and a story of a man throwing his toddler and himself off of a 52 story building in the wake of a nasty custody battle. My natural reaction to these sorts of stories is to begin wondering whether God exists, how he allows this sort of thing, and whether it will ever happen to me.
But in this moment, I have what I need. I have life, my family, things to enjoy (food, friends, a home, etc.). So I’m working on being radically committed to the moment at hand. I want to force myself back into the present when I start to wander out of it into the what if world. Will the greasy cheeseburger I want to eat kill me ten years earlier than I should’ve died, denying me the chance to know my grandchildren? Will the cigar I want to smoke kill me at age 45, leaving my children to resent me for smoking cigars in the first place? Will tending to my own needs despite knowing that I could be more generous with my time and energy lead me to a life of selfishness and isolation?
Who could possibly know?
But in this moment if these minor choices will lead me to embrace the day, to be more patient with my kids, to go to bed a bit more at peace, why not sink my teeth into them (pun intended) and let tomorrow’s troubles take care of themselves.
This isn’t a treatise on hedonism. It’s a treatise on taking my life back from the what if monsters. All of those what ifs may well happen…but they aren’t happening right now, so I might as well soak up what the moment/day has to offer – cherish it, enjoy it, embrace it, lean into it. The other alternative is to lose the moment by pondering all that might go wrong tomorrow. It won’t be easy; nothing is when OCD is an ever-present friend. But it’s worth trying – moment by moment, day by day.