Column: The value of the present
Last week, I took a trip with my son to a swim meet out of town. We left the house early in the pouring rain. I made up my mind we were going to have an important talk about manhood at some point along the journey – as Robert Frost writes – either going out or coming back.
We traveled roads I had passed many times as a swimmer and coach. With each passing mile, I simply became flooded by memories.
I mentioned to Ben we should eat at a restaurant where I had eaten with swim kids and parents, told him about a few landmarks as we passed them, and we talked a lot. As we reached an important mile marker, I asked him if he wanted me to drive him past my grandparent’s old home. I had not been there in years and was eager to show him a place where I spent so much valuable time when I was his age. So, we agreed we would go there on the way home.
We also proceeded to have "the talk" about the differences between men and women, how babies are formed, and how men should honor and respect women for many reasons. I am glad "Candid Camera" was not present in the Honda because I’m sure I would have gotten some laughs explaining a few of the details. Ben had great questions and in a little under an hour, the major concepts of the birds and the bees had been addressed appropriately. It was time. He’s becoming a young man.
In the process of maturing my son, memories were just washing over me. I found myself watching the old movies of my life as we journeyed to the meet. We arrived at the pool and I thought about some races I had in the water there. I remembered when the Granite Falls Swim Team won its first championship as The Sharks there a little over a decade ago. I remembered what it felt like to swim with many of the friends I still hold close. I thought about the kids I have had the opportunity to coach since beginning that phase of my life in 1989. Yet, I brought myself back to the present and really enjoyed watching the kids at the meet. And I realize I am more passionate about coaching after 25 years than I was to begin with. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be anyway?
If I have to assess myself, I know I am more of a rearview mirror kind of person. I spend a lot of time looking back. I am sure part of the behavior stems from the historian in me. Yet, this summer I have been particularly focusing on being in tune with the present moments. Watching my kids swim gives me great joy. Seeing kids achieve and accomplish things they work toward is, and always has been, incredibly rewarding.
The past is always there. It is prologue. I tend to get wrapped up in the past on occasion. Sometimes, it even hurts. To live in the present, we must make a pact with the past. We have to learn to leave some things behind. All summer, my daughter has been singing the hit song "Let it Go" from the movie “Frozen.” I have gotten to the point where I have been able to let some things go. More importantly, I have decided things from the past can no longer defeat me. They are the past and part of me, but they may not be part of my future faculties.
The philosopher Will Durant spoke a lot about the past. He said, “The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time.” I understand this. My past is like a bubble ready to burst into a fitful present. There is nothing it can do to hold me back. My job each day is to do the very best I can do unencumbered by any weight or burden left over from the past.
In seeking the present, I have come to understand the great value in being available to help others. I have been seeking to use the gifts and talents at my disposal and find the true purpose of my being. If I seek the past too much, I will miss the present, and I do not want to miss it.
Durant provided some advice about seeking the present, “Forget mistakes. Forget failure. Forget every thing except what you are going to do now and do it. Today is your lucky day.”
I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in the value of the present. I have some things I need to do.