I never really understood the meaning of “living in the moment” or the necessity it holds until I read “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. It’s a simple play that follows an ordinary girl living in an ordinary town. She grows up, falls in love and gets married. The entire play seems so typical and conventional until the third and final act comes along.
The girl, Emily, dies in childbirth and is laid to rest among the other dead souls of the town in a cemetery. The dead souls are all indifferent to their past lives, but Emily refuses to let go. With the permission of the stage manager, but against the warnings of the other souls, Emily decides to relive part of her earthly life. She returns to the day she turned 12, an occasion that should be happy, yet she is instantly filled with pain and agony. Emily recognizes all the beauty around her that she always took for granted and can’t believe that she never realized how precious her life was until it was too late.
One of the most striking and haunting lines of the whole play occurs when Emily is brought to tears and asks the stage manager, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — every, every minute?” To which the stage manager replies, “No. The saints and poets, maybe — they do some.” For me, the entire play, but specifically this line came as a huge wake up call. I realized that life is not about amounting as many happy moments as we can, despite popular belief. No. Life is about learning to cherish every moment granted to us, especially the sorrowful or ordinary ones because each moment that passes us by holds eternal weight.
With this realization, it has been my goal to find ways to help me cherish life and all of its many moments. Clearly, that is a pretty big undertaking, but what's the harm in trying? So I'd like to share a few things that may be of help for anyone wanting to appreciate life more fully.
1. Find the humor in life.
“Humor is the spiciest condiment in the feast of existence. Laugh at your mistakes but learn from them, joke over your troubles but gather strength from them, make a jest of your difficulties but overcome them.” ― L. M. Montgomery
Lately I've noticed that in situations that go awry it's so much more productive to laugh rather than being stressed about them.
2. Don't let yourself be bogged down by the mistakes you make.
“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” ―L. M. Montgomery, "Anne of Avonlea"
I think this quote perfectly sums up my point so there's really not much more to add other than the fact that L. M. Montgomery is my literary idol.
3. While running through your daily routine, stop and appreciate the beauty in and around you.
“Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” ― L. M. Montgomery, "Anne of Green Gables"
It so easy to get caught up in a daily routine and feel that everyday actions such as driving to work in the morning are mundane and monotonous. In those moments we must remind ourselves that we are surrounded by the beauty of God's creation and we ourselves are apart of that.
4. Seek joy in the midst of suffering.
“She will love deeply, she will suffer terribly, she will have glorious moments to compensate.” ― L. M. Montgomery, "Emily of New Moon"
Suffering is unavoidable. It is part of the human experience. Though painful and terrifying, it is the very thing that unites us to others and leads us to heaven. Beautiful things are made from our suffering, and for that reason, we should willingly accept it and work towards finding the joy in it.
5. Carpe Diem.
"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so... get on your way!" — Dr. Seuss
How often do we tell ourselves that we will call our friend later, or start eating healthy tomorrow, or accomplish that life long dream next year and never actually do it? Well for me, it happens a lot. It seems that we are always putting things off because we tell ourselves that we have time. Time has a way of slipping away from us quite slyly though, and before we know it, our time is out. So, go seize the day before its too late.
6. Reflect on your day through journaling.
"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory." — Dr. Seuss
When I was little I used to journal a lot, but in recent years Ive fallen out of that habit. Now I'm trying to get back into it. Honestly, its been really great. Writing in my journal before I got to bed helps me recall the ups and downs of my day and work through them to figure out what I learned and what I could take away from my experiences.