by Monica A. Ross, LPC
I posted this past week on my Facebook page a link to 60 deep questions. Because it’s the holidays and because I’m single with no partner, no children, no pets, no plants, and with time on my hands other than the occasional pop in at a friend or family member’s house—I’ve had time to think and reflect.
So I did the 60 deep question quiz myself. Of course I did. I mean, I wouldn’t have gone into this field if I didn’t eat this type of stuff up, right? The very first question is 1. How am I living outside of my integrity and out-of-alignment with my values? love the topic of values and have posted elsewhere about it.
What I noticed in going through the exercise myself is that at times I have competing values. For example, on the one hand I value creativity, freedom, movement, expression, change, growth, newness, variety, difference, and risk. On the other hand I also value routine, restriction, stillness, refrain, sameness, similarity, security, and certainty.
Who can’t relate? And what is a person to do with these competing values or interests? In a way it feels like competing parts of ourselves vying for attention. Any mention of the word “parts” in psychology makes me think of Internal Family Systems or IFS, a form of therapy developed by Richard Schwartz.
I haven’t had specific training in IFS myself, so I can’t speak too much about it here other than to say that it’s another modality of therapy that addresses the concept that there are different and sometimes competing parts of ourselves.
A place where the topic of competing parts comes up is the difference between the philosophies of “live for today” and “save for tomorrow.” There are people who live for today in order to avoid an unhappy future.
Those are the people who invest in their education at an early age, or marry and have children or travel young, etc. Then there are those who skimp and save for retirement, who postpone travel, postpone vacationing in order to save for that house.
Then there are those in midlife who feel as though they have maybe wasted time in that they didn’t get their education at a young age, or they weren’t able to find someone to marry, or they weren’t able to travel or have children young, or save for that house due to mitigating circumstances.
Maybe they married someone who they thought was the wrong person. They may have delayed having kids, and then sometime in later midlife there is this urge to catch up in some way and right what they may perceive to be the wrongs.
Then there are those who are much older and at the later stages of life who reflect back on their lives and they may experience some regret at not having had kids at all, or at not coming out of the closet at an earlier age, or of having never gotten an education, or whatever that thing is for them that they just were never able to do.
Sometimes at these later ages it’s still possible to go back to school or change careers or what have you, and other times there is no time left for that due to biological factors or financial factors or for health reasons or some such thing.
And so I guess I would say sure, it is important to live in the moment and do that thing you want to do today. Don’t waste time. That’s the lesson learned, right? YOLO (you only live once). Because yes, life is fleeting. It’s like the koan I posted the other day...grab the strawberry.
But it’s also important to hedge our bets and to save for a house or retirement, for example, if possible.
It’s kind of like developing a diversified portfolio. I’ve said elsewhere math isn’t my best subject nor finances, so I won’t dip into that territory too far—only to say that I like looking at things from the perspective of analogies and metaphors.
Yes, live for today. And yes, save for tomorrow.
We make the best choices we can at the time with the level of consciousness and awareness we have in the moment. So, there is no ultimate right or wrong approach at any given moment. And sometimes it’s hard to evaluate things without hindsight, which would later tell us what our choices today led to.
People sometimes, I think, get caught up today in avoiding future unhappiness and it robs them of their present happiness. But people also get so wrapped up in present happiness that they don’t set themselves up for future comfort or perhaps they just leave that part to chance.
Our values change. Circumstances change. People change. And with all of these floating and drifting variables it’s hard to get a lock on things in the present moment or even begin to predict how it will all pan out in the future.
My advice to myself and the message I hope to convey to others is to relax in the moment at least. Do your best. Think, plan, make as good a choice as possible for today sure, but also in a way surrender to the process or journey which is often unpredictable, sometimes messy, sometimes surprising, and ultimately meant to be lived out with a sense of curiosity and questioning perhaps.
Sometimes there is no one right way of doing things in order to avoid suffering—either present or future. But it seems to be something so many chase after and get caught up in worrying about. Why not just make the decision to relax and not sweat the small stuff? “It’s all small stuff,” the saying goes. Another friend of mine says ABC or “Always be chill.” Seems like a good approach to me.