My friend Alicia and I used to meet for yoga a few times a week. We loved the strenuous workout, the relaxation… okay, mostly the strenuous workout. We were actresses in our forties and needed to stay fit. We were competitive, too, with the mindsets of our younger, more limber selves — a competition you can never win in yoga, by the way.
It didn’t matter how often the teacher said, “Every body is different; don’t compare yourselves to others,” I’d still end up envying some chick who was doing a hand stand while the rest of us were in child’s pose. Showoff!
One day after a workout, Alicia looked troubled.
She told me she’d found a photo of herself from twenty years ago, standing on the beach in Australia. After college she traveled the world, working odd jobs and having a grand adventure. But the whole time she was abroad, she obsessed about her body and weight. This shocked me, because Alicia is tall, naturally thin and perfectly proportioned. Alicia was troubled because the photo brought back how self-critical and miserable she was at the time. “I looked at the picture. I was so young and pretty. What on earth did I have to complain about?!”
I went home and found an old scrapbook.
I began flipping through forgotten photos from my post-college days. I was so young and marketable. I was even cute! And yet, like Alicia, I’d spent so much time obsessing about what was wrong with me.
As Viktor Frankl said, “Live as if you were living already for the second time, and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”
This doesn’t just apply to big moral choices you must make.
This may just be the choice to be happy and appreciate your breath.
There’s a line from the play “Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder, that I have never forgotten. The main character, Emily, dies, but gets to go back and live through one day. As the rest of her family stumbles about their business, she is bursting with wonder:
EMILY: Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?
STAGE MANAGER: No. The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.
Learn from your past.
Photobomb yourself. Find a picture of yourself from the past (at least five years ago; preferably 10 or 15). Whom do you see? What occupied your time and heart? Write to him/her. What do you need to forgive? Now write as if you were that past self, to your present self. What warning or encouragement does your past self give you?
Now, bring God into the picture. What would he tell you, from his position in eternity? Let God speak.
Live as a poet or a saint and realize life while you live it. Every, every minute.