A few nights ago, on behalf of my Rotary Club, I volunteered at our town festival.
And for five hours, I wanted it to be over.
The festival is a wonderful annual event that includes carnival rides, food vendors, live music and thousands of people who show up just to have a good time.
And yet, I couldn’t wait for my volunteer time to be up.
You see, I was a marshall and my job was to stand guard at one of the entrances telling people they couldn’t bring in their pets, they had to put their shirts back on, and they could either chug their beer or pour it out. Most people were happy to adhere to the these requirements. One kid, however, gave me the finger when I told him he couldn’t ride his skateboard. And another alcohol-fueled adult mocked me because I told him to enter through the proper gate. I call that Bud-dummer.
So for five hours, I not only wished I was back home but wished that nobody would approach me with a pet, a beer or without a shirt (of course that last rule only applied to the guys).
I have a tendency to wish time away. I wish away minutes, hours and sometimes days. And unfortunately, relationships get lost in the wishing.
If I’m not careful, I may unintentionally wish my life away.
It’s not that I want time to move too quickly or that I want my life to be over. It’s that I have a bad habit of wishing that uncomfortable experiences would be over.
For instance, I had my teeth cleaned last week. For the entire hour I wished for the metal pickfest to be finished. While I do have cleaner and most assuredly thinner teeth due to the incessant scraping, that particular hour of my life is gone and I regret that I spent most of if it, well, wishing it away.
But we all do this, don’t we?
We say “I can’t wait for the weekend.”
“I wish this meeting was over.”
“I hope this waxing procedure doesn’t last too long.” (OK, maybe that one is just me)
Author Eckhart Tolle explains that when we do this, we are mentally wanting to be there when we’re really here. In other words, we are not happy with our present existence so we’re spending mental energy wishing to be somewhere else. But, here is where we are and where we need to be – because it is the only moment in which we can really live.
I wonder what would happen if we focused on the true value of any moment even when it’s not going so well? It’s very hard to do but when we do, I believe our circumstances change because we are truly present to the potential right in front of us.
At our town festival, several people walked past me and thanked me for volunteering and for the fun evening they had. That was a rich human connection.
The dental hygienist was telling me about her summer plans over the sound of the metal pick scraping my teeth. That was another rich human connection.
In each situation, if I had focused on the value of the relationships and the potential for deeper connections, perhaps I would have paid less attention to how uncomfortable I was. Perhaps I wasn’t even that uncomfortable but my desire to be somewhere else convinced me that it was.
Clearly, it’s dangerous to wish our time away because one day, we’ll run out of wishes.
Our goal should be to start seeing the beauty and richness of every moment.
I can’t wait until my next uncomfortable situation to try this out. Oops.