It seemed an easy enough thing—fill up the gas tank on Friday afternoon so I wouldn’t have to do it on Monday morning. And in all honesty that’s exactly what I meant to do. But as I was nearing the gas station in town, my favorite song came on the radio. I was so busy singing it that I drove right past.
I could have turned around—the Food Lion was right up ahead—but I didn’t do that, either. The song was still on, for one, and so I was still singing. And for another, I’d decided by then that none of it really mattered anyway. I had enough gas to get home and enough to get back out again, and I wouldn’t be driving my truck all weekend. Besides, it was Friday afternoon. Weekend time. I’d fill up later.
Later came this morning. Monday morning. Monday morning at 6:30. Monday morning at 6:30 in near total darkness and pouring rain. And as I stood there wet and shivering watching the dollars and gallons tick away, I discovered two things. One was that the very last thing anyone should have to do on a Monday morning is stop and get gas. The other was that Past Me had screwed Present Me yet again.
The sad thing is it wasn’t the first time that had happened. In fact, it happens quite a bit. Call it what I will—being an adult, not putting off for tomorrow what I could do today—it all sounds good in theory but tends to fall apart in practice. Because when it comes right down to it, I’m pretty much living for the now. That’s not a bad thing, really; most of the advice we get on how to live says the present is all that matters. The past is gone, so there’s nothing we can do about that. The future isn’t here, so there’s no use worrying about that. All we have then, and all we need, is this moment. This now.
So that’s what I’ve tried to do most of my life—live for this now. Be in the present. And you know, it often doesn’t work very well. I’ve also tried living in my past. That works even less.
This morning, in the middle of pumping gas and shivering and yawning, I realized what I’d been doing wrong all this time. Living in the present kind of sucks. Not right now, maybe. Not usually. But later. And most of the time.
Because none of us are really only one person, we’re actually three—there’s the person we were earlier, the person we are now, and the person who comes later. Where I screw up is that I tend to think more often about Present Me and not nearly often enough about Future Me. Which, to really confuse you, often makes Present Me really not like Past Me very much at all.
It’s confusing, carrying three people inside you. And yet that’s what we all do. No wonder we seem so tired and stressed all the time.
I’m big on the idea that the simpler we make our lives, the better off we’ll be. If we don’t have too much and don’t do too much and don’t want too much, chances are we’ll be much happier. I really believe that.
That’s why I’m going to think more of Future Billy. I’m going to try and do more now so he won’t have to do so much later. And I’m going to be more willing to put up with a little discomfort so he’ll be able to smile.
It’s perhaps the sincerest purpose we can have in this life—to live today with the intent of making tomorrow better.