Hard as it may be to believe (unless, of course, you know me), there was a time when I was consumed by ambition.
My thoughts focused on the future. On what I would create. What I would become.
Who I would be.
And what it would take to win the prize and get from where I was — another aspiring writer — to the top of the word-slinging trade.
No matter my whereabouts, I wasn’t really in that place or time at all.
Sure, my body might have been eating dinner in my San Fernando Valley apartment. But my mind was envisioning a dinner down the line. A banquet, maybe, where I sat at the head table while other writers honored me. Or maybe another kind of meal, more intimate. Lit only by candles, at a small but breathtakingly beautiful place in Rome, where I’d never been.
Even when I was being practical I still was well outside the “now,” hearing the words I was going to write as soon as I had the chance race into my brain and scatter any conversation around me to hills beyond my awareness.
There were, in fact, times when the next words of my characters, and my own hopes and ambitions that fueled them, spiraled so far out of my control that I thought I’d never find my way back to the table.
Who says being a dreamer is easy?
But as I got older and achieved pretty much everything I’d wanted to, I realized that constantly thinking about tomorrow was destroying my today. How could I enjoy anything as it happened when I already was anticipating what was going to occur next?
I felt empty.
Like a fake human being so lost that every night I found myself immersed in nightmares in which, no matter what I did, how hard I tried, it was impossible for me to find my way.
Luckily, it was at this time in my life that I discovered the Wind of Mystery. I found that if I talked, out loud, to the Wind and the universe behind it, I would get answers to the questions I asked. As soon as I recognized that the now was all I really had — all anyone really has because if you’re not fully aware of and deeply embedded in each moment as you live it you might as well not be living at all — wham! — everything changed.
I was whole.
Since the time I first heard the Wind I’ve approached my life with a sense of wonder that boils down to, “Whatever happens now is golden because it’s unique. Each moment can only be experienced once and then it’s gone forever. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly … it’s all special, and it all ends, so I’ve got to enjoy it while I can.”
It’s relatively easy to get into totally experiencing moments that obviously are special. Births. Deaths. Job promotions. Firings. Victories and defeats of all kinds.
But I like a challenge, which is why, in both my life and this very space where I write each week, I make sure I immerse myself in the “illuminated ordinary.” In other words, the little things.
One of the little things that means so much to me is the moment when I wake up each morning. I become aware of the physical sensations in my body. The sheets against my back, blankets on my chest. The pillow behind my head. The temperature and scent in the room.
And the wonderful warmth of my wife, Gwen the Beautiful, lying sleeping beside me.
This morning I got lucky. I got to see and hear and smell and feel more than usual.
This morning I turned to look at Gwen, as I always do, and I was flooded with the sensation of every other time I’ve gazed at her in bed. I reached out and caught memory after memory of all we’ve done together. All we’ve been through for better and for worse. In sickness and in health.
I grabbed every one of those past moments and held them close in the present. I saw her perfect, sleeping face 15 years ago. Ten. Five. Today.
And I thought of the future we’d set out to achieve on that first morning, and how that morning had led to this one.
We’re getting old together, I thought. Just as we hoped.
Gwen awoke, looked at me, puzzled. “What …?” she said.
“We win,” I replied.
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer . He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Originally published October 30, 2009