We all do this, each in our own way. I've seen women so regretful about the past that they never accept God's access to peace in their present lives. I've seen women grasp after a past spiritual "high," and spend their lives planning the next spiritual adventure (retreat, camp, missions trip, etc.) while neglecting the subtle, unchanging presence of God in their current lives.
Others live in the future. I've seen children wish for the freedom of adulthood (if they only knew!), singles daydream about their future marriages, mothers long for some distant stage of motherhood with fewer demands and less exhaustion, others plan for their dream career, or mentally move on to the next task before the present one is even finished. The list goes on. We never truly plug in. We never put down roots. We never truly live NOW.
We don't root ourselves in our current relationships.
I have a habit of holding conversations with myself in my head (or making up conversations for the characters in my latest fiction story). My lips move, but no sound comes, and I go through the motions of my work while my mind is fixed somewhere else.
I might be chatting pleasantly with one of my sisters, and then, when a normal, temporary lull occurs in the conversation, I unconsciously slip into one of my imaginary conversations.
One of my sisters pokes gentle fun at me.
"So who are you talking to this time?" she asks.
"Huh?" I wake from my reverie, and flush with embarrassment. At a time when I should have been giving a real person my undivided attention, I was paying attention to me.
We don't engage in the present.
When I was training at the pregnancy center to be a client advocate, I learned the elements of good listening. One of the most important rules was this:
Don't start planning your response to the client before she has finished speaking. Listen to what she is saying right now.
This holds a lot of truth, because you cannot respond appropriately to her needs if you have not first given her words your full attention. The present holds the key to the future.
We live for the next great experience.
"You can't live your life going from peak to peak," my mother told me, during one of my teenage rants that life was boring and I needed to fulfill some great purpose. "Life isn't all mountaintop experiences. Learn to find satisfaction in the mundane, every-day things, and enjoy life as it comes."
That's stupid, I thought. How can cleaning the bathroom be fulfilling?
It took me a long time to realize that the cleanliness of the bathroom (my chore area) was a metaphor for my life. Everything I did or didn't do now was training for my future life. Would I miss as much in the future as I did in the present, because I was longing for something more?
Please, WAKE UP!
You get one life to live. Don't spend it wishing you were somewhere else, someone else, doing something else. There is no "else." There is only now, today, this moment. It is a gift, and we will give an account someday for how we have used it (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). Don't waste it.
There is a wonderful God to know better, people to develop relationships with, mundane tasks that reveal your character and influence your future, and a present to cherish.
How will you spend your life, today?
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.