You’re Not in Limbo, You’re Living Right Now

by Sandy L on July 29, 2011

At some undetermined point in life once I was out of college I realized that I was perpetually in limbo.  Over the years, this had become my mental state of choice.  It was fueled by ambition and the desire to make a better life for myself.   In high school I was in limbo until I could get out on my own and not have to answer to any adults.  In fact, my fierce sense of independence made me wish my childhood away.  I couldn’t wait to be to the point where I could control my own destiny.  I always felt like an adult in a kid’s body, waiting for my body to catch up to my desired state.   It was  goal after goal and I was in limbo time after time until I could get to that next milestone. Once I’m fixated on a goal, it’s sometimes hard to focus on anything else til it’s met.

In college,  I also worked a lot.  I was in limbo until I could graduate and get a good paying job. I remember that I always felt like I could never afford the time or money to do anything fun.  The few times I did let loose were the times I still remember.  I remember a winter trip to a friend’s cabin, a day trip to block island or a couple of great camping trips with another outdoorsy buddy of mine.  I recall at one point I was fed up with having no social life so I decided that even though I was exhausted after my double shift, I’d head out to a bar with one of the waiters after work for the last hour they were open so I’d have some semblance of a life.  It did help.

Life is Happening all Around You

The fact is, that although it would be unsustainable to pull that kind of schedule indefinitely, I was living life all along.  There was life to be had in those study groups or in that lab where our equipment would break every time we were in the middle of an experiment.  There was life in observing how different people deal with challenges.  Some of us just trudge along, while others with hot tempers would throw their hard hat across the room.  I also got a big dose of my social needs met during my waitress shifts where I knew my regular customers by name.  If I hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t have met a body guard for the dalai lama, or found out how and why a person would become an undertaker for a living, or got my tutoring gig.

I am so much like my mom.  Babci tried to immigrate to America for 20 years before she finally got awarded her visa  to leave. She would apply ever year and every year she would get rejected.  She did not get married or date or do anything that would jeopardize her chances to leave.  She was fixated on that goal and she’d wait her whole life before changing it.  As a result, Babci got a very late start in life.  It didn’t change for the better until she was in her 60’s.   That’s sure a long time to wait to start living.

For many years, it was just about getting through the day for her.  I think some of the happiest days for her was when I was little.   When I was 16, I started frequenting a local fabric store and the women who ran it recognized me as the little girl my mom brought in with them.  They recalled in painstaking detail all the little outfits my mom used to sew for me.  I wish I had pictures of them.  One of the ladies had a favorite outfit that she described to me. It was a red wool and black velvet winter coat with a matching hat and gloves.   They said I was always dressed to the nines as a toddler. (At some point she started dressing me like a boy..short hair and boy clothes…probably out of practicality.  That stunk. I wish she could have kept me in cute dresses for a lot longer. It would have made childhood 1000x easier).  Babci still recalls those days of holding my little hand walking down the street to the market and wondering how on earth she’s going to be able to raise me to an adult at her age.   Fast forward 30 years and not only was she able to raise me, but now she has little grandchildren to bring her joy again.

Maybe it was having children that opened my eyes to living rather than waiting for that next milestone to occur.  Even now I have to stop saying things like “I can’t wait til my little one is potty trained.”  He is so adorable right now, why wish it away?  Thank god for my husband who reminds me on a regular basis that work and projects will still be there tomorrow because I still think I would be out there killing myself to get ahead if it weren’t for him. I would never get to that point of “enough” and totally miss out on living in the process.  It also scares me how fast time flies these days.  A year goes by in the blink of an eye it seems and I’m so afraid of missing it as it’s whizzing by.

So the next time you find yourself saying I can’t wait til:

  • I graduate high school
  • I get a job
  • I Pay off my debts
  • I Get a new job
  • I lose that weight
  • I find Mr. or Mrs. Right
  • I save up for a house
  • I pay off my house
  • I fix up my house
  • the kids are out of diapers
  • I save for college
  • the kids are out of the house
  • I can retire

Ask yourself, are you wishing your life away?  Everyone says life goes by in a flash and before you know it, you’re dead.  Don’t keep wishing away those precious little moments in life…live it.  Schedule in some fun, be present, unplug, smell the roses, recharge. You know what you need to do. Even if you have precious little time, sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a little sleep to get your needs met.  It’s great to have goals for the future, but don’t forget to be living in the present in the mean time.

How do you balance current living with future goals?  What is your M.O.?

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

D July 29, 2011 at 6:54 AM

Wonderful post! Thank you

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 8:18 PM

D- you’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

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Nicole July 29, 2011 at 7:15 AM

I dunno, I think life goes on while you are wishing you didn’t have to clean up messes. It’s the not doing X, Y, or Z because the kid could have a mess that’s the problem, not the actual wish.

So we wish, but we also live life. Sometimes it goes on hold for a deadline, but those times are limited and in retrospect have been worth it. (If we don’t think it will have been worth it, then we don’t wait… like having a child. Or making decisions while undergoing fertility treatment.)

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 8:36 PM

Nicole – There is definitely a time and place for sacrifice and you’re right, I generally don’t regret the sacrifices I’ve made. However, sometimes it’s easy to just be constantly sacrificing and forgetting about your own needs. I think it’s easy for parents to get that way and then forgot about their own identity after a while.

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Niki July 29, 2011 at 8:40 AM

I find myself doing this a lot. Especially since we are constantly moving. I am always putting something off until the next move.

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Niki- I haven’t moved physical locations too often, but I used to change jobs every couple of years, and it was always either starting something new, getting in the groove or preparing for the next move. I can relate.

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Geri July 29, 2011 at 8:45 AM

Great post. My husband and I spent our pre-kid years working and preparing for retirement. Nose to the grind. Then my first born came and I had a new attitude. I started working part-time and even sometimes not working (contracting to prior company). Husband is still nose to the grind but we both agree to splurge on travel. Have no regrets. We try to travel internationally once every 2 or 3 years. Within the states on the other years. We have taken our 3 boys to Ireland, Rome, Costa Rica, and Mexico. We might have to drive our cars for 10 plus years so we can hop on a plane and see the world, but for us it is worth it! The time between trips is great because we spend so much time discussing prior trips or planning the next one. We all get involved and research our “dream” destination. Next trip? Ireland again. Kids were young (7, 9, and 10), barely remember it and want to go again. They loved the cool temp and all the castles we visited. Good news is we still can retire one day and we won’t have to say “I wish…”

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 8:57 PM

Geri – Thanks for your comment. We splurge on travel too. I’m fine with having an old car if it’s still reliable. Plus, we kind of get attached to cars we like. Also, there is no guarantee that we will be healthy or even alive come retirement.

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Dr. Dad, PhD July 29, 2011 at 8:53 AM

” It’s great to have goals for the future, but don’t forget to be living in the present in the mean time.”

Amen to that! Not the easiest thing to do, but definitely worth it…

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 8:58 PM

Dr. Dad – yes, just being mindful of trying to live in the present helps a lot.

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Mutant Supermodel July 29, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Pretty stuff. Something I’ve been noticing in myself and struggling with the balanced point. Funny enough, I started reading a book last night called “Loving What Is” and it deals a lot with accepting what is versus fighting reality– of a person, place, time, situation. I’m finding it very helpful and I’ve just begun. It resonates with what you’re saying here. Jacq was the one who recommended it to me.

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Mutant – you’ll have to review the book on your site when you’re done. Jacq is awesome. I miss her writing/blogging.

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Kellen July 29, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Definitely an issue. I spend a lot of time treating my job as taking up my whole life “just for now” and after I work for some vague number of years and “save up” then I can start living again.

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Kellen – it’s definitely a trap that’s easy to fall into. I think that’s where mid life crisis come from.

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PQA July 29, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Sometimes when something really difficult is happening I start planning in my head how I am going to tell this story in a funny way to friends later. It makes the circumstances seem less difficult and forces me to notice the details (good and bad) of where I am at.

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 9:04 PM

PQA – having some good coping mechanisms for those tough times is really great. Just the sheer fact of knowing that at some point the tough period will pass is enough to keep you going.

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Squirrelers July 29, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Totally agree. We can get caught up in working toward a goal, or anticipating the next stage of life, that we forget to cherish the present and live it. It’s a gift we have, after all!

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 9:04 PM

Squirreler – a gift indeed.

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eemusings July 29, 2011 at 8:02 PM

We take little trips while I save up for big ones, eat good food, and I personally keep my schedule as free as possible for “me” time.

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Sandy L July 29, 2011 at 9:06 PM

eemusings – yes, something that has to be done 3 times a day should at least be enjoyable. Food is another thing we spend tons of money on and it’s so worth it…well most of it anyway.

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Crystal July 30, 2011 at 1:04 AM

I wished away my childhood too but I don’t regret it at all, lol. Being an adult kicks just as much butt as I thought it would. I try to do something fun every week (we just saw Harry Potter and hung out with a close friend for lunch on Wednesday) and something super fun every couple of months (woot for Curling tournaments and blogger conferences!). :-) Life needs to be enjoyed – I just needed to be able to get out and enjoy it. Great post!!!

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Sandy L July 30, 2011 at 4:20 AM

Crystal – Yeah you are so right. Being adult does rule. My friend Jon always said I was a 40 year old in an 18 year old’s body. Harry Potter’s on my list too. I just haven’t been able to get anyone to go with me yet. My dates lately have been all about bike riding and my butt definitely needs that more than goobers and movie popcorn.

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101 Centavos July 30, 2011 at 6:38 AM

Wow, how do you come up with this great stuff? Wonderfully written post.
Time is accelerating, faster than I care for, all the more reason to enjoy each day with the wife and kiddos. Reminds me of that quote from Shawshank Redemption “Get busy living, or get busy dying”

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Sandy L July 30, 2011 at 6:46 AM

101-I guess I was inspired by recent months of being exhausted all the time and this summer I finally got to take a little more vacation and be outside again. I forgot how much life there is to be had in the little things. Nice quote by the way.

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Linda July 30, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Very well said. I’m often walking that delicate balance between over-committing/complicating my life and just letting things flow on their own. I guess it’s kind of like canoeing; sometimes the current works with you and sometimes you have to paddle like crazy to keep going the direction you want; and sometimes you realize it would have been better to not fight the current so hard. As we get older I think we’re getting better at figuring this out and have less of those crazy paddling times. Maybe? I hope?

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Sandy L July 30, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Linda – great canoe analogy. I myself suffer from over scheduling myself. I think people do mellow out when they get older. They do realize there’s no reason to rush because time passes at the same pace whether we’re speeding or not.

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Sandy @ Journey To Our Home July 30, 2011 at 2:05 PM

Love this post. This actually made me cry a bit when I read it.
I was listening to a country song sometime recently and it talks about always being focused on the next thing- wishing away life, thinking about a new bigger house after just buying a house, wishing the kids would stop crying etc. Something I’ve been meaning to blog about- if only my kids would stop being so needy!
I think everyone does this. Well, maybe not my husband. He’s more of the here and now type person, and I’m the one who plans for our future with my nose to the grind trying to force everything to fall into place sometimes!
Just an FYI- I will get my thoughts together soon and you will definitely be earning a link and reference in my post!

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Sandy L July 30, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Sandy – I look forward to reading your upcoming post. It’s truly tough some days to enjoy the smiles and hugs when your ankle biters have driven you to the point beyond exhaustion. I swear getting more sleep has given me a whole new lease on life. Oh my..It’s sad that I’m sounding like a country music song.

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Barb Friedberg July 30, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Did you write this for me? I expected to be in our new home across the country one month ago. We are living in temp quarters with no internet and expect to be in our new home mid august. I’m trying to “live in the now.”

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Sandy L July 30, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Oh Barb…you’ll be settled soon. Plus, how would I have found out my blog was categorized as porn if you hadn’t try to login to my site from the public library? That’s indeed what’s interesting. Upon some reflection, there always seems to be some major change occurring in our lives that we are planning for or waiting to get through. Change is constant, so if you can’t beat em, join em.

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Buck Inspire July 30, 2011 at 7:18 PM

You are an amazing writer. Glad I stumbled on this post. Very timely as I was burning out a bit. Profound message for not wishing away your life!

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Sandy L July 30, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Buck – I’m glad you enjoyed the message. I’ve gone through years of burning the candle at both ends, so I know what it’s like and can’t count the number of times I’ve felt completely spent. I used to always get a cold after a final or when I really needed a break. It was my body refusing to continue.

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MIKE July 31, 2011 at 8:27 PM

My favorite post of the day. Wow! There’s a book out there called “The Power of Now.” Staying in the present moment is so crucial to happiness. I spent many years living in the past or future, not appreciating what’s happening right now. And while I am saving for the future, I am not sacrificing the present moment. BTW, your writing is fantastic.

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Sandy L August 1, 2011 at 4:27 AM

Mike – Thanks. I also read a book called “Wherever you go There you Are.” It deals with living in the present but more in the Buddhist/Meditation sense. It was a very good book and practicing little exercises like focusing your on the task you’re doing, like washing dishes, is SO difficult. I found that it helped my concentration immensely by just practicing those things. It was really eye opening to realize that I couldn’t concentrate on something for more than 10 seconds without my brain fast forwarding to the future or past.

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Amanda L Grossman August 2, 2011 at 3:12 PM

That is a great read! When I went through an anxious/nervous phase in college I ordered that book online and read a few pages every night before going to sleep. It really helped me out.

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Amanda L Grossman August 2, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Great reminder that life happens in between goals. It is so easy for me as well to discount all the in-between stuff. One of the most perceptive messages I have ever heard was on a beer commercial. It said “if you wait to live on the weekends you will miss out on 2/3 of your life”. WOW.

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