The more I think about happiness, the more I’m convinced it consists of a special blend of short term and long term thinking. Long term, in that we have to carry out unpleasant, monotonous tasks in order to arrive at the places we want to go and become the people we’d like to be. Short term in the sense that we have to fight our impulse to always think in past and future tense in order to focus more on the now.
I love to formulate possibilities and adventures, to make plans.
But then, when those plans arrive, I don’t always enjoy them as much as I expected. Even the most exciting event can lose some of its luster once entered into the calendar, becoming part of an ever expanding To-Do list.
While I was traveling between my parents in L.A. And Virginia last week, I finished Gretchen Rubin’s book “Happier at Home.” In the final few pages of the book, Rubin forms the words for an idea that I’ve been grasping at, trying to nail down. It’s so simple really.
“Now is now.”
I haven’t always been good at rolling with the punches, changing direction, finding the beauty in the unplanned, unwanted moment. But I’m working on it.
Last Saturday, on my final day in Virginia, we planned to go to the state fair, something my mom and I did every year while I was in high school. But my mom was fighting a cold and my stepdad’s hand was bee stung and swollen.
“We can still go,” my mom insisted. “It’s what we planned.”
As fun as it sounded, I knew that the day would fly by in whirlwind of deep fried candy bars and whirly rides and we’d be exhausted by the end of it all, sad that we couldn’t slow down those final moments together.
Now is now.
“Why don’t we bring those old records up from downstairs?” I suggested.
So we dragged the big crates from the garage and commenced spreading them out on the floor around us. Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd and a host of big haired 80’s bands I’d never heard of.
We dusted a few off and cranked up the turntable while my stepdad remembered: his first concert, a Peter Frampton sighting, the rotary phone that fell off of a shelf and took a huge chunk out of his friend’s brand new, beloved record.

The time passed slowly, luxuriously free of plans. We ate chocolate and laughed at corny cover art and I listened to stories I might never have been privy to otherwise.
Rubin’s book includes this quote from the writer Elias Canetti: “One lives in the naive notion that later there will be more room than in the entire past.”
But, as we well know, time only grows shorter, the things we intend to say and do grow more limited, finally remaining unsaid and undone.
The best moments are in between, unplanned, stolen—the music-filled morning spent with the people you love. The dusty record pulled off of the shelf. Coffee, some dancing. The right here. The right now.