Bargell: Generating gratitude, now and in the future (column)
Mountain Mom Musings
Before we leave on a trip I almost always try to change the sheets. I don’t know where the habit started, but it never fails to surprise me when I return home to crawl into my much-missed bed with fresh sheets.
It came as an even bigger surprise to learn that this small habit is part of a much larger trend of considering what gifts we can give ourselves today that our future selves will thank us for. I suppose it’s the flip side of giving advice to our younger self, something our own Biff America reminisced about a few weeks ago.
Visualizing yourself in a week, a year, or even several years down the road is both harrowing and liberating. Age happens — hopefully, at least. But what exactly might the future me pat the present me on the back for? There are experts who have compiled lists, both pragmatic and esoteric, readily accessible on the web. They include everything from taking action, letting go and being positive to “deciding your values and living them every day.” There’s no argument these are gifts that keep on giving.
My inspiration for future gifts starts with my 18-year-old self. While there are plenty of things I’d tell her not to do (really — you don’t need to try), I’d readily give her a high-five for spending a large chunk of what little cash she had in 1977 for a slightly small pair of baby blue and yellow running shoes. Like most boomers, she’d spent a fair amount of time running around the neighborhood growing up, but it wasn’t until she donned those shoes, and logged 2 miles around an indoor track that she transformed into a jogger. That simple act over the last three decades has created a tapestry of roads and trails that has colored my life’s journey. It’s given me the gift of friends who have enlightened and enlivened me, runs that have exhilarated me or have lifted me out of the deepest of despair. So, future self, I will try to keep moving for both our sakes, but what I’d really like to give you is the ability to touch your toes. Yep, it’s not something present me does with ease, but you’d probably think it was really cool to simply be able to put on a pair of socks. I’ll work on that.
And, I want to give you the gift of giving. Lately, I’ve noticed the folks I so admire are the ones whose eyes are back-lit by some internal joy that comes from giving themselves to others. One woman in particular is infectious in her love for literacy, and her boundless energy seems to spring not from doing something for herself, but from giving the gift of reading to kids. Future self, I will work on creating in you that kind of joy.
I think too you’d say a hearty thank-you to less “stuff.” Less money spent on artifacts that will only make you shake your head and wonder what to do about all the clutter. In fact, I vaguely can see you smiling because there is not another closet to clean. Why don’t you just get out for a jog instead?
My most difficult vision of tomorrow’s me looks a mere five years into the future. Just thinking about her brings a lump to my throat. The two kiddos that simultaneously bless and exasperate the present me will have flown the coop. I love them beyond words, but my demands and expectations sometimes cloud how I express that sentiment. Future me, I think you would appreciate current me focusing on loving them unconditionally. The bonus — future kiddos will appreciate this approach. I know because what I miss most about my mom is the certainty there is someone in the world who loves me no matter what.
Biff’s column on advice to his 20-year-old self led with the admonition that, “First thing I would tell myself is that despite appearances you and your friends are not immortal.” It’s true, of course, and every gift I hope to give my future self is tempered with this realization. Still, the effort to make tomorrow’s me smile makes today better, and brings hope that gratitude will whisper back through time, even if it’s only for fresh sheets.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and a mom who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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