Thank you, Past Me. Thank you random stranger
(Original art from here)
Last night on Reddit I came across a comment that has changed my life. Of course, it doesn't take all that much to change someone's life. I wouldn't have written this but for that comment, so the existence of this post means reading that comment was a life changing event. But I hope my life will change it in a larger way.
Let me explain.
It started as I was browsing a thread on r/askreddit: "What's the most valuable thing you've learned on Reddit" Someone referred to a comment written by u/ryans01 in which he offered his four rules for better living. (Here is the orginal comment)
The first one: No Zero Days. I'll come back to that idea at the end. No Zero Days is his main tool for making progress. But to get there, you need to hear the other stuff. Or I did.
His second rule was to be grateful to "the three yous." There's the past you, the present me you, and a future you. Or, in my case, it's Past Me, the Present Me, and the Future Me.
I had written previously about "Future Me" and how unmotivated I am to do anything for him. Or at least Present Me thought that some Past Me had written. But ten minutes searching has not turned up the post, so let me express my remembered point of view.
Q: Why should I do X? (Where X is something that then-Present Me wants to do, but which will be not enjoyable in the doing.)
A: Doing X a pain in the ass. It isn't going to benefit me (says then-Present Me). It might benefit some Future Me but--you know what? Future Me has never done anything for me. So why should I put myself out for someone who has never helped me,and who never will?
Fuck you, Future Me.
If you want X, then do it yourself!
Or send me something from the future that I can use in the present.
Otherwise, go fuck yourself.
But I had it all wrong. And I'm thankful to u/ryans01 for the comment on Reddit that set me right.
I have a pretty good life. In fact, I have an awesome life. I know that. I've acknowledged it. Simply being alive is awesome. I've said that, too.
And what did I do to earn the life that I've got? Answer: nothing. Not one, single thing. Present Me did nada. It's was all Past Me. Past Me, and other Past People. They did the work. They're the ones who gave me what I've got. And I should have been grateful for them. But I wasn't. And now I am.
Because life is good.
So I now realize that Present Me has a debt to Past Me that Present Me can never repay. Instead, I can do this: I can be grateful to Past Me for the gift; I can pay it forward to Future Me. And I can share my gifts with other people. Because gifts are for giving.
So thank you Past Me. Thank you very much. You might not have been thinking of me. You might not have realized that you were giving me the gift that you've given me. That doesn't matter. I'm the recipient, nonetheless, and I am grateful.
And I'm grateful to be a Present Me recognizes this situation, and will pay the gift forward, and I'm not the ungrateful dick that I might have been. (Not to say I'm not an ungrateful dick. I'm just a different one, if I still am.)
Anyway, thank you, Present Me. I am grateful that I/you am/are here, and not the dickhead that I might have been.
Future Me, I have not met you yet, and I never will, but that's OK. I going to give you undeserved gifts, just as I have been given them. I'm going to stop bitching about how you've never done anything for Past or Present Me.
Future Me, I know that you will take our gift and do something good with it because you will know what I now know. I am confident you will do even better than I am doing. And for that, and for knowing that, I am grateful.
Back to u/ryans01. His next rule is about forgiveness. Forgive yourself, he says. And I realize that's a great place to start. There are people who are much harder on themselves than I am, but still--I've got a strong streak of perfectionism. I make a lot of misteaks. I know that I'm too hard on myself.
Or rather, I've been too hard on Past Me. I've been angry at him for all the things that he's done wrong; for wasting his talent; for not living up to his potential. And I'm often hard on Present Me for the things that he should be doing and he's not. And I'm hard on Future Me, because I know he's going to fuck up the same way that Past Me has fucked up and Present Me is fucking up.
There's a song in the show "Hamilton" that I love: "It's quiet uptown." In the song, Hamilton comes to terms with his life, with the things that he did that were painful, even shameful--scandal, betrayal, the death of his child.
There are moments that the words don't reachThere is suffering too terrible to nameYou hold your child as tight as you canThen push away the unimaginable
It goes on:
There are moments that the words don't reachThere's a grace too powerful to nameWe push away what we can never understandWe push away the unimaginable
Forgiveness, can you imagine?
Every time I hear the song, it stirs deep feelings. And every time I hear that line, "Forgiveness," the tears fall. As they are, right now.
There is a grace too powerful to name, but it's nearest nameable relative is: forgiveness.
Forgiveness frees us. Lack of forgiveness traps us, or at least me. Or at least Past Me.
So the idea is to forgive Past Me for what he did and didn't do. To forgive Present Me for whatever needs forgiving--for anything that stands in the way of Present Me doing the best that Present Me can do.
And to forgive Future Me. Future Me will fuck up. But he can be born in grace, already forgiven.
Forgiveness is an unlimited resource. You can't use it up. You can't run out of it. And you free yourself by using it. The more Present Me forgives the less he is attached, and the freer that he becomes--that I become--that Future Me will be.
And it's not just forgiving myself, but forgiving anyone toward whom I feel any resentment. Resentment is crippling. I read once that resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies. Doesn't work that way.
Forgiveness. Everywhere and anywhere.
Onward. The next rule is three words: "exercise and reading." They're good practices. Past Self agrees and Future Self almost certainly will. I've done lots of reading already, but no exercising. So as soon as I finish this I'm going to go off and exercise a little bit.
Becuase No More Zero Days.
Here's the first rule, as promised.
No More Zero Days.
No days where I fail to do something, however small to move toward my goals.
My goal includes writing. And No More Zero Days of writing.
If I can't write a long post, then I can write (and post) something short.
And if I don't have something short, then I will post a sentence. Or a phrase.
No More Zero Days.
That would be enough.