Focus on What You Have Now

Posted On: 06.22.12

Lunch with a friend from school. She’s just finished her first novel. She tells me about her book (which sounds great!). I tell her about my experience in the publishing world. We talk about our kids, and the unique challenge of trying to balance writing and mothering. Toward the end of the meal, her eyes water. I don’t know if you know, but I lost my brother recently. He died in his sleep. He was 36. He has two little girls. I write them letters sometimes.

Coffee with a former law firm colleague. She’s started her own lingerie company. She is glowing. Together we ponder the existential uncertainties and rewards of pursuing a creative dream. She tells me her family is originally from Haiti, that when the earthquake happened, she just went. To Haiti. To help. While she was there, she met a woman. A mother. A mother of seven. Six of this women’s children died in the quake, but her youngest survived. He was crushed, severely injured, but alive. My friend said that this woman was so purely grateful that her baby made it.

Another lunch. This time with a bevy of strong and brilliant women. A beautiful woman tells a story in a quiet voice. Her son – who’d never been sick a day in his life – woke up one Monday and went to school. At 4pm that day, this mother learned that her little boy had a rare form of cancer. Stage 4. Across the conference room table, this mother’s eyes – an electric and unforgettable blue – gloss with tears as she tells us how much her boy loved to cook, that he had 26 cooking apps on his iPad. This woman has started a wonderful organization to benefit kids’ cancer and will soon release her second cookie cookbook.

A camp morning. Middle Girl and I wait at the bus stop next to a man in a wheelchair. The M11 arrives. The bus driver lowers the bus, extends the ramp. The man wheels his chair up the ramp, but his foot drags and he can’t make the turn onto the body of the bus. The driver tries to help but it won’t work. Before any of us has a chance to try to help, the man wheels back down that ramp onto the street, and away. Before he’s gone, I hear him say four words into his phone, “I couldn’t do it.”


Focus on what you have now. Not what you once had. Not what you will have.

Now. Today. This moment.

Do you have any perspective-giving stories to share? Are you good at focusing on the good things in your life? Do you get tripped up thinking about the past and the future?

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26 Comments for: "Focus on What You Have Now"
  1. Anonymous

    Even though this is not the easiest post to read, thank you for it. I think it is too easy to blind ourselves to these stories and these stories are so important. I’m thankful for the reminder to focus on what I have now because somehow it’s easy to be distracted from that, to forget to do that.

    Question- did all of these things happen in a short timespan?

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I think you are right that it is too easy for us to not see these stories, or hear them. It is also (sometimes) too easy for us to get wrapped up in our own relatively privileged problems. For instance, the track pad on my beloved MacBook Air is totally shot and very much frustrating me as I am someone who greatly depends on her computer, but… This? It is not a big deal? I will make do. I will get my butt to the Genius Bar. Anyway, I feel that it is important to remind ourselves from time to time to take stock, and be grateful.

      As for your question? Yes, all of these things happened within 36 hours of each other. Frankly, it was a lot but really really good for me. These things can be complex and uncomfortable but they didn’t feel that way to me, they felt real and raw and really important. So I decided to write about them here. This is really important for me to do from time to time – to come here and process things.

  2. This is exactly the kind of perspective we all need. It’s so easy to forget how fragile life can be and how important it is to hold on to all the good that we have, despite daily annoyances. Thank you for inspiring the start to my day.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Tricia. This post was tricky for me to write – and to publish because I know some people do not like to be blindsided with these kinds of stories. Yesterday I pondered the fun and innocuous question of dining alone and then – BAM – here I am talking life and death and gratitude. I know it’s a vast switch, but I feel that this is important and real – to ask the lighter questions and ponder the heavier truths. Thanks for your tweet, too. Always appreciated 🙂

  3. “Focus on what you have now. Not what you once had. Not what you will have. Now. Today. This moment.”

    This is what I needed to hear today, and remember everyday. Thanks for the reminder! And the stories from your lunches….the perfect examples to support this.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much, Gina. I figured that if these stories had such a profound, and meaningful, effect on me, they were well worth sharing. It was really as much a reminder for me as it was for all of you. As I am sure is the case for so many of us, I often get lost in my own piles of life and forget what’s going on with others and in the world. Have a great day!

  4. Kristen

    Thank you, Aidan for this reminder. I am not the best at focusing on the good (or the present), but I know it is so very important.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, it’s important. And I think we should forgive ourselves for not looking up and around all the time. I think it makes perfect sense to focus on our own lives and our own struggles, but from time to time, it behooves us to realize the bigger picture. Thanks, Kristen!

  5. Well said….so important to be grateful for this moment !

  6. Hard to read, but important. My heart breaks for the people described in these vignettes. It’s too bad that sometimes it takes others’ misfortune to prompt us to be as grateful as we ought.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You are right. It is too bad that these stories are what make us realize, and feel grateful. But I think this is reality on some level; We are busy and scatttered creature, preoccupied with endless aspects of our own stories and sometimes it takes the stories of others to wake us up and count our blessings. Thanks, you. xox

  7. Jill

    I am out of town. I left my husband and kids to travel to be with a friend at her father’s funeral tomorrow morning. He died after a very short (6 weeks) battle with cancer. It has been sad, and painful, and beautiful to hear how she has been caring for him at his home these past few weeks, as she’s been making sense of this great loss.
    The whole drive here- I’ve been trying to get in the sweet spot of gratefulness for what I have- in the conext of someone else’s heartbreaking loss. But I spent the entire time in my own head, replaying recent arguments with husband. I needed this as an added push to put my world in clearer context. Sometimes I need a serious hammer over the head to get out of my own way….thanks!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I feel for your friend. It is so great that you are there to support her during what I know is a surreal and impossible time. It is so hard to retain perspective even with these real-life reminders, but I think it is good for us to try. Thank you, Jill.

  8. Thank you for this post. It was exactly what I needed to read right now.

  9. Gut wrenching, wonderful reminder to be grateful.

  10. Jess

    Wow. How sad. A good reminder, indeed.

  11. Tessa

    I almost wrote about this in my “silly or serious” post. I also think I’m more serious than silly due to having been through some serious times in life which, some of the time, take the shine off being silly. These times have largely involved the loss of someone special to me. Life can be tough. Having said this, I also believe there is a time and place for everything, so we can be serious when we remember the loss of a person, but also silly when we tell amusing stories about them (which is part of remembering).

    I truly believe in living in the here and now – and being very, very grateful for all that we have. The use of a gratefulness diary is a useful tool. At the end of each day, write down 1(2)(3) things that you are grateful for. You may not repeat the same thing twice. It comes easily at first but after a while you have to work harder at seeing things you are grateful for and this is when the wonderful shift occurs.

    I’m sure it’s a rather annoying habit, but I find myself saying to people who complain “yes, but just think of people who are in this or that situation who have things way worse than you”.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I love, and am intrigued by, the idea of a gratefulness diary. I wonder if there would be a cool and interesting way to integrate something like that into my blog? Hmmm…

  12. Difficult to read, but as others have echoed, a much needed reminder. I really am grateful that I clicked on this particular post today because I’ve been focusing on imperfections in my own life. What you say here is something I need to internalize everyday. Thank you Aidan.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Rudri. So happy to see you here, and so happy to know that my post struck something in you. This was a hard, but important one to write. I think we can all use these reminders from time to time. Hope you are well. xox

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