You know those words in life that just stick with you?
The ones that are spoken on completely normal days (Tuesdays, sometimes Thursdays) under completely normal circumstances (in conversation with a friend, on a bus, at TGIFridays)? They arrive casually into your life without so much as a warning, but they manage to stay with you forever.
I once heard such words from comedian Marc Maron. If you are familiar with Marc Maron, perhaps from his standup or from his WTF podcast, then you know that he is famous for speaking openly on topics that most people often find hard to talk about -- things like relationships, mental health, and his own personal history with drug and alcohol abuse.
On this particular occasion, I was listening to Maron on a podcast (not his own, actually). He was telling a story, one that is apparently popular in circles within Alcoholics Anonymous, and one that I have never since forgotten. Here's the gist:
A guy calls his sponsor (i.e. his AA mentor) in a state of panic. He tells him, "I'm freaking out, man! Everything is falling apart. I'm a total screwup. What am I going to do?"
His sponsor, concerned for his sponsee's immediate safety, responds, "Wait. Hold on. Where are you right now?" to which the frantic man replies, "At home. On my couch."
"Oh!" says the sponsor, sounding somewhat relieved. "You're okay then."
"What do you mean?" cries the distressed caller, a bit indignant at this point.
"Everything isn't falling apart," his sponsor assures him. "You're not a total screw up. You're just a guy on a couch."
I don't fully know why this story has stayed with me over time in the way that it has, but I have a hunch it's because, more often than not, I feel a lot like that guy on the couch.
If I'm being perfectly honest, I would say I'm not much of a live-in-the-moment kind of person.
I know I'm supposed to be. My friends tell me. Internet memes tell me. Oprah tells me.
However, personally, I find it difficult to hold on to what is happening "in the moment." My thoughts usually end up living more in spaces like the Past, the Future, the Not-So-Distant Future, and the made-up world of calamity that only exists in my own head.
That is to say: I tend to freak out a lot.
I freak out about what I did the day before. I freak out about what I didn't do the day before. I freak out about what I've got coming up in the days ahead. I freak out about the direction of my life. I freak out about how I'm perceiving someone else to be perceiving me.
But if I really take stock of those moments in which I am freaking out, you want to know what's really happening?
I'm just a girl on a couch.
Or at a restaurant.
Or on the B train.
I'm breathing. I'm well-fed. I'm often with someone I love.
For the record, this isn't a blog post about counting your blessings. I mean, that's a thing you should do, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
What I am talking about is the fact that so much of what we perceive as major problems in our lives are actually things that only exist within our minds. They aren't the truth of what is happening right now. They are thoughts. And thoughts aren't reality.
I won't sugarcoat things here: life can frequently look really grim. I'll give you that.
But if we examine life in the moment -- this exact moment that is happening right now -- life usually looks pretty okay. Even pretty great, sometimes.
Think about it: right now, where are you?
As for me, I'm sitting on a plush rug in my office. It smells good in here. I'm typing. The window air-conditioning unit is blowing in my face. It's a white-noise hum, but otherwise it's pretty quiet.
I'm just a girl on a rug, honestly.
So that said, what if we always digested our lives in these simple moments?
Maybe you already do. Maybe you don't need this blog post. If so, uh, good for you, I guess.
But for the rest of us -- the ones who live in stressful mental prisons of what we should have said or what we will one day have to do or what impossible future we'll never be able to have -- let's not forget that life is happening right now.
Like, right now.
That's not to say you shouldn't think ahead. Perhaps you have big dreams for your life. Perhaps you look forward to the person you will one day be and the mark you will leave on this world. That's fantastic.
But in the meantime, you're here. Living in this moment. Amongst people who are also living in this moment.
You're just a person on a couch. Let's not forget that.