6 Ways To Stop “Future-Tripping” And Be Present In Your Life

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
Mother Teresa

I’m coming up on a milestone birthday this year – a really big one. Social media is reminding me of this every day, as I watch one high school classmate after another hit the ‘big one’.

Of course, the ‘big one’ might be a relative term for many of us – life has so many milestone markers for us that it seems we are always stumbling towards one or another, aren’t we?

Was 16 the ‘big one’ for you? 21? 30? 35? 40?

50?

And parallel to this march towards a half-century are my children’s milestone markers, not just found in numbers, but moments along the way as well.

Those ordinary, extraordinary moments that as a parent take my breath away and remind me that the only way to move forward, to not blindly push through milestones and markers, is to breathe, to be present, to look up at life with my eyes wide open and my heart vulnerable.

It’s a daily struggle, to be sure. I make my own markers along the way, rituals I use, reminders I send, to train my highly sensitive body to stop, to breathe, to remember all will be well.

present in the moment

To be honest, it’s hard work for me. It’s a conscious awareness that my natural inclination to think forward, to plan, to control, isn’t always serving me in the best way possible. The hard work comes to remember that being here, now, allows fears of the past and future to fade away, and allows me to inhale every beautiful second of life, of motherhood, of simply being.

Not being present breeds restlessness. It forces the interior wiring to hyper-speed, to thinking too far ahead – ‘future tripping’, a friend once dubbed it.

So when time feels like it is spinning off its axis, when my worries send me off center, I try one of these six ways to stop ‘future-tripping’ and find my way back:

1. Put yourself on “time out”. Remember when the kids were little and this was a ‘consequence’? I say, take one! Do what you like to do, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Cook a healthy meal. Bake something delicious. Dig in the soft soil of your garden. Close your eyes and dream. Pet the dog. Curl up under the covers. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something to nurture yourself.

2. Find your center. Finding places to express your gratitude will make you feel more connected. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, offers a simple meditation I use frequently: “Help. Thanks. Wow.” Write them down, whisper them to the universe, or meditate on them throughout the day. It’s an amazing transformation. Give yourself reminders throughout the day – I use the “Tell Me Later” app to send quotes to my phone at times in the day I know are particularly challenging for me to stay centered.

3. Make a list. OK- list making satisfies my inner teacher-mom. I have a general list of priorities, hopes and things-I’d-really-love-to-do-someday, and then each morning I choose a few to tackle in the upcoming day. They don’t always get done, but it’s amazing how when I commit to writing them down, I feel compelled to at least start. And plus, crossing it off when I’m finished is so satisfying! Sometimes seeing our responsibilities in front of us we realize they’re not as overwhelming as we once thought.

take a walk UCD Arboretum

4. Take a walk. I gave up running years ago, and find that making time for a daily walk helps me to slow down. I like to get away from people (introvert-raising-hand-wildly) so I can really feel the rhythm of my stride and sense the solitude wash down my body. I like the consistency of a familiar path each day, and delight in the small surprises of nature, water, and sky.

5. Breathe. Seriously – pay attention to it. I’m considering setting a “Tell Me Later” reminder just for this – a gentle nudge to inhale, exhale and slow.it.down.

6. Find my balance. For the longest time I was so caught up in the treadmill of raising small children, managing a home, teaching school and trying to maintain friendships that I lost my balance. I threw away those little joys – like writing in my journal and reading a great novel – because I thought I had too many other responsibilities.  After teetering dangerously out of balance, I’ve learned to not deny my inner planner – I think about what can I do for today, and how I can balance it all. We each have the same number of hours in our day – and we get to choose how we spend them. Take small steps, one at a time, to return to the fulcrum of your life.

I’ll be honest – being present sometimes feels like a chore. It sometimes seems easier to push ourselves to the end of the line, to view our life through a camera lens hoping to watch the replay some other time. Life is contracting before it expands; that squeezing sensation is the universe reminding you to trust, to open your eyes and look around. When you stop ‘future tripping’ and pay attention to the glorious, messy, sometimes chaotic but always real life before you, the universe will respond bountifully.

Remember: the milestones in your life are markers of a life well lived. Don’t you want to be present to celebrate?

6 Ways To Stop Future-tripping And Be Present In Your Life

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

When Life Doesn’t Turn Out The Way It’s Supposed To

We met when we were only eighteen and nineteen; I, a three-semester college girl, he a high school graduate.  It was love at first sight. Our parents were thrilled we had found someone that would love us, piercings, dyed hair, dreadlocks and all.

Nine and a half years later, we married.  Probably one of the wiser decisions we ever made-no teenage elopement or early pregnancy.  College graduates, employed, and homeowners when we finally took our vows, but edging closer to that magic number: 30.wedding photo

After dating for so long, my goal was to be 30, married and pregnant.

Despite my non-conformist lifestyle, something inside me knew that I needed to make this milestone.  My twenties were chaotic at best, but eventually had smoothed out and created a life path that I had planned: marriage and motherhood.  I was of the generation growing up after the women’s movement, but before many of our mothers followed an nontraditional path. I knew how it was supposed to go.

I made my goal, and after that, nothing went as expected.

Turns out, working and mothering are an excruciatingly hard combination.  What I thought I could handle ended up rocking my world upside down and sideways.  Navigating an infant, a breast pump, a husband and a classroom full of fifth graders proved to be…challenging.  Full time motherhood and full time teaching didn’t seem to be a great fit. I wanted them both. I felt my dreams crumbling away.

jen and lily in kitchenThe next year I took a chance and changed jobs, thinking that 80% employment would be better.  I was right; working with my more familiar middle school aged kids allowed me to focus less on the curriculum and more on my baby, but…there was still no free time, no long nap times to get papers graded, and the household responsibilities were still there, waiting.  The 12:30 baby handoff allowed us to escape childcare, but our couple time disintegrated into late-night dinners and frantic eye-contact while trying to rock the baby to sleep.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I grew frustrated that I couldn’t handle it all: job, marriage, motherhood.  Didn’t I have exactly what I’d always dreamed of?

Sixteen years and one more child later, I’m learning that actually, it went exactly as it was supposed to.  That’s how life is.  I learned I am living out my dreams.  I have what I wanted, and actually, much more. But more importantly, I’m learning that women like me, all throughout history, have and continue to walk this line of confusion in the search for their ideal life.

While we share the same desires and dreams for the milestones in their worlds – love, family, success, fulfillment, and comfort – today’s women face challenges like never before.  The centuries of liberation which benefited women have come with a price, and today’s we’re charting a new course. We have more options, more choices, and more demands than ever.  We try to balance it all, while maintaining that sense of what women are supposed to do with what we know we need to do.  Our mothers and grandmothers had no idea what a blessed curse they were bestowing on their daughters and granddaughters as they fought for equal rights, and with them, the absolute blossoming that would come decades and centuries later.

Today’s women push non-conformity in interesting, dynamic ways, all the while grapping with what happens to women who bend today’s rules of propriety and customary behavior? We wonder how we will have to pay for blurring the lines between what is expected of us as wives, mothers, and women and the urge to have it all, to do it all, and to blossom into what we were meant to be? Can we chart the course for our own daughters, who themselves will be past the image of stay-at-home moms as the norm?

Sixteen years ago, I had no idea this is what life had in store for me.  Sixteen years from now, will my baby girl blossom into a kind of woman I could never imagine?

I certainly hope so.

This post was inspired by Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too young, Becky creates her own support group with an unusual twist. Join From Left to Write on February 14 as we discuss Saturday Night Widows. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. Click here to purchase your copy of Saturday Night Widows at Amazon.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Letting Go

I was just starting to fear the end of little league. Next week’s final game was looming, making me feel uneasy. My 12-year-old’s last season was wrapping up, and I stuck imagining what life will be like without baseball. Beginning with t-ball, then farm, AA, AAA, and finally majors, life has provided a rhythm for a good chunk of our lives.

With baseball not being his first sport, he hasn’t moved into the elite travel ball team status. He plays hard and is easy to coach. He shows up, listens, and performs well under pressure. I was beginning to wonder where he would go next. This doesn’t feel like something the parent of a 12 year old should be worried about-a washed up ball player at his age?

Then, like an answer to my worries, Little League announces a new division-for 11-13 year-olds. A division designed for kids like my son, who want to bridge the gap between Little League and juniors. Something for the regular kids.

But instead of celebrating the obvious solution to my problem, I created a new one. Click over to Yahoo! Shine to read more about my Little League situation, and how we may have a solution.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Friday Photo: The World Out My Window

Spring break is so often the time for adventure.  College students head off to party centrals, lucky families head off to early family vacation spots, concerned high school parents begin college tours, and then there are those who…stay home.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  My family actually chose to stay right home and rest.  Sleeping in, working in the garden, baseball games, playing chess by the fire (yes, it’s a COLD spring break here in California!) and catching up on dates with friends sounded like the perfect way to spend our free week.

But April showers have kept us more tucked up inside the house than we anticipated, which for me means time perched up in my office, gazing out the window and thinking and dreaming.

Yesterday my daughter joined my reverie and we began a virtual college tour on collegeboard.com.  Amid our diligent shepherding through high school, she has begun to see the college light at the end of the tunnel. Soon our focus will change from getting her in to getting it financed, and we all know about the college tuition  fears that today’s parents face.

There was something so exciting, though, about sitting up high with her and watching her click through all the college options she can look forward to that made my fears ease just the tiniest bit.  College will come for her.  She will be admitted somewhere, and will have that often joyous, stressful, and exhilarating experience that we wish for her.  Years of scrimping and saving, studying, volunteering, and working will bring her dreams to reality and adventures to her life.

And three years from now, when she’s having her first college spring break, I hope she’ll find another place to perch up high, and think and dream new dreams for herself.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Justin Cox: A First Time Dad We’re Having A Baby!



There are moments in life that never seem to leave our memories.  For newlyweds, finding out about a pregnancy is one of the most incredible experiences there is.  Please enjoy today’s guest blogger, my friend and fellow writer Justin Cox, as he shares his emotional experience of learning he will soon be a father.


Bianca and I got married on August 6 of last year. From that day forward, we began fielding this question semi-regularly: “So, when are you gonna have a kid?”


Bianca’s answer always came before people could even finish asking. “We’re going to get a Golden Retriever before we have a baby!” she’d say with confidence.

After a few months of listening to her answering this way, I started doing the economic math on the situation, which is this: We currently live in an upstairs apartment, and although I’m super excited by the idea of owning a dog, I’d rather wait until I can provide it some ground upon which to scamper freely. Given the reality of our lives and the trajectory of our careers, that could take some time.

I wasn’t telling Bianca that I wanted a baby right away; I just wasn’t sure I wanted to wait until we had a dog first, which was the plan we hatched together in the early months of our engagement. When I put it this way to Bianca, she fully agreed. It’s as if she had gotten caught up in her own Golden Retriever excitement. Or she just enjoyed answering the baby question this way. Either way, we happily moved forward in the absence of a plan (both in terms of babies, backyards or Golden Retrievers).

And then we went down to her family’s house in Orange County for a Christmas vacation.

We had been down there for more than a week, and although we absolutely love her parents, we were ready to go back home. We decided we would cut our trip short and head back up north for new years, via Big Sur, where we would camp for a night.

The evening before we left Bianca’s family’s place, I was standing in their kitchen talking to Bianca’s dad, Oscar, who was swirling a glass of red wine and conversing loosely. While we had this conversation, a 9-month old baby girl, Evelynn, was bopping around somewhere in the house (or she was sleeping). Evelynn is Bianca’s brother’s baby – Oscar and Nuria’s first grandkid.

With that being top of mind, Oscar initiated a very casual conversation about babies. Not my future baby; just babies in general. He probably doesn’t even remember the conversation.

He told me about his brother and sister-in-law, who had kids while they were quite young, although I’m not sure how young. He said that this allowed them to raise their children while they had plenty of energy and then, years later, it freed them up to enjoy their empty nest when they retired.

That wasn’t something I had never thought about. I’ve always been so focused on enjoying my life and furthering my education and doing my job well that I’ve always felt like I was just a few steps away from being prepared to support a child. I mentioned this feeling to Oscar, at which point he told me something I already knew, deep down: You’re never really ready. You just do it.

The bottom line is this: You work with what you have and you allocate your love and energy in the right direction. That’s it.

Now, before I get to the part where my wife becomes pregnant – Ahhh! – let me acknowledge that everybody lives life on their own timetable. My mom was 10 years younger than I am now when she had me. Many people wait much longer Bianca and I are. Others choose not to have children at all. Every option is totally legitimate. I can only tell my own story, so here it is:

We escaped Orange County early and were excited to drive up the coast, camp in Big Sur, and then have a low-key New Year’s back home in Davis. While sitting next to a fire outside of our tent-cabin and drinking wine from plastic water bottles that we had cut in half with a pocket knife, I told Bianca about my conversation with her dad, which made her laugh and smile. But it resonated with her in the same way that it did with me. We also laughed about the Golden Retriever plan. We fell asleep that night with a total openness to the idea of starting a family.

I’ll skirt the nitty-gritty details here and get to the part where Bianca suspects pregnancy. (Safe to say: This happened a bit faster than we had anticipated). She was sitting on a couch in our living room when she told me she was a day late with her period. She then added that she had a feeling she was pregnant, and that she hoped that was the case. We drove to the Co-op and bought a pregnancy test that evening, but decided she would take it the following morning, because that’s what the test recommended.

She woke up at 6 a.m. and told me she absolutely had to pee, and she asked if I wanted to come to the bathroom while she took the test. I told her to go ahead pee and to tell me right when she was done so that I could get out of bed and watch the + or – show up on the test. (I imagined her shaking it like a Polaroid picture and staring at it for a while until it showed up).

Shortly after she started peeing, she said, “Do you want to come see?”

The + was written all over her tone, which carried a blend of surprise, excitement and shock at how rapidly the test had delivered an answer. I popped out of bed and went in to give her a hug and to see the + for myself.

It was a very exciting morning. We went back to our bed and talked about the uncharted territory that now awaits us. She was almost a month pregnant at that point. At the time of this writing, she’s three months in, and just now feeling the first signs of pregnancy: She’s consistently tired. I keep assuming I have nine months to prepare for my baby’s arrival, but the truth his I only have six. And that’s crazy!

When we told Bianca’s parents about it, they were extremely excited to have another grandchild in the family. Her dad laughed when I told him that he was the one who nudged us in this direction. When we told my parents the following day, their excitement was more emotional, I think because this will be their first grandbaby. 

Now we’ve seen an ultrasound and we’ve heard a heartbeat. Bianca told me yesterday that the baby is currently the size of a peach. When we took our first ultrasound the baby was the size of an olive. And when we took that pregnancy test, it was the size of a poppy seed.

Soon, it’ll be the size of a baby!

Justin Cox is a writer and editor of Davis Patch.  He enjoys playing music, reading, and eating two-scoop ice-cream cones. 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp