Mar 13, 2015 at 11:12 AM

On Fear, Anger and Living the Moment

By Jos� Cofi�o

The Cuban Revolution

When I was a child, I heard my relatives bemoan the fact that they had lost so much during the Cuban revolution. In fact, they had. Our family was not rich, but, as retailers, lived a comfortable life. However, as retailers, the family was a group of capitalists who had immigrated to Cuba from Spain in search of a better life. I was only seven weeks old when Castro and his band of bearded brothers entered La Habana, my birthplace. In a matter of a few months, most of what my extended family had built in paradise was lost. And so, years later, and for the rest of their lives, my aunts, uncles and some of my cousins remained bitter and, yes, angry.

As I look upon that now, I realize their anger was due to their inability, or unwillingness, to let go of the past. Some even wore the same clothes they had been able to keep when they left Cuba. This was an early life lesson that, only later, I truly have come to understand.

Perspective on Life Beyond ALS Diagnosis

Not surprisingly, since my diagnosis with ALS, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about life and living. The experiences from my childhood have come into much sharper focus. They way I experience my current life has clearly changed.

My relatives lived - and died - with their anger because they were not able to stop living in the past. Not just remembering the good times, but wallowing on that which was.

Fear and Worry

I have also come to know that, often, those who obsess about the future live in fear, worry and anxiety. I find it interesting that even those who see themselves as optimists can fall into this trap. The thought of things not going as planned, as optimal as they see it in their mind’s eye, leads to this fear. At its worst, I see it  as a paralyzing force and leading to depression and hopelessness.

I do not mean to say that people should not plan for the future. I think it is important to do so. Planning, however, is an activity that is done in the present. There is a difference between looking forward to something and obsessing about events yet to unfold and impossible to truly control.

Enjoyment of the Moment IN the Moment

What then, is my conclusion about these states: living in the past and living in the future? At the core, is that having your mind live in either of these is a fool’s errand. There is absolutely nothing to be gained, and, in fact, much to be lost, by doing so. The losses go beyond the terrible, energy-sapping feelings of anger and fear and to the loss of the present. The only thing we all have in common and share at every instant is every instant. Feelings of joy come from the state of taking pleasure in something – that is, from enjoying what is being experienced in the moment.

So, I have reached the conclusion that the old adage about “living in the moment”, though over-used and seemingly trite, is absolutely true. Being focused in the here-and-now without a filter of what was, or may come to be, is not easy. But, it is essential for our enjoyment as humans and to be able to fulfill the promise that our lives offer.

Jos� Cofi�o, Living with ALS

José Cofiño is living with ALS, having been diagnosed in 2012. He and his partner, Ben Trust, founded BeyondALS to rasie awareness about the disease and raise funds for research. He writes and speaks about overcoming adversity. He may be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter and Facebook as BeyondALS.

Posted in Overcoming Adversity.

Mar 15, 2015 Arrow1 Down Reply
Scott Kauffman

Beautifully said. The inscription on our wedding bands is "Secret O' Life," referencing a James Taylor song in which "the secret of live is enjoying the passage of time." I was reminded of the importance of this outlook when watching the movie "Boyhood." The underlying message there is that our lives are comprised of a series of "moments," most often un-dramatic and seemingly inconsequential. But, in fact, EVERY moment can and should be cherished. We are the only species on the planet capable of obsessing over the past or future. And the only species that can truly appreciate all that we have right here, right now.

Mar 15, 2015 Arrow1 Down Reply

@Scott Kauffman: Amen! While difficult to do, once you reach this realization, clarity follows as we really see that which we perceive in the "here and now".