Sunday, November 18, 2012

Delaying Gratification

I have been meditating on the concept of “delayed gratification” lately and how it might affect one’s ability to “live in the moment.”
A missed phone call and my response caused me to look more closely at these two seemingly unrelated challenges.
      Thursday evening I like to watch two television programs: Gray’s Anatomy and Scandal. I had placed my cell phone and glasses on my bedside table, had gone to the living room to enjoy them, then gone to bed.  Friday morning when I picked up my phone, it blinked, telling me I had a message.  I checked to see who it was from and saw that Mustafa had called. Immediately, the urge to call him hit me, although it was early in the morning and he is not an early riser. That was “live in the moment,” which was beaten down by “delayed gratification.” If I wait until after school I will be more settled and have more time to chat. That’s exactly what I did and it was well worth the wait.
      For some reason I couldn’t get the two ideas to go away, especially after the phone call.  As I cleaned up the kitchen, I began to think of how I have put off “living my life” by waiting for certain conditions to be met: when I go to college…..when I graduate…..when I get married…..when the baby comes……when my husband gets out of the Marines……when we get the loan for the house…..when I get the divorce….when I get through college at age 40….when I get a permanent job…..when I buy the house….when I get tenure….and now, when I retire.
      Somehow, this lesson of “delaying gratification” was really taught well. I remember as a teenager, wanting to do things and wondering when, if ever, I would be “old enough” or just basically “allowed.”  I happened to have parents who really PARENTED. I am not complaining. I had a great life; perhaps more sheltered than was necessary, but I would NEVER have crossed my parents. I remember a particular incident when I was crazy over a boy in high school. He was three years older than I was and already out of school. I could not ever imagine myself with anyone else for the rest of my life.  My Mom had other ideas and forbid me to see him.  I SO wanted to go behind her back and still date him and I tried it a couple of times, but I felt so horrible, I had to quit. I often wonder what would have happened if I had “lived in the moment” and done what my heart told me was right?
      I remember dating my husband the months before he was sent to Vietnam.  I was in Nursing School in Harrisburg and he came through on a train on his way to Philadelphia where he was to ship out.  We spent the night together in a hotel in a single bed and never had sex, just because we had both decided to “save ourselves” for our wedding night.  I think if we had “lived in the moment” that weekend, it would have saved us both a marriage and divorce…but then we would not have our beautiful children….
      I do remember another time I decided to “live in the moment” and love unconditionally the man I was living with while I went back to school after my divorce. The only problem was that he was “living in the moment” too, but with several others and I got a STD out of it!
      How do certain people learn to “live in the moment?” Is it something they are taught by parents who know the basic need to quiet oneself and go within? Is it a cultural thing? Is it in our primal memories? I NEVER got the lesson!  All I got was “delay your gratification” and now that I have been on my own, I tend to do whatever appeals to me, but without any regard to the consequences: take financial risks; eat unhealthy foods; ignore my need for order; put off being creative; work 12 hours a day….
      I am worried that I may have made my children “delay gratification.” My son is very solid, grounded, takes NO risks; my daughter….Heaven help her…I think she is just like me. I may have done them a disservice.
I want them to live in the present…and enjoy all that life has to offer…good and bad….
      Me??? I need a guru to sit me down, help me find who I am before there is no time left!