Many people struggle with forming unhealthy attachments to other people. This is evident from the copious number of self-help books educating people on how to gain independence in relationships and find inner strength. While I sometimes find myself forming attachments to certain people I care for, I more often find myself getting attached to moments. When I’m in a situation that fills me with joy, I also quickly become filled with dread. Instead of focusing on the people I am with, the activity I’m doing, or the happiness I’m experiencing, I fixate on the fact that this enjoyable moment is bound to end. Thus, it’s unsurprising that the expression “all good things must come to an end,” has never sat right with me. Sometimes this saying will send me into an existential spiral, asking myself if all good things really come to an end, why bother doing anything good at all?
For example, I have been in a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend for about a year and a half. Fortunately, the two of us possess enough money and time to visit each other every month or so, which has obviously been a bit more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. My boyfriend is one of the people I enjoy spending time with the most in my life, so I always await our visits with one another with intense excitement. When we’re together, each moment feels special, as we go out of our ways to find fun activities to fill our time. The two of us take road trips, cook new meals, watch endless movies, visit art galleries, and explore the city we’re in. I have had some of the best times of my life on the trips we’ve taken to see each other.
But towards the end of our visits, I always feel a dreadful feeling creep into my brain. My partner and I will be sharing a precious moment with one another, and then suddenly I imagine the two of us waving goodbye as one of us departs. I feel my heart drop into my stomach and the pressure behind my eyes increase as tears threaten to spill out. My dread turns into sadness, as I begin grieving the end of a moment that hasn’t even finished yet.
Needless to say, this isn’t the most comfortable or healthy feeling. If we live our lives petrified about experiencing good moments because of their inevitable end, it’s difficult to fully enjoy life. If you’re anything like me, you know it’s difficult to overcome this tendency to hyper-focus on the eventual end of a happy moment. But a remedy that I’ve found to be extremely useful is the act of savoring the present moment.
For instance, on my last visit with my boyfriend, I began feeling that dreadful feeling towards the end of our trip like usual. We were taking a walk to a nearby coffee shop in the evening, and my chest began tightening and I felt like I was going to cry, as I remembered I would be leaving him so soon. But instead of focusing on those physical sensations, I made a deliberate effort to look at the environment around me. The sky was a soft pink, and the air was beginning to chill as day turned into night. I could feel the scratchy texture of my wool cardigan against my skin. I felt the pavement beneath my feet with each step and the condensation from my iced Americano on my palm. I could hear crickets chirping and birds singing their last songs of the day. Everything in that moment felt perfect, and I soaked it all up like a sponge. I let myself savor all of the happy emotions I was feeling and let my body fill with warmth.
Through being intentionally mindful about the happy moments I experience, I’m able to quiet the dread and truly live life in the moment. By tuning into my senses and focusing on my joy, I can capture the happy moments in my head like mental photographs. I can access these memories whenever I want to feel some warm comfort and feel reassured by the fact that they are bound to occur again.
It’s true, good things come to an end eventually. But we can’t just avoid the good parts of life because we’re scared that they’re going to end. Instead, live gratefully and mindfully, knowing that good things do end, but they will always start again. The next time you are experiencing a happy moment, instead of thinking of it as fleeting, push yourself to savor the goodness.