When am I?

iCAP Services logoThe radio alarm came to life at 6.25 am and filled the room with the usual morning show chatter.

As consciousness came to me, I became aware of the radio announcer’s guest talking about his family history, hardships and events that led to their migration to Australia as refugees.

During this conversation, he mentioned the words of wisdom his father passed onto him, no doubt informed by his harrowing experience of escaping his homeland with his family.

‘There are only two moments in time’, his father had told him, ‘now, and too late’.

Before hearing this, I was in my usual morning zombie state, but these words went through me like an energy bolt.

There was something about them that went deep and stirred some sort of connection.  I can only explain it by saying that it ‘felt’ like the truth.

During the day, I can spend time worrying about what might happen, what will happen, what could happen in the future (this afternoon, tomorrow, next week, in five years time) depending on a decision I need to make.

Likewise, I can spend time thinking about what has happened in the past and how life could have been different if I had made other choices.

Image of clockI can’t predict the future so no amount of thought or energy I spend on what might be will guarantee it. How many of the best laid plans for the future crumble when just a tiny deviation occurs?

Likewise, no amount of thought or energy directed to the past will change it.

Sometimes, my own reaction to lost expectations and wasted energy can range from frustration and anger to disappointment and sadness.

Whilst this time is being spent on events from the past and what might occur in the future, I am ignoring the present; ignoring the moment I am in right now.

By not being present in this moment now, I can’t enjoy it, appreciate it, improve it nor change it.  And in a flash, it’s gone. It becomes ‘too late’.

The practice of mindfulness is a tool that helps me to refocus on the present moment.

Mindfulness has many therapeutic applications and works as a cut-off switch; a fuse box for the unrelenting thoughts that carry many of us down the path of catastrophic thinking, depressive thoughts and anxiety about what might happen, what did happen, etc.

Mindfulness is about being aware of what’s happening for you now.  How are you walking? How are you sitting? What sounds are around?  What can you see and smell?  What emotions are you experiencing?  What can you do right now to shift that, if need be?

All these things and more can affect your wellbeing.

If you’re slouching and concentrating on a past event, by the time you come back to the present you have a back ache, your shoulders are tense and your mood may have shifted.

If you’ve decided to take the dog for a walk and are thinking about everything you need to do tomorrow, you start to rush the walk and may miss the opportunity to enjoy the local scenery and your dog’s devotion to you.

If you’re working long hours to provide material security for your family’s future, what connections and milestones are you missing now whilst you worry about how much will be enough for their future happiness?

OK, so you have to organise pick-ups, school lunches, work meetings and nights out with friends and family. But are you in the present moment and being aware of your surroundings whilst you’re doing the organising?

Instead, maybe you’re imagining the worse case scenario if your plans don’t work out.  You could already be subjecting yourself to the anxiety that may accompany any number of outcomes other than what you’ve planned for.

Here’s something to try: for just one day, keep a tally of the thoughts you have that deal with past and possible future events and the effect they have on your mood.

Check to see how many times you drift away from right now.

Even as you read this, are there any thoughts or feelings in your body that need your attention right now?

Are you somewhere ‘too late’; somewhere that doesn’t even exist or has ‘now’ grabbed your full attention?

When are you right now?

Tina Pitsiavas is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist in private practice in Wollongong and Sydney.

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  1. I try to avoid thinking of the past, too much pain still trying to deal with it…and you’re right, it does affect your mood. Just like music, certain songs will do the same.

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