Monday, October 27, 2014

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I noticed a curious plant on a walk in my neighborhood--it is a shrub with tiny, delicate flowers on it in three shades of purple--deep purple, lavender and white.  Purple is one of my favorite colors so of course, I was intrigued.  It took some research but I discovered that the plant's name is Brunfelsia latifolia but is commonly called the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow shrub.  I purchased one for my garden on the second anniversary of my divorce--it seemed appropriate somehow.

When the blooms open, they are dark purple in color; on the second day they fade to lavender and then become white on the third day.  At any given time, all three colors are present on the plant and the color of the blossom clues one in on how long the flower has been open.  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow will not thrive in colder climates but will grow in any light exposure, though it prefers morning sun and afternoon shade.

The name of the plant intrigued me because my life has been in a major transition during the past few years.  The trauma I have experienced anchors me to the events of yesterday and creates fear of what may come tomorrow.  This is the very nature of trauma--it ties us to an event(s) that occurred in one or more of our yesterdays.  The world is not as safe as we believed it was so we have fear and anxiety about what my come in our tomorrows.

But recovery offers another option--one that does not deny the trauma of yesterday or dismiss the fears we harbor of tomorrow.  It teaches us to be fully present in today--to live fully in this present moment.  Indeed, orienting to the present is a technique we teach victims of trauma to use when experiencing a flashback.  During a triggering event, the trauma victim's brain cannot differentiate between the past and the present, so experiences the trigger as though the remembered event were happening in the now.  Orienting to the present--noticing the feel of my feet on the floor, the smell of the plant on my desk, the light touch as my fingers skim the keyboard and the jazz playing softly in the background--these appeals to my senses remind my brain that that was then, this is now.

Recovery assures us that the bruises of our past will fade as we process through the pain, turning the deep purple of the wound into lighter and lighter shades of lavender and white.  But the key is staying present in the now, while honoring the past and surrendering to what may come in the future.  Today is my pressing concern--this moment, now this one and again this one.

Those of us in the Western world often live with one foot planted in "yesterday" and another planted in "tomorrow."  And far too often, we miss today.  We expend so much time fretting about what has already happened in our world or what may happen that we have no energy left to enjoy the beauty and majesty of daily life on this amazing planet.  This is the epidemic that plagues our world and it is far deadlier than Ebola or terrorism or a flagging economy.

I'm reminded of the lyrics of a song that meant so much to me many years ago.  It urges the listener to "hold tight to the sound of the music of living."  It refers to the music of the moment, the music of today--the laughter of children, the touch of a loved one, the blue of the sky or the green of the forest.  These are amazing gifts that we take for granted or ignore because we are listening to the cacophony of voices engaged in rigorous debate or issuing dire warnings about what tomorrow may hold.  The music of living gets drowned out by the noise of shrill street vendors urging vigilance, anxiety and fear.

Yesterday is gone and can never be recaptured and we are not promised tomorrow.  We have this moment, this very moment of life.  And isn't that enough?

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