Yesterday Is Dead
We’ll never “go back to normal,” but we can make the most of today.
“All that’s left is smoke and ash, so let’s keep dancing on the broken glass.”
Thus go the lyrics of Kygo’s latest song. It’s about two lovers breaking up, but right now, it feels like advice to all of us. We’re all going through a similarly traumatic if more abstract separation: Reality broke up with us.
Yesterday died, and it left us high and dry. Slow Fridays at the office with your biggest concern being what you’ll wear for the pub crawl — gone. Two-hour weekend trip flights to the coast to munch on some fresh fish by the beach — gone. First dates in the park while having ice cream — gone.
Don’t you wish you could go back to just figuring out how to switch companies because your boss is annoying? Or to plotting how you’ll finally break free from corporate shackles? Struggling to save for a two-week family vacation sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
All that’s left now is to stay inside, work, and veg out with Netflix on the couch when you’re done, which is of course later than it used to be because hey, you’re working from home!
Depending on where home is, you might not even want to go outside anymore. What’s there? People yelling, fighting, breaking things — and infecting each other in the process. It’s a great time to get hurt but little else.
Not that you could do anything anyway. Restaurants closed. Shops closed. Bars closed. Gyms closed. Fuck. Travel is forbidden. Dating is dangerous. No large gatherings. And now people ignoring all those rules — health-related and otherwise — to protest and, in some cases, loot stores and torch cars.
Great. Just great. After three months of dying to go outside, quarantine is suddenly attractive. Good one 2020, you got us again! And it’s barely June.
“Cheers to us and what we had, let’s keep dancing on the broken glass.”
You’re not the only one wishing for a more peaceful time. You’re not alone with your nostalgia, your desire to go back to just obsessing over your own, now petty-seeming problems.
But as much as I hate to break it to you, I think it’s important we wrap our heads around this: Normal is not coming back. Life is different now. The world has changed. Yesterday is dead.
There’s a mask hanging on my drying rack. Kygo released his new album via live stream. Security is outside every grocery store. People don’t cut in line anymore. There are no concerts. Most airports are dead.
In some ways, the death of yesterday has brought us closer together. In others, it has ripped us apart. But what yesterday could do for us if it came back doesn’t matter — because we don’t have yesterday. All we have is today.
It’s okay to be sad. I’m sad. My 2020 was going to be very different. I’m sure yours would have too. But we’ll never “go back to normal,” and so we may as well cut the nostalgia. Some things will return. Others won’t. But they’ll all be different than before.
Now’s the time to realize the glass is broken. We can’t put it back together, but we can dance on the shards. We can still make the most of today.
Of course, today is the day that mattered all along. “Wherever you go, there you are,” Jon Kabat-Zinn says.
The world can take a lot from us, but our minds we can only surrender. It’s tempting. But then what? We’ll be tossed around by life’s events even more, adrift in a sea of chaos. No, we can’t let that happen. Today is where we stand our ground. Today is where we stake our claim.
The best way to give the world the finger is to make the most of today. It’s a way of standing up for yourself. Don’t let the vastness of the universe crush you. You do you. You do your best today.
There’s this misconception that mindfulness is for the weak, the woo-woo, the hippies with nothing better to do. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Thich Nhat Hanh said mindfulness done right requires the same attention as driving a car. “In mindfulness, one is not only restful and happy but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”
Sometimes, encountering reality is the thing we least want to do. Usually, that’s when it’s most important. “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced,” Søren Kierkegaard once wrote. We may not always enjoy this reality, not always look forward to it, but it’s still one to be experienced. That’s the task given to us every day. Today.
Life is but a series of present moments. Each one is fleeting, each one gone in seconds. Just like yesterday. Dead. Whatever pain we feel comes from resistance to any one of those moments dying. No! Where’d you go? Where is yesterday? I want yesterday back!
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the now the primary focus of your life.” That’s from Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now.
If you want to live peacefully, make the most of today.
If you want to fulfill your potential, make the most of today.
If you want to be happy, make the most of today.
Every day when the sun sets, another today dies. That’s life. That’s how it’s designed to be. Don’t resist it. Embrace it. It’s okay. We all struggle with this.
Yesterday is dead. But you’re still here. Let’s make the most of today.