It all happened by accident.
I was sitting at the end of a bar at a local pub, one of those pubs in the middle of a Denver neighborhood neatly nestled between people’s homes. People’s lives. Couples next door having arguments about the dirty dishes in the sink as I sip slowly on a beer. An amber brew of some kind if I remember.
A little drunk, but not yet swaying on the stool, my thumb flips through the list of songs on my phone, which is connected to the bar’s jukebox. A picture of Freddie Mercury flashes up on the screen, illuminating my face with a blue hue. The words “Bohemian Rhapsody” pop up under Freddie. I smile to myself.
There are only a handfull of people in the bar with me. A few lonely drinkers like myself. A young couple near the other end of the bar, the two happily leaning into each other as they chat with the bartender. Cooks in the back are baking pizzas, smacking shut the metal doors of the ovens as the smell of boiling cheese on rising dough drifts through the bar.
“Is this the real life?” Freddie sings to everyone from speakers bolted to the ceiling. The other drinkers smile, too. The bartender starts to sing along. The couple joins in. So do I. Halfway through the song, the cooks are out from behind the kitchen, some with their arms around each other as we sing, “I don’t want to die. I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.”
And for a brief moment, with most of us strangers to each other, we sing along with Freddie—laughing and drinking and just enjoying the shared experience of being there together.
It felt like our problems couldn’t touch us. The divorced man drinking alone and missing his kids. The failed college student still paying off student debt. The woman who misses hearing the sound of her son’s voice before he was shipped off to another country on the other side of the world and never came home.
For a few minutes, the looming anxiety of all those tomorrows, and the cutting recollections of traumas from the past, were less impactful. We felt okay, knowing full well those heavy burdens were waiting patiently for us to carry on our backs as we walked home.
And it all happened by complete accident.
Like mindfulness, people keep telling me I need to live in the present, but few tell me just how to do such a thing, outside of exhausted clichés that seem to reword the same idea: Focus on the present. Think about what you are doing now. Just take it all in.
But before going to the pub, we didn’t plan ahead to “take it all in.” We didn’t call each other up, telling each other we need be ready to sing along to Freddie Mercury so that we can live in the present. It just happened! And it disappeared almost as quickly as it emerged.
There’s no way to re-create that night, even with the same people and the same music and the same amount of booze consumed by all. Maybe focusing on a method to get to where I want to be is what’s getting in the way of where I want to be.
But how do I not get in my own way of trying to live in the present?
I’ll need to think on that. But first, I’m going to toast some frosted, brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-tarts. Then maybe I’ll go back to reading one of my favorite novels or go for a walk with my camera. Maybe I’ll call up a friend for lunch and just enjoy the company, not thinking about how live in the present before I jump back into all this serious business of trying to figure out how to live in the present.
Hopefully it’s not so obvious that I’m just not seeing it, whatever it is that I’m missing.