08/24/2012 03:07 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2012

Now Doesn't Last Forever

It's Thursday, and our week has been a flurry of activity. Our traditional end-of-the-summer meal was on Tuesday. My son and I played golf yesterday, and last night the whole family attended a baseball game. My wife is taking my daughter to a concert tonight.

You see, we're frantically preparing to be empty nesters.

On Saturday, my son will join my daughter at college, and they will never again live at home full time. One of my friends says I may be mistaken on that last point.

The irony in my approach to parenting is that I'm always looking toward the future, and then when the future gets here, it catches me off-guard.

When my children were on formula, I couldn't wait for them to drink regular milk. When they were still in diapers, I could't wait for them to be potty-trained. And when we were chauffeuring them around to ballgames, band concerts, and Scouts, I couldn't wait until they could drive.

Now that they're drinking milk, fully potty-trained, and driving off to college, I finally got what I had hoped for -- but it doesn't feel as good as I expected. While all of these milestones were good, I think I missed something along the way by wishing for them to arrive sooner rather than later.

As Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, explains, "When we're here and want to be somewhere else," we're missing what the present moment has to offer.

Yes, guilty as charged.

But I suspect I'm not alone when it comes to focusing on the future at the expense of the present. It's easy to do when there are so many things to anticipate and worry about. So, even though I consider myself a work in progress, there are a couple of things I try to do to keep my focus on the moment.

First, when I feel myself reacting because my current situation is not what I think it should be, I remind myself that "it is what it is" and that if I can't do anything to change it, I should find something to appreciate in it.

Second, when I find myself too focused on something in the future, I ask myself, "What am I missing here by focusing on there?"

And last, I continually remind myself that while I should take responsibility for the things I can control, I should not feel responsible for the things I can't control. For more information on this, consider the weather, other people's opinions of me, and traffic.

When it comes to our empty nest, absence will make the heart grow fonder. And when it comes to life in general, I suspect that presence makes the heart grow richer.

Tonight, my son and I will cap off our evening with a visit to our favorite frozen yogurt shop. I plan to savor every bite... and every minute.

For more by Ron Culberson, MSW, CSP, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.