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As I get older, time with family becomes more special. Each visit, although measured in days, feels like a lifetime rich with meaning.

Growing up, it wasn't always like this. Everything I saw, I saw through the fearful, stressed out eyes of a child navigating difficulties of school, sports, and relationships. My view of the outer environment was clouded by the experience of my inner environment.

I would see the typical cold, rainy days in New England as depressing. I would look at the nearby houses as junky. And these feelings would actually take place within me. It wasn't like I just saw rain and didn't think anything of it. My whole mood would shift into depressive states because of the weather and the houses, or so I thought.

The truth is, I was clouded internally by my identification with my negative thoughts. My mind saw depressing weather, so I immediately went there. I never had the wherewithal to question these thoughts and see them come and go. Instead, they were my thoughts, so I didn't even see a way out. How could I not believe them? Why wouldn't I believe them, if they were my thoughts?

The net result of this suffering was an inability to appreciate, let alone enjoy, my time with family.

How thankful I am to still have family today to visit and spend quality time with. Each time I'm home with family, I recognize this could be the last time. None of us ever know what the future has in store. That's okay, because we don't live in the future. We only live in the now. So there's no pressure, no need to worry about the next time we're together, or the time after that. The only thing to focus on is the time we have right now, together.

In fact, by focusing on the next time, I'm essentially missing this time. Why even be here if I'm focused on the next family gathering?

The same goes for any moment of our lives. By failing to remain in the present, life essentially passes by us.

When you're with family, be with them. Catch yourself thinking about the future, and bring yourself back to now. Even if they get on your nerves, you know they won't be around forever, as this year especially has shown us.

So when you're together, be together. Laugh together. Let this year be a reminder that time with your family can be deeply fulfilling if you experience it with an open mind and a loving heart.

Live with substance!

Gabe Orlowitz

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