I liked this little Christmas story of Alex Balk’s:

One of the tragedies of our lives is how much we miss out on because we think there’s something more interesting happening wherever were aren’t; it is a lesson always learned too late.

Maybe it’s not the most logical leap, but this reminded me of something John Keats said:

– I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason –

A lot of Buddhist writing talks about how often we fail to be aware, to be present. I’ll spare you that Auden quotation again, in favor of one from Alan Watts:

The peculiarly noticeable thing about the personality of Zen people is the uncluttered mind. When you deal with Zen masters, you have a strange feeling that so long as you are with them and addressing them, they are absolutely with you. They have nothing else to do but talk to you. They are just “right there.”

For me, the common thread here is being able to realize that this, this right here, is as good as it gets. Sure, some details could be better, but some could be worse, and sometimes striving for the former unbalances everything and brings about the latter. The people and places and memories you’re looking at in nostalgic, melancholic hindsight now are the same ones you were looking past at the time, hoping to see something more glitzy, dynamic, captivating, more in line with what you think life ought to be like. And while you’re doing that, you’re dismissing things right now that will seem so much more important later.
I’ve thought about this and tried to consciously embody a more focused presence for years, but I still often find myself unconsciously gravitating toward this outlook. I have to repeatedly bring my focus back and remind myself: I don’t need to know if this or that could be improved slightly. I don’t need to keep trying to have just a little bit more, to make a good thing just a little bit better, to gorge myself on unrealistic desires until I have no appetite or appreciation for what’s available. I have a very good balance right now between the positive and negative in my life. That’s all I need, and I don’t care if I ever have anything more.