I’ve never thought of myself as being overly competitive; well, apart from Monopoly, of course, and Scrabble, and, obviously, Snap… and Happy Families, and maybe pool. But apart from the aforementioned, hardly competitive at all.
All that changed, however, when I was invited to go (Go) Karting on my future son-in-laws stag weekend. Now, I must be honest and say I was more than mildly surprised to get an invitation to this event in the first place, as I figured the last person you’d have on your stag do would be your father-in-law to be, looking down his nose and making mental notes on your suitability for his beautiful daughter as you quaffed copious flagons of ale, experimented with naked bondage and tried to cop off as best you could with a wrecked, inebriated, swaying and staggering clutch of vomit-stained youth in tow.
But, apparently not all stag-do’s are like the ones I used to see featured on Channel 5. This one was an almost high-cultural weekend of small-bore pistol shooting, mini-golf and orienteering, interspersed with sedate meals and intelligent conversation, carried out in proper eating establishments, not a kebab shop or greasy spoon in sight.
And it was there, on the karting track, that I finally realised just how competitive I was. From the moment I pulled on the (rather sexy) one piece suit, crash helmet and leather gloves I knew I was going to take no prisoners in this arena. From revving maniacally on the starting grid, inhaling the oil and blue smoke of the engines, then fiercely ramming down the accelerator the nano-second the lights changed, I took no prisoners, let me tell you!
However, it was after the race, when I emerged, sweating copiously under the balaclava and full-face crash helmet, that I realised just why I had enjoyed karting so damned much. The reason was that, for once, I was fully immersed in the moment. When you’re engaged in something that requires every ounce of your being to be invested in that activity, you don’t have time to think. You can’t dwell, or regret, or reminisce, or indulge in memories of the past. And neither can you dream, or wonder, or plan, or fret, about what lies ahead in the future.
And there lies the real pleasure, the genuine joy of our lives. Whether you’re completely lost in taking in the most beautiful sunset, or perhaps fully engrossed in your work, writing, presenting, or serving your customers. If you’re having fun with the kids or the dog, or if you’re taking part in something, like karting, which requires all your powers of concentration, you’re completely and utterly fulfilled. It’s all you ever need.
I suppose there’s a certain irony in the fact that in looking for happiness we spend so many of our waking moments either musing over the past or contemplating the future. When, like the fabled Holy Grail, the key to genuine contentment is right here, right now, right beside us all the time. So, on a pretty rare day in the UK when the sun is shining out of a clear, blue sky, why not just take time to savour it, why not actually smell the coffee instead of just using it as a figure of speech? There really is no time like the present; this moment is truly all you’ll ever have, so, today, now, this second…just simply enjoy it!