We tend to spend a great deal of time looking forward to -- or worrying about -- the future. In the meantime, the present moves into the past. Of this tendency, Montaigne writes:
"Those who accuse men of always gaping after future things, and teach us to lay hold of present goods and settle ourselves in them, since we have no grip on what is to come (indeed a good deal less than we have on what is past), put their finger on the commonest of human errors . . . We are never at home, we are always beyond. Fear, desire, hope, project us toward the future and steal from us the feeling and consideration of what is, to busy us with what will be, even when we shall no longer be."
Michel de Montaigne, "Our Feelings Reach Out Beyond Us," The Complete Essays of Montaigne (translated by Donald Frame) (Stanford University Press 1958), page 8.
Montaigne's thoughts bring to mind a poem by Thomas Hardy.
A Two-Years' Idyll
Yes; such it was;
Just those two seasons unsought,
Sweeping like summertide wind on our ways;
Moving, as straws,
Hearts quick as ours in those days;
Going like wind, too, and rated as nought
Save as the prelude to plays
Soon to come -- larger, life-fraught:
Yes; such it was.
'Nought' it was called,
Even by ourselves -- that which springs
Out of the years for all flesh, first or last,
Dully on days that go past.
Yet, all the while, it upbore us like wings
Even in hours overcast:
Aye, though this best thing of things,
'Nought' it was called!
What seems it now?
Lost: such beginning was all;
Nothing came after: romance straight forsook
Life when we sped from our nook,
Primed for new scenes with designs smart and tall. . . .
-- A preface without any book,
A trumpet uplipped, but no call;
That seems it now.
Thomas Hardy, Late Lyrics and Earlier (1922).
I suspect that most of us have had this sort of experience, and it is not one that is limited to romantic relationships. Of course, "hindsight is 20/20" (as the saying goes), so perhaps it is unfair of us to judge ourselves for not appreciating what was passing us by unawares as we dreamed upon the future. "A preface without any book" is a very nice way of putting it, I think. This is why the Chinese T'ang poets and the Japanese haiku poets would have us look at the world around us, at this moment.