Let’s do a quick pre-blog summary about being present in the moment: I think it’s a great idea.
But it has almost never worked for me.
Could it? Totally. But that takes a lot of effort, and I’m too busy stressing out about future shit to worry about all that right now.
Case in point: I was discussing stressors with a friend recently. This was after a class we had both attended that’s designed to relax and re-set (and it absolutely works, for like, 30 minutes afterward). She had shit, I had shit, we all have shit, and we were recapping said shit in a venting-type way (I love venting, and swear by it. Go ahead, disagree with me and hold it in. See where that gets you. I recommend periodically finding someone who will at least pretend to listen, and letting it all out until you feel like a limp noodle).
So my friend was talking about this crazy, awful, stressful day she had ahead, packed full of responsibility. I was talking about how these stressful moments were the type in which it would be great NOT to be present, because ewww.
Why do we have to be present for the stress? That’s like, the worst possible time for us to be present!
I said that. Not only did I say it, I really felt like it was correct, and even wise of me. But, like with most things, I was dead wrong.
Because, see, when we know we have a stressful day, we’re not actually thinking about the moments of that day as they happen. We’re not dealing with the stress as it’s happening. What we’re really doing is thinking ahead.
ohmygosh I have thisthenthisthenthisthenthis and the kids have this and who’s going to get them to this and what about dinner and this is too much I didn’t sign up for it and I can’t handle it and I’m DONE.
Right?! But here’s the thing. We don’t live in the future. And that’s super great, because we’re older in the future, and why borrow that kind of negativity?
We live in the now. So why aren’t we living in it?
There are ways to guide us to that very thing. Meditation is supposed to be great, for example. Just close your eyes and breathe deeply, and BAM. You’re basically Buddha.
Except it doesn’t always work, because every single time I try to breathe my way into the moment, I instead breathe my way into all of those pesky, flyaway thoughts in my mind. All of the things I need to get done. All of the people I need to call. That bitch in fourth grade who made fun of my weight and my hair and my clothes every single day, and where IS she, anyway?
(doing hair in southwest Missouri, as it turns out, and still making fun of people on social media, but I digress.)
We won’t all have the same paths to transcendence. Some are straightforward. Some are winding and overgrown. We trip over the sneaky roots that snake through it. We freaking hate hiking anyway, so what even is happening with this stupid path!?
This week, when I lost my job, I especially was stricken with present versus future.
It was tense. HA!!!!!
My impulse, following the call, was to go straight back to bed. And that’s what I actually did. Hours later, I made myself shower and put on makeup, presumably for the sheer purpose of testing its waterproof properties (btw…Kat Von D tattoo liner for the win).
The worst tests are the ones we didn’t see coming.
At the urging of my incredible husband, I allowed myself time to cry. I didn’t immediately apply for more jobs. I didn’t frantically place calls and set up future work.
I grieved. I allowed myself to accept that I will no longer be a full-time employee in the renewable energy sector. I simultaneously raged against the term “conflict of interest” and rejoiced that I no longer have to know it intimately.
And I remained fully, painfully, present. Painfully as I read the news from Las Vegas. Painfully, as I read that Tom Petty had died.
I think I cried for six hours.
What I didn’t do was try to suppress. Try to distract myself. I made myself feel the feelings, and as panic welled and I felt the urge to fill out every job application I could find while Petty crooned soothingly in the background, instead I made myself rest as the emotions stormed through.
Rumi said it best.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
It’s easy to be present when we’re having the time of our lives. A thrilling roller-coaster ride, gazing into your beloved’s eyes as he proposes…these are the best of times.
But the worst of times spares no one. And suppressing the storm only prolongs it. The darkness is necessary so that we can appreciate the light, when it comes, so much more.
And it will come.
So today, try to feel.
And tomorrow, do it again. Before you know it, you’ll be finally, fully, present.
Which is really cool, because the present is the only place we will ever be.