On Being Present.
I have a tendency to always talk about how things used to be, or how I hope they are in the future. Rarely do I just pause and appreciate things as they are right now. I wish I remembered to do that more often. And so when I read this bit of an article earlier, I felt a twinge.
The present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now. – source
Looking backward doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s healthy to protect and preserve memories, to reflect, to learn from experiences. And looking forward is a good thing too – setting goals, making plans, and leaning on hope.
But by looking back and forth in each direction too often, we tend to miss what is happening right in the middle – the now.
Being present is something I’ve been working on for a while now. When I got married three years ago, I walked myself down the aisle. My bridesmaids all went ahead of me, and so the last few moments before I stepped into the church, I was alone in the back with a wedding coordinator. She turned to me and told me to take an extra minute. Soak it in. Soak it up. It would only happen once.
And I was. I pushed aside my nerves and my emotions, and I listened to every word, every song, and every breath. Because of her advice, I made sure to live every minute of our 20 minute ceremony, and here three years later I can remember it like it was yesterday. By being in the moment, I have made it last so much longer.
I remember hearing similar advice in our birthing classes. Childbirth is such an incredibly overwhelming experience, and it’s easy to get caught up in the lights, equipment, and frenzy as the baby arrives, and we were told to try to remain as present as possible.
Despite how mentally and emotionally drained I was by the end of my labor, I held onto this, and when Cullen arrived the background became a blur. I focused on staying present – only seeing him and Casey – knowing that our moment as a new family would only happen once.
And now that he’s here, I find myself looking backward and forward too often. Parenting is a funny thing. While we do our best to cherish every smile, laugh, and snuggle, the sleeplessness and the hard work sometimes let the days run together and months pass like minutes.
It’s easy to long for the next nap, or the break that comes when dad gets home from work. And too often I am thinking about all the other things I need to do, rather than simply appreciating what is right in front of me.
I find myself thinking in terms of the upcoming weekend, the next vacation, or the next time we’ll see family again. But in between all of those things are days that hold moments of their own. Perhaps they are moments that don’t feel extraordinary, and don’t always require a camera or a phone call, but they are still there. Subtle, simple moments.
Today was one of those days when it was just me and Cullen – sun up to sun down. But after this morning’s reminder to stay present, I didn’t feel the length of the day or the lack of help. I just focused on each moment, each hour, and each nap as they came and went. We had a great day.
I look back at pictures of Cullen from a few months ago, and I feel sad that I’ve already forgotten what it was like for him to be that small and that helpless. And I read books and parenting sites and find myself stressing about all that comes next – solid foods, baby-proofing, potty training (okay not for a while, but still quite scary).
But instead of longing for what was, or fearing was is to come, I’m going to make a better effort to simply appreciate the here and now.
Because the present is pretty darn good.