Are We There Yet?
There, exactly where? Where are we supposed to be, really?
Here. We should be here, in the present, in the moment, body and mind. This is called mindfulness. It would be the obvious place to be, don’t you agree? Right here, right now. But the present is not such a popular spot, it’s seldom visited. We are too busy being consumed by the past, petrified of the future or getting distracted, seduced by whatever comes in our way… Naturally: we have work to do, bills to pay, errands to run, plans to make, people to take care of… there is always something. And the dear monkey in our minds keeps throwing bananas back at us, making noises and faces, disturbing, panicking us. How can we be in the moment if all we do is running away from it?
Well, that’s exactly the solution for it: to stop and be mindful of the task at hand. When you are doing something, just be present, aware of it. There is no room for the past or the future while you are in the present and, truly, the present is all we have. The past is gone – why dwell on it? – and the future hasn’t happened yet. How many things we do on automatic mode? Do we mean what we say or we don’t even recall the message? How it is to see something without looking at it? Hearing without listening?
I’m far from being an authority on this mindful-way-of-life, though…I’m the first to raise my hand to yell “guilty!!!” There are so many little things in my life falling through the cracks, for example…
Tell me, have you ever felt the frustration of realizing you gobbled up already the last bite of your meal, sandwich or, worse, chocolate, without the benefits of tasting it, having a “closure”? It’s not that you are hungry anymore but emotionally you feel robbed, deceived. You got distracted, you pay the price! This often happens to me and there is no use in blaming the kids, my husband (who actually could be the culprit of the ‘missing piece”), even the cat, if I’m all alone.
Another one: I warn my kids to put away their belongings because if I do so, they might never see them again… just because I will not remember where I put them. My enraged brain will not process the action of my hands, and sorry, that’s why that post-it or tiny misplaced toy, will land in a unknown territory – Narnia, maybe – or the same magic Realm of Lost Socks and Umbrellas. I will not be held accountable for its whereabouts. If I’m lucky, or better, if my kids are lucky, they will find it someday. That’s the price paid for misplaced things in the house when I’m under stress.
I also often open the fridge and gaze, lost in a fog of thoughts, almost expecting the head of lettuce to give me, well, heads up: “My dear, if you’re here looking for the ketchup, he’s down there chatting with the mustard.” Still, nothing. It doesn’t sound right. Of course not. I’m looking for is a ziploc bag. I quickly close the fridge avoiding eye contact with the lettuce.
And how many times I just ignore the fact that the spoon that I was cooking with disappeared? Does that happen to you? If it’s out of sight, I don’t even bother looking for it, I just announce – under my breath – to possible leprechauns (yes, I blame it on entities) that they will not make me crazy. I simply get another one. Eventually I will find the treacherous spoon lying on the coffee table. All dried up. Ha ha, too bad. I don’t care. Damn you, mischievous leprechauns. You are not getting the best of my rage. Ever.
Clearly, I need help so I ask my kids for it. I explain that mama’s mind is overheated, overworked, overwhelmed… Over everything. I need external drives for backup. Children are potential external drives but they usually remind you of things that it only matters to them. “Mom, you promised to give me that candy after lunch.” Or “You said we could go to the beach this weekend.” Sigh. I just want them to remember to bring back home the goggles after swim practice. I’m not asking much. I shouldn’t have to remember everything. But being absent minded is not only my privilege. For a while when I asked something to my daughter, she often answered with a “Yes / No… Wait, what?” Her automatic response was first agreeing or disagreeing followed by a sudden realization she shouldn’t have answered without understanding the question. I am glad she stopped that. At least for now.
I don’t dare to ask my husband for help as he has too much going on his mind, too. An example: the other day he said he went to our bathroom cabinet to get an Advil but once getting there, he immediately brushed his teeth, forgetting completely about the medicine. Yes, not even pain could keep him on his track. I laughed about the episode but the more I think about it, I see there is nothing to laugh about. Better stop thinking. Ommmmm…
(It’s not worth mentioning the categories keys, sunglasses and cellphone. Too humiliating.)
Jokes aside, it’s very alarming going on life like this. Thinking ahead never gets us ahead, note that.
So what should we do? We don’t want to become zombies, or feeding this pattern of absence. So I keep close to my heart the words of the great Vietnamese Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh: “Every twenty-four-hour day is a tremendous gift to us. So we all should learn to live in a way that makes joy and happiness possible. We can do this.(…) Breathe and tell yourself that a new day has been offered to you, and you have to be there to live it.”
Yes, we have to be present not to take a day for granted. We never know when it’s our last one anyway. So it’s better to live it fully. Showing up in body and mind. Feeling alive. Like you, I have a zillion of things to do, to think about, but for my own sake, and the sake of my loved ones, and why not – the world we live in – let’s pause and be in the moment.
Breathe in, breathe out. Just say: I am here. And smile because, finally, you are in the right place.