Are you like me? Do you regularly find yourself enjoying the moment so much that you become protective of it, defensive, afraid it will pass too quickly?
We’ve gotten a lot better since I finished college and became able to visit home more frequently and for longer durations, but my mom and I are pretty infamous for doing this, both together and individually. This is going to be such a fun weekend I hope it doesn’t go by too quickly I just don’t want it to end! I can’t tell you how many times the two of us have echoed that very sentiment. It’s just hard to get past the fact that the most delicious moment seems to be at the very cusp of the weekend, before anything has even really happened, perhaps before I’ve even arrived…everything that’s to come suspended in time, yet to unfold, so delicious in its anticipation. I find this experience very human, and a borderline epidemic amongst the sentimental. But the truth is indulging this excitement, excitement that is laced with dread, is like taking a drug and only focusing on the impending comedown. How can we really enjoy what’s in our palms if we’re only focused on what’s just left our fingertips?
Is it possible to be too present? Can we be so present that we’re actually still in the past, envisioning the future, desperately hoping the moment doesn’t go by too quickly…or suddenly in the future itself looking back on the past and desperately wishing it weren’t over. Can we shatter the realm of the present moment by trying to anticipate or prolong the inevitable?
I’ve done this my whole life. Birthdays. Christmases. Vacations. Long weekends at home. Romantic getaways. Spa appointments even, for goodness sake! As much as I want to enjoy all that lay ahead there’s also a little part of me that wants to just freeze that moment, before it’s begun, before it’s been spoiled by the start of the ticking clock (as though the clock weren’t ticking all along). It sort of falls into the theme I often speak of, the “enjoy your life now,” thread; the “don’t wait for friday or vacation or retirement to be happy, find your happy now, in monday, the day after vacation, the heat of responsibility and obligation” notion. A notion so much easier spoken of than embodied. Seriously. There’s a reason people in the grocery store answer, “How are you?” with, “Well, it’s friday!” at the end of the week. As though a day of the week could suddenly revolutionize an otherwise dismal outlook, foul mood, boring day.
I’m all for being present. Being in the moment. Living life now, right here, with everything as it naturally is. I dream of finding contentment from moment to moment, regardless of the circumstances, finding a way to always love what is. Which is why I’m so cognizant of this behavior I exhibit quite regularly, this habitual desire to slow down the good parts.
Take today, for instance. It’s Mother’s Day. I was able to get the day off work and spend a whole afternoon lazing in my aunt’s backyard, sitting beside my mom, getting barreled over by my yellow lab and teaching my Noni how to hula hoop. It was a perfect day. Gorgeous weather, not too hot, not too cool. Delicious food. Surrounded by my family. My happy puppy running circles around the yard. Nowhere to be and nothing to worry about. For the first time in a long time neither my mom nor myself made a comment about wishing the day wouldn’t end. Looking back, it makes me smile. We were just there. We didn’t try to squeeze the moment so hard it burst, we didn’t struggle to slow down the day, making the inevitable departure doubly melancholy in its weight. No, we just simply were. We laughed, ate, gabbed, smooched, relaxed.
The moment we stopped worrying about trying to stay present or control the pace of the moment was the very moment we released ourselves and presence became us. That was the very moment we moved away from resistance. The energy of the day danced around us in perfect tempo, encasing us inside of it, and that alone was enough to slow down time.
When it came time to leave we gave big hugs and caravanned down the freeway. The place where the freeway splits taking my parents one direction and me in the other, towards our respective homes, was up ahead in the distance. We cruised alongside each other, each of our windows down. My mom and I held extended hands out the window, fingertips reaching out for one another, smiles hanging lazily on our mouths, jaws slack with the pleasure of the day. At the split we blew kisses and waved, sun kissed, grinning faces fading as the pavement carried us apart. There was nothing in my heart but ease. No angst over the parting (as there typically is). There was no “ripping off the bandaid” feeling that usually accompanies having to say goodbye to my mom to taint the otherwise perfect day.
We had managed to move with the grain, with the churning of the earth, leaning into gravity and letting the natural rhythm and air of unassuming presence carry us. We did not fall towards resistance. Instead we turned our backs on it and embraced what is. The sheer tangibility. The reality of our lives, sprawled all around us, both behind and in front of us. Today…five perfect hours. Sultry air moving through the leaves of the trees. My mom and I, deck chairs tucked in the shade, barefoot and holding hands. The dog’s wet, flaxen coat glistening in the midday sun. The crimson juice of a perfect summer strawberry staining my fingers. The artless flavor of an afternoon with nothing to do but be.
I’m certainly not poised to write a “how-to” book on being present, as I’m clearly still endeavoring to master that skill, but I’m beginning to understand the process. As ever, less is more becomes my mantra. Sometimes it’s in the release, the surrender, the acceptance of life it its simplest nature that brings us most vividly into the present moment. We can’t slow it down, nor can we speed it up, nor can we really be where we are any more fully by suffocating the moment. Casually sitting back, in neutral observation, that is what lures the essence of the present moment… and it is through the untroubled savoring of that sweet nectar that presence becomes us.
Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing momma…the woman who gave me life, is my best friend, greatest spiritual guide and who anchors me to this earth. I love you mumma. Jai MAA!