Confession: I've been feeling like a total hypocrite lately because here I am ostensibly exploring the topic of Presence, researching how to be Here in my life and I'm often so terrible at doing this. I am so often fidgeting with my phone or fretting over the future or juggling a million things that serve to distract me from the heralded Present Moment. Perhaps I am the last person who should be waxing poetic about Presence. Or maybe, just maybe, I am the perfect person to be doing this because, like so many of you, I struggle with these things. Maybe, just maybe, if I can figure out a few things that work to keep me grounded in my life, they will be worth passing along? That's what this post is about. Concrete things we can do, or try to do, to be more here.
1. Forgive Yourself for Multitasking.
Okay, so we will have occasions where we must multitask and sometimes these turn out to be magical moments. Above, I am watching Big Girl's soccer game, snuggling my smallest babe (and, yes, photographing myself doing these things), but you know what? It was a good moment, one where I felt in it.
2. Forgive yourself for not being perfectly there.
I recently went on a wonderful field trip with Middle Girl and her class to the Brooklyn Bridge. The weather was perfect and we had such a good time and I loved being with my girl and her friends and her teachers and fellow parents. BUT. I went in and out of being really quite present. There were powerful moments when I looked around me and felt her hand in my hand and the bridge under my feet. But then there were lost moments when I was on my phone or wondering if I will ever finish my novel. This is life. And this is huge. We must forgive ourselves for not being 100% tuned to each moment. We are busy creatures with full plates and we must work with reality. I strongly believe that if we are so hard on ourselves for being present at every moment, we will have difficulty being present in any moment.
3. Allow yourself moments of happiness & record them.
I have these moments, usually when I am walking alone on the streets of this city where I was born and raised and live now, where I feel struck, literally struck with a simple thought: I am happy. Maybe there is a breeze or a patch of blue sky or a snip of birdsong, but I just feel it, pure joy and meaning. And these moments, frankly, are almost otherworldly and they don't happen everyday, but they are happening often enough that I've been noticing them. And when I do, I'm trying to embrace them instead of being suspicious of them. Sometimes, as in this instance, I even take a photograph of myself or the world at that moment, almost as a way of collecting evidence that they happened. Life is tricky, but there are gorgeous moments where we feel happy. We must not ignore these moments because they have the power to sustain us through less gorgeous times.
4. Be incredibly silly sometimes.
My favorite and often most present times, I'm realizing, are times when we are silly with our girls, when the world isn't so serious and sinister, but colorful and light, when there is skipping and laughing and squealing involved. Take last Friday evening. We went out for dinner and on the way home, Husband lifted our littlest lady over his head and it was nothing but amazing. That shock of silly pink against the candy apple green trees. Silliness is big.
5. Steal moments to remember.
I was getting dressed the other day and I found this photograph of Big Girl when she was two and a half. Her hair is still short and she's clutching a little fishing rod at Coleman Lake, a fishing club in Northern Wisconsin that means a great deal to my family. Instead of just glancing at the photo, I picked it up and carried it with me. I placed it on the bathroom counter with this tiny porcelain dish that says Sending You Love. I remembered her when she was that small, who she was, how much she has grown. I felt it, that wave of nostalgia, that thrum of passing time, but you know what? It snapped me into this very powerful awareness of now, and I felt compelled to be here and memorize here.
6. Feel for others and with others.
Adulthood is tricky terrain. People I know are experiencing incredibly hard things: anxiety, depression, addiction, separation, divorce, illness, loss, and more. I have experienced some of these things myself and I know how beastly they can be. The question is how we can feel for others and feel with them without being totally distracted from our own lives? I'm not sure to be honest, but I do know that it's incredibly important to me to support those I know who are struggling. I think doing this can also make us more tuned into the hues of our own lives.
6. Do something that matters to you.
Oh, this is big. I think sometimes we grow up and we have responsibilities like kids and jobs and it's hard to carve out time to do things that matter to us and fill us up. I think sometimes it's even hard to figure out what these things might be. All I know is that while I consider writing to be my job, it is also my love and it gives me something nothing else does. After an early morning of writing, I am most present for the rest of the day.
7. Take selfies if you like taking selfies.
Why not? Have fun.
8. Support people & work you admire.
One of the reasons I've so enjoyed hosting my monthly Happier Hour literary salons here at my place is that it feels wonderful to support authors and friends whose work I admire. We cannot just be in it for ourselves. Far more joy comes in trumpeting the successes and stories of others than in focusing narrowly on our own pursuits.
9. Stare at the sky.
I love this one. When I am feeling confused or stretched or a bit off, I look up at the sky. I notice its color, the shape of the clouds, how it frames my world at that particular moment in time. An immediate pick-me-up and way to anchor myself in the moment.
10. Be proud.
I'm not going to lie. Watching my oldest daughter play soccer - my favorite childhood sport - gives me an almost electrical charge. It fires me up and I feel a surge of vicarious competitiveness, but it also makes me purely proud to see her play and improve. To be proud of a particular thing we have done or someone we love has done tethers us to Now.
11. Take time you don't have.
Recently, there have been moments where I've said, Screw it, I'm doing this even though I don't have time. There have been a few mornings recently when I should have raced home via subway or bus to get my littlest girl to our beloved nanny so I can work, but instead we have taken our time walking, and walking slowly, noticing the people and dogs and cars and, yes, sky. She is my sky aficionado, always the first to comment on color and to spot a daytime moon. These stolen moments are totally brilliant.
12. keep your eyes open to the details of your life.
Notice things. Random things. Small details of your world. On our walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, we spotted locks hanging on the sides. Who left these there? What were their stories? Paying attention to seemingly arbitrary material in our lives can better ground us, I think.
13. Be inspired by people you don't know. reach out to them.
Recently, I was in a taxi and I started reading Suleika Jaouad's blog. Doing this made me incredibly nauseous of course, but oh how I was inspired. I decided to share my find with my Instagram friends and then ended up communicating with her and we are going to grab coffee at some point. Lesson learned: Social media can be a fabulous tool to connect with others.
Anyway, these are just some of the things I've noticed that have made me happier and more here in my life. I'm realizing that for me there is an important connection between these things, happiness and presence, and I don't pretend to understand fully how they inform one another, but trust me, I'm looking into it.
Do you have any Happiness or Presence tips you'd be willing to share? Hope so!