Friday, October 10, 2014

Be in the Moment, or Be Responsible?

It's been one hell of a week, hasn't it? I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling a bit "fall'd out"...every weekend from now until Thanksgiving is booked like a library and each Sunday night I sit there going, "Whew! Now, what the heck did I do all weekend??"

I've been contemplating this lifestyle - the one where you hit the orchards and punkin farms, volunteer for at least two or three charity events, participate in all the festivals - downtown, all the neighboring towns, work, school, church, extracurricular groups, social circles, and family circles, do bonfires and hayrides, and do all the things on the stressmeoutihateyoubucketlist Fun Fall Bucket List. My conclusion? It's a tad bit insane. Crazy - in a panicked, not-so-enjoyable way.

I think to myself, "What about the stuff I need to get done? The grocery lists? That new money-saving-canning-thing I wanted to try? Cleaning up the yard before the snow comes? Marketing my business? Playing with my kids? Flossing my teeth? When do I do those things?"

"Maybe," I always think, "I'll have time to do those things when life slows down a bit." Oh yea. For a while, it was, "...when I can finally quit my corporate job." Now it's, "...when both the kiddos are in school." Soon it will be, "...when the kids are grown." I imagine I will even be saying, "...once we're retired." Always waiting for the next step. Hustling, hustling, hustling, but never making cash like TuPac.

Some say screw the responsibility stuff. Live life now, in the moment, because you never know when it's all going to end. Others say happiness comes from action, not dreaming. Work hard and you will achieve your dreams. I feel like I've got one giant Jen foot in one theory and another giant Jen foot in the other.

By nature I am a worker bee. If I commit myself to something, I will never give up, ever. It will consume me until I've extinguished any flame of doubt with cold, refreshing, hard-earned knowledge. Some call it "dramatic," others call it "passionate." I like to think I'm just absolutely my own kind of nuts. "Letting go" isn't natural for me. I don't like to start stuff and not finish it. I will stop mid-project if I have to, I do all the time (helloooo, baby books!), but I can't stand it. I don't forget about them. Those unfinished things haunt me and drag me down like anchors.

I also have this thing for cleanliness. I feel most relaxed at the end of the night when I know the dishes are done, the sink is clean, and there's no clutter sitting out in the living room. Even if that means just shoving stuff into a box and putting it in the closet, that's fine. The clutter is gone. Now I can breathe.

Plus, to be honest, I feel better about myself when I've done responsible things throughout my day. I feel, whoa! You did seven loads of laundry and included all the bedding - nice work! Or, hey! You literally just made a pie from scratch - and it's delicious! And gadzooks! Your blog post is written, your freelancing work completed, and it's only Wednesday!

Those types of things, those exercises in responsibility, make me feel good. They make me feel like I've done good things with my day. I once thought, "Hey, maybe that's the problem? You allow cleaning to make you feel accomplished?" but then I thought, "No, man. Feelings are feelings and cleaning makes me feel good. Nothing wrong with that."

Except the whole "live in the moment" thing. I have a cleaning schedule and sometimes, people want to hang out, or I need to run to the store, or it's randomly gorgeous and I want to take the kiddo to the park. I ditch the cleaning, of course, knowing it is good to "get out" and "live in the moment," but I'm not gonna lie, I have a hard time coming home and looking at the dirty floor, knowing I didn't do what I was "supposed to do."

I am awesome at going out there and living in the moment, but completely suck at returning to reality. Clothes do need to be washed. Dogs really do track footprints all over the floor. Kids really do get sick. Friends really do need help. I adjust like a pro - but always end up feeling like a failure.

So how do we do it? Just say screw it? Responsibilities suck, I love my dirty house, we love chowing down unhealthy food, no I don't have a life-sucking business, I love to play all day, and do things, and spend money, and see people all the time! This is living like I'm dying, Tim McGraw!

I don't think so.

What if instead of "be in the moment or be responsible," we change it to "be responsible by being in the moment?"

I mean think about it - I have a responsibility to be a good mom, a good wife, a good business owner, a good friend, and a good sister and daughter. These are the pillars of my life - family, friends, and writing. So it makes sense, doesn't it, that being responsible in those relationships means ensuring I am happy, content, and enjoying this life I am in?

So if that means cleaning my floors, and structuring my day in a way that works for me, so be it. If I can't handle missing a cleaning day, I either need to clean faster or back off from mid-week social events. This is my job, staying home and getting this stuff done. Nobody bats an eye when someone says, "Sorry, I can't make it, I'm working that day," but when a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom says, "Sorry, I can't make it, I've got things going on that day," there's a problem, yes? 

Here's the deal - I want to be in the moment. I want to live with my hand out the window...but I want the other on the wheel. When I spend time with my friends, my family, and my writing, I want to give them my full attention - 100% rested, happy, non-stressed Jen. It's become an argument of quantity over quality - how can I be "in the moment" when I'm rushing out the door, yelling at the kids, cursing myself for forgetting coupons or my I'm-not-an-old-washed-up-mom lip gloss, consumed with worry about getting everything done?

Too much, even when planned and executed with the best intentions, is too much.

My man RJ Hastings says it better than I ever could:


By Robert J. Hastings

TUCKED AWAY in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent. We’re traveling by train and, from the windows, we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures, of smoke pouring from power plants, of row upon row upon row of cotton and corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of city skylines and village halls.

But uppermost in our conscious minds is our final destination–for at a certain hour and on a given day, our train will finally pull into the Station with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So restlessly, we pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for the Station.

“Yes, when we reach the Station, that will be it!” we promise ourselves. “When we’re eighteen. . . win that promotion. . . put the last kid through college. . . buy that 450SL Mercedes-Benz. . . have a nest egg for retirement!” From that day on we will all live happily ever after.

Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no Station in this life, no one earthly place to arrive at once and for all. The journey is the joy. The Station is an illusion–it constantly outdistances us. Yesterday’s a memory, tomorrow’s a dream. Yesterday belongs to a history, tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday’s a fading sunset, tomorrow’s a faint sunrise. Only today is there light enough to love and live.

So, gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key away. It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather the regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along. The Station will come soon enough.

As the weeks pass by faster than I can count, I'm realizing I am willing to sacrifice the amount of time I spend outside of my responsibilities to make room for quality, honest, courageous, meaningful interactions with those I love.

But wait, Jen...isn't that the opposite of what Mr. Hastings is saying? Shouldn't you spend more time barefoot and eating ice cream and such?

No - see, to me, one of the most important lines in that passage is, "Laugh more and cry less." Why that line, out of all of 'em?

A few weeks ago we had my best-good friends over for some games. I'd had a goal that day to get all the taping done in my living room (How to Paint your Living Room Like a Jerk - coming soon). Of course, life didn't give a crap what my goals were and as my friends arrived, I still wasn't done. I was embarrassed, and felt terrible, especially since nobody really likes to just sit around and watch people tape. Thankfully, it went fast, and we chatted and caught up a little, and my friends didn't walk out in a huff of offense. My goal was met for the day and I found myself slowly slipping into a warm little tub of relaxation. The kids were in bed, the chores done, and we'd completed what we said we were going to complete.

Can I please tell you, the next day, as I woke up feeling tired, but happy, my husband greeted me and said, "I have never heard you laugh so much in my life. Seriously, Jen, I have never heard you laugh so hard, so much. You were so happy."

We've been married more than 7 years. It broke my heart.

I want to live in the moment. I want to laugh like that all the time. And that is why I choose to maintain my structure, my schedule, and my limits. These are the things that allow me to relax, unwind, and be responsible by living in the moment. Robert Hastings may cite ice cream and stars, but that is not the intended message of his prose. His message is to live, fully, in the moment and be happy. His happy is swimming in rivers. My happy is getting things done like laundry and scrubbing the tub, trying new recipes, learning how to can, and having scheduled time to sit and do nothing - it's my way of swimming the anxiety-free lane. Not the same as Hastings, but both our methods lead to the same place - happily living in the moment. 

How do you define "living in the moment," dear readers? Are any of you like me - happy only when you've completed your tasks for the day? Or do you find your happiness by packing your calender and leaving the laundry for another day? Have you found your combination of responsible and free? What is it? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so, so much for reading :)


  1. I am learning this too -let me impart my minuscule wisdom! Those things you THINK you have to do, they don't have to get done. Laundry can wait, cleaning can wait. It's your mind and ego telling you to do them. Listen to your heart and do what's best for you....period.

    1. Best line ever - "do what's best for you....period." I love that. I am a cleaner, and I like having things done, so I will prolly keep the laundry going, because it really does allow me to relax when it's done, but I completely agree that listening to your heart and doing what's best for you is the key. Glad I'm not alone in this adventure! Thank you Kristen :)

  2. I like getting things done. I am most comfortable when my house is tidy; a messy house creates anxiety in me. But, you could never eat off my floors, there is always dog hair in the carpet (even minutes after it has been vacuumed) and I have not washed our windows in years – seriously. There is Always stuff, domestic stuff, which can be done. Always. My dear grandmother often said in reference to house cleaning “give it a lick and a promise”. In other words, it’s never done so give it a once over and let it go.
    I have the opportunity to work with people at the end of their time here or, as Iggy Threadgood in Fried Green Tomatoes would say, “at the jumping off place”. It is a privilege to hear their life story, the happy times, the sad times. They don’t talk about how clean their floors were or how well they kept up on laundry. Rather, treasured experiences with loved ones dominate the gladness of their hearts. Thank you for the thought provoking post, my dear.

    1. I love great gramma's saying :) And it's true. There's only so much you can get done in a day. I like the idea of touching something, at least a little bit, before giving up on it, though. It caters to both my controlling side (clean! clean! clean!) and my wanna-be side (relax! relax! relax!)

  3. I struggle with this all.the.time. Like you, I actually feel a lot better when I have gotten a lot finished and am extremely busy. However, one of my goals for the year was to be more in the moment. It is such a hard balancing act. Great post!-Ashley

    1. Thanks Ashley :) I'm working on the balance, oh yes. I'm a huge work-in-progress! I wonder if I'll ever truly feel like I've got this stuff figured out. I'm guessin, just shootin' from the hip here, that the answer is no hahaha.

  4. I like to get things done first. Then I feel I'm allowed to relax.

  5. Last week I read your post just before heading out kayaking. It was a gorgeous fall day. I really tried to stay in the moment, but noticed my mind drifting twice - once to think about how I'm going to get all the cleaning done and once to think about how I'm going to get all my work done.

    I would love any tips you have to help live in the moment. This is going to be one of my goals for 2015.

    1. Only twice!!??? I'd say that's pretty dang impressive, Savvy! I once tried meditating. They say while you meditate your mind will continually drift into other places, and that it's ok, just accept it is moving and then bring it back to the image of the beach (or wherever you're "center" is). I remember the 1st time I meditated, my mind wandered every 5 seconds. I even remember wondering about the people who created the ocean sounds I was listening to. I'm really that ridiculous.

      They say this gets better with practice. They say you learn to re-center yourself much faster and your mind drifts less.

      So with that logic in mind, I think it's safe to say the only way you can truly master living in the moment is by practicing it again and again. Celebrate your small successes, accept it when you just can't do it, and continue to try- try again. I'm so not there yet. I absolutely need to get my crap done before I can feel anywhere close to content, let alone happy. But I'm trying, again and again.