This post is dedicated to Mama Lynnette, a true believer of living in the moment.
The moments following the loss of a loved one are always raw and unfiltered. Thoughts are muddled by pain, grief, confusion, and a gaping hole where someone amazing once existed.......but strangely enough, intentions and actions and perception is remarkably clear. Nobody cares about things like dents in the truck, trolls on Facebook, or whether the apple you're trying to choke down is organic or not. The important things in life stand out one right after the other, little toy soldiers marching past the trivial and setting up a defensive wall against all the regrets and what if's and should-i-have's. You get by minute by minute, hour by hour, and you cling to those left behind and vow to never take them for granted.
I think it's awful that we need to experience such heartache to truly appreciate the goodness around us. I think it's terribly unfair that we need to be dismantled and broken to truly recognize love, friendship, peace, kindness. I wish we could consistently acknowledge our blessings and understand how good we have it without getting yanked from our comfy places and dragged through despair.
But that's not the way life works. We're not that perceptive. It's not our fault. Loss, lessons, juxtaposition, a balance of good and bad, and the living, sighing, breathing realization that until you experience sorrow, you'll never truly know joy...this is simply reality, both horrendously ugly and titillatingly beautiful.
I sometimes force myself to close my eyes during the good times - my eyelids are a camera shutter, capturing and imprinting how I feel to memory. I'll try and breathe in the smells around me, commit faces and voices to memory, memorize how they feel in my arms, the swell of love in my heart, the light shining on me. Remember this moment, Jen, I'll say to myself, cuz it will pass and then you'll fall back into your less-discerning coasting mode, where you worry about the small stuff and try and control all the things that don't matter at all. And then something bad will happen and you'll look around and wonder why you wasted so much time.
Maybe there's a few tricks we can implement, aside from pretending like our eyes are cameras, to keep a very natural and human "coasting mode" from kicking in. Maybe we can lean on a couple tools to help us stay in the moment more often.
Imagery is incredible and imaginations are powerful. I sometimes become so enveloped in my daydreams that they become reality. This can be good and bad; sometimes my daydreams are more like daymares. I can become filled with anxiety and spend way too much time reliving painful moments I wished I'd handled differently. I find it extraordinarily helpful to have a few soothing places to go in my mind when I can't seem to shake negativity.
One of my soothing places is my bed. I feel the sheets, I can smell the scent of my pillows, the light is cozy and gentle. I picture myself cocooned in soft blankets and melting into my safe spot, tucked away from chaos and experiencing nothing but rest. Another one of my soothing places is the seaside. I can smell the water, hear the gulls, feel the sand under my feet. I shade my eyes from the sunlight sparkling off the water, and hear the waves lapping at the shore, salty water crashing against my ankles, the rhythmic and constant pulse of the ocean sweeping shells onto the beach and then drawing them back out to sea again and again. Over and over. I could be hurting. I could be feeling like it's all over now. But the waves keep coming in and out. They will keep washing onto the shore whether my life is over or not. My problems' insignificance is comforting. Life continues with or without my approval. There is consistency and security to be found there.
I love each and every one of the distinctly different people in my life. Some are incredible at giving advice, others are my logical, grounded go-to's. Some love on me from afar with sweet texts and quotes, others show up on my doorstep and stand there ready for my pain. I know great cooks, I know wonderful listeners, I know comedians with hearts of gold and humor. I have friends who will fly with me into dreamy and unrealistic plans for the future and others who prefer to remind me of my credit card debt when I'm feeling impulsive. There is incredible value to all styles of friendship and love and support.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with using discernment during the various seasons of life. Sometimes I really need the friend who is logical and honest. Sometimes I really need the one who will lie to my face because she knows it's what I need to hear. I'm finding that at this particular moment of my life, I am drawn to the steady, consistent, accepting, gentle people in my life...the uncomplicated, unquestioning, quietly supportive souls speak to the anxious and fearful parts of me. Those anxious and fearful parts of me seem to be running the show these days and need the most attention, so I seek out those most soothing to my specific ailments. Find your soothing people and love on them and let them love on you. They will remind you to stay focused on this very moment and guide you gently to the next.
Disconnect from the Feeds
Nothing good comes from comparison...and that's kinda what social media is all about. Sharing and comparing, it's just what we humans do. If you're truly interested in living in the moment, you gotta shut it down. At least for a little while.
I've realized checking my social media feeds over and over is typically a sign of depression and boredom. I rarely go on there when I'm with other people or when I'm busy, but I am on there all the time when I'm feeling crummy and alone. What a terrible way to handle my sorrow - compound it with a good dose of social comparison! I don't know why I do it, but it's almost like I can't help it. I get bored, I want to see what people are doing, so I check my feeds. I never feel better after doing this. Now to be fair, I do read and see some pretty inspirational things on social media - especially after I get done blocking people and adjusting my feed content - but I can also find that kind of inspiration in books....or photo albums.....or outside in nature....all without the steady stream of not-so-inspirational things that often outnumber the good posts at least 2:1.
I have to force myself to do it, but when I do, putting my phone down and disconnecting almost always makes me feel better. I yearn for my phone and struggle, quite frankly, and feel naked without it, but once that panic passes and I become engrossed in another activity, I always end up feeling refreshed and happy and productive. I feel like I did my part to enjoy that moment, to truly soak it up and not miss a thing. It feels good.
Find your Church!
There's a very handsome and wise man I know who isn't particularly religious, but goes to church every chance he gets. And by church I mean some kind, any kind, of water with fish in it. The water is his place to reconnect and recenter himself. He typically goes by himself, sometimes late into the night, and always comes off the water happy, even if he doesn't catch a fish. I picture him out there with the sun setting, the water lapping against his kayak, the breeze softly blowing, every now and then feeling that tug of hope and possibility on his line, and I could see how he'd find God out there.
You don't need to be Christian. You don't even need to believe in a higher power. Find your sanctuary, your place to go and be when you need a change of heart or some time to think. Sit there, or stand there, or dance there, and reestablish your perspective. When your mind wanders into worry, bring it back to where you are at that very moment. Let yourself escape and acknowledge and be free from guilt. Your church is your place to worship and give thanks and be serenely and wholly you.
Is there truly a way to live in the moment, all the time? I don't know. Really, I don't. I'd like to think some enlightened minds out there somewhere have made it to the point where they can filter out all the garbage and just be. I'd like to think that maybe one day, with practice, I will be capable of keeping the perspective of someone who's just lost someone they love....the running-with-the-wind, time-is-short, Mama Lynnette way of living. Let's do this, she'd say. No time like the present!
No time like the present.