We spend so much of our lives looking backwards or looking ahead. How many of us focus on the here and now?
Think about everything you post on Facebook – happy anniversary to my beloved, it’s been a great 18 years, here’s to 18 more. And the infamous wedding photo goes along with the post. Though we don’t look like that anymore – we’ve had children and gray hairs and years to change us.
We look ahead – I’m retiring, I’m moving on, I’m moving to a new house, it’s the last day of summer before school begins tomorrow.
Do any of us post that we are happy right now, in this very moment? Of course, my eldest boy would tell you that even if we did that, the moment we are exclaiming about would already be past by the time we deign to write about it.
It’s quite a conundrum, this charge to be in the now as opposed to lamenting yesterday or fearing tomorrow. The worry about doing it right, making enough money, getting it all done, getting up early enough, and making it to the game on time, that’s such silly wasted energy. And yet we all do it.
Behind me right now is a stack of books I picked up during my travels in the U.P. Did I tell you I read four books on my vacation? That was one of the best parts! Sitting and being, my nose in a book, my mind taken away on the journey of the story in my lap.
Beside my bed is a similar stack of books, some in process, some awaiting the picking up and opening, the first spine-cracking to show that they will be of use. And despite all of these books beckoning, I sat on the couch for the last two hours, watching TV that I’ve seen before, just because I am tired and know tomorrow will start bright and early with back-to-school and lunch-making and off-to-work fast-fast-fast.
There is a certain brilliance in doing nothing. Sitting still. Not looking ahead nor behind. Not even thinking about the fact that we are doing nothing right now. Just truly being in a moment.
I don’t do it enough.
When I was in graduate school writing poetry, I encapsulated a vibrant moment in the words on the page. I fine-tuned my focus into the specific details of the subject before me, finding the poetry in what is normally unremarkable.
I loved those days. There were weekends spent at my friend’s farm in southern Virginia, reading our poems aloud while we sipped wine in the night or coffee in the sunrise. I’d leave work, go home to make a quick dinner and retire to my computer to write what had to come out of me, to notice the moments as they slipped away.
And then we would come together as friends and writers and share these moments we held so dear. Look at how I noticed the flower. Look at the ache in that breakup. Listen to the magic in the way I held my niece for the first time.
I miss that attention to detail in a way. I can’t remember what it was like to hold my niece for the first time. It was 13 years ago (she’ll be 13 this Thursday) and there have been so many kids since then, mine and my nieces and nephews. It’s all a blur.
Because life blurs if we let it.
It seems the mantle is being thrown, or passed on. People are leaving to live, and living to leave.
On the wall beside my desk at home is a framed drawing from my little guy of a smiling mom towering over a smiling kid, who’s looking up at her. They’re holding hands. In the blue sky, the boy says, “I love you!” The mom responds, “I love you too!” The exclamation points are there.
He drew that last year. In time, he won’t draw like that anymore and so it’s in a frame, forever preserved for that moment of preciousness, that sweet heart connection that I hope never fades.
Capturing the moment. Because otherwise it is forever lost.