A week ago I read a post that gave me a headache. You know those big, throbbing headaches you get from crying too hard?
So, first, jump on over (make sure you grab some tissues along the way) and read my friend Karen’s post The Last Time. Then come back here and finishing reading this post. Don’t forget to come back, ok?
When I finished reading Karen’s post, I immediately thought about how my kids are now taking showers instead of baths. One day at the pool this summer, I decided to give them a shower there so we wouldn’t have to do baths later that evening. They loved the shower and haven’t wanted to take a bath since then.
I didn’t even know their last bath was their last bath. Maybe it still won’t be (I hope not!), but it kind of hit me. Will I never get another chance to hear my kids playing in the bath again? Will there be no more splashing in the tub? What other dozens of things will my kids just suddenly stop doing someday without me realizing it? Will I even remember most of those last times?
We never really know when something will be the last time, do we? Sometimes we have a pretty good idea we’re coming to the end of something, but many times something crosses our path that reminds us of something we used to do but haven’t done in a really long time –something we had completely forgotten about until that moment.
What worries me is that many times I’m not really living in the moment. I’m not fully engaged in the moment, so that later, when I realize that I’ve had a “last time,” I won’t be able to fully remember that moment because I never really had the moment to being with.
My tendency to overanalyze and make mental tangents
When I’m doing an activity with the kids, something will happen that will make me think of something else the kids would like doing, too. Then I’m off thinking and planning about a future activity instead of paying attention to what we’re doing now.
When one of the kids is talking to me, something they say will make me worry about something else, and I find myself thinking about that problem instead of listening to what they are saying.
When we’re taking a hike on a new trail, or walking into a new exhibit, I start to get an idea about another new place we could visit, instead of really exploring and experiencing what I’m doing at that moment.
I pick out pieces of the current moment; think about how things could be different, worry about the details. Then I’m off living somewhere in the past or the future instead of the present.
So I’m setting out on a course to change this habit – as much as I can anyway.
Here are three ideas I’m working on for living in the moment instead of analyzing the moment
1. Embracing all my senses – The kids and I have been talking about observation lately and how to become a good detective (they’re really into being “secret agents”); we’re practicing paying attention to all our senses. When we really pay attention to all five senses, when we drink into ourselves as many tastes, sounds, sights, feelings and smells as we can in each situation we’re in, it’s easier to bring back those memories later on. If we don’t build them at the time, we won’t be anything to remember later on.
2. Concentrating on listening intently to everything that is going on. My kids, and I know you’ll be able to relate with me on this, love to talk to me….a lot! And I love talking to them. But sometimes when I’m in the middle of doing something else and there are a lot of interruptions, I start to tune them out. I start to do a lot of nodding and Uh-huh-ing instead of stopping what I’m doing, looking them in the eyes, and listening to what they’re saying. All those moments I don’t pay attention are moments wasted, gone and never to be returned.
Now there are times when I have to stop talking to them or else I won’t be able to get dinner done or something else important. I used to think it was better to halfway pay attention to the kids and still continue what I’m doing. That way they would think I was still paying attention to them, right?
Instead I’ve found it’s better to tell them I really want to hear what they have to say, but I have to get something else done for awhile. I ask if we can continue the conversation in a few minutes. Then I make sure that, after just a few minutes, I take that break and go back to listening again.
3. Quickly jot down observations or other ideas that take me away from the moment. If I get an idea for a piece of writing, or a new place we could visit, or a problem that’s come up, I write brief note to myself. Usually if I can put it down on paper, it stops me from dwelling on the idea and allows me to focus my attention more fully on the present.
Photo Credit: Leonid Mamchenkov
How do you make sure you’re really living in the present?
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