Sunday, January 8, 2012

No Time But the Present

Presence.

After our recent holiday break, a colleague shared how much she enjoyed visiting with her elderly grandmother during our time off. “One thing that is so great about her,” she explained, “is how she absolutely lives fully in the present moment!”

“Of course,” she continued, “she then re-lives that moment again…and again…but each time, she’s really present!”

We chuckled as she told that story, and I was reminded of a lunch with two important people just a few years ago. One was a high school teacher who was, and is, one of my most valuable mentors. Mr.“A” invited his mentor, Mr. “G,” to join us. Mr. “G” was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, still physically capable but already showing signs of impairment to his short-term memory.

As we ate our lunch and told stories about our past experiences with one another, Mr. “G” delighted in telling one particular story about Mr. “A”from the “old” days at Miller High School. We laughed, and in a matter of moments, Mr. “G” began to tell the same story again, with the same delight and detail as if he were telling it for the very first time. And, recognizing that his illness had limited his memory to that present moment in time, we enjoyed the story with him, just as if we had never heard it. We did so again and again and again.

Of course, I would never minimize the devastating toll that Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia take on those that develop those conditions, and their loved ones, but the experience with Mr. “G,” and the story of my co-worker’s grandmother, serve as somewhat of an example to me.

Mr. “G” had no recollection that he had told that story just minutes before, because his condition had robbed him of his past. His ability to project and plan for the future were limited as well. And he lived happily in that present moment, unburdened by regrets of what had happened before, or worry about what was to come. He had no choice.

But I do have a choice. I can choose to re-live a conversation when I might wish I’d said something different… to re-hash a time when I’d been wronged and think of all the reasons I was right… or to fret over what might happen tomorrow, next week, or in a few years if my “best-laid” plans don’t work out according to my obsessively detailed blueprint. Or I can choose to enjoy every second of this present moment with the people I love, doing the things that matter, however significant or mundane they may be.

There is an old adage: “No time like the present.” But, truthfully, there is no time but the present, is there?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My 53rd New Year's Day

It's only 8:13 a.m., and I've been quite industrious in these first few hours of 2012. Took a walk around the park, started preparing food for a party later this afternoon, and began purging those things that waste energy and time.

I started by deleting my Facebook account.

I know. Some would say that is an extreme way to begin de-cluttering one's life...especially if the "some" are the 24/7 Farmville afficianados. But I feel lighter already!

I'm not a "resolutions" person at this time of year. I actually do something like "resolutions" on my birthday. Instead of making resolutions, which are things you immediately are going to start or stop doing (maybe we should call them "repentences??"), I focus on what I want to be or have accomplished by my next birthday. Maybe it's a financial goal, or a trip I want to take.

New Year's Day, in contrast, is when I focus less on goals I want to accomplish and more on attitudes, people and things I'd like to bring closer to the center of my life.

Last New Year's Day, I chose four words to be reminders for me daily, and put those words in a little frame in my bathroom so I'd see them each morning when I brushed my teeth:

Peace.
Health.
Courage.
Presence.

The idea was to see these words and have them spoken in my mind each day as reminders of new ways of living and being for me to pursue in 2011. Looking back, I probably needed more than just the little framed reminder in my bathroom--I needed a constant, looping audio recording of those four focus words, set to one of those tunes you just can't get out of your head.

So--decision: No new words for 2012. I still have work to do on last year's list.

How will I seek to be a peacemaker, or peacebringer, in the daily situations I will encounter throughout this year?

What will I do to secure my physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual health in 2012?

Where will I seek opportunities to speak the truth in love, and muster up the courage to do so? How will I develop a courageous attitude to be the best, most authentic version of myself that I can possibly be? When do I need to be courageous enough to say "no," even if it means someone may "like" me less?

What else needs to be removed from my life in order to be fully present to the people who matter most to me?

These are questions I'll be thinking and writing about here this year. Maybe that is a resolution of sorts--to be disciplined about journaling on this blog. I wonder if others will follow and share.

Now that I've gotten rid of Facebook, I should certainly have time to do it!