Are you present in your life? Or are you simply doing all. the. things?
Being Present By Listening
It’s quiet–the house is empty except for me and the dog. The sound of the dryer and a buzzing refrigerator can be heard. Outside, the snow plows are doing their job of removing the few inches of snow we got this morning. Otherwise, everything is still.
I’m watching the snow come down in flurries outside my window. The house tops are covered. Our evergreen tree reminds me of Christmas with the snow collected at the very ends of the branches, making its way towards the trunk. I’m always impressed that they endure our harsh winters and have a way of bringing beauty to the earth.
I’m listening to stillness.
Feeling & Thinking
But I’m also feeling anxious. About many things. My thoughts are a jumbled mess of survival and giving up. I’m both a fighter and a person who admits defeat. I watch the seasons unfold in front of me and realize that I will not always survive the season. There is an end to everything.
I’ve always been a bit of a forward thinker. I spend too much time pondering things like death, what if’s, and how things will be once I leave this earth. Will I go to that place called heaven? Is there really a hell? Will I ever see my loved ones again or is this the finality of it all? How can one really know for sure?
I don’t really have the answers to those questions nor will I really ever have them, yet I continue to think them.
Living with Unknowns
This is made worse by health problems and unknowns. I recently had some testing done because I have a condition called Pulsatile Tinnitus. Don’t let that name fool you. It has nothing to do with your ears except that it’s doing it’s job of hearing that something is wrong. I hear the pulsing noise daily–it reminds me something is off. Not only is it bothersome and annoying, but it’s troublesome because I don’t know what’s causing it. So far tests reveal nothing. But this condition requires multiple tests to know the answers, and sometimes even those don’t reveal the source of the problem. Most conditions are vascular, meaning something is probably wrong with my veins. Some tests won’t pick it up. I have to press for more testing if I want to know. Otherwise, there could await for me an aneurysm, a tumor, or some other deadly unknown.
Or it could be something else entirely. I won’t know until I rule out the big problems it could be.
And it may seem silly to contemplate my demise without actually knowing what it’s from, but I do. That’s what anxiety does. It searches all those dark places to see what the future holds for me. Even if it’s completely irrational, I’ll still dream it up. I’ll still try to figure it out. What would I do if…that’s the scenario I often face until I get a thorough answer.
Life is a Gift
The truth is, we could all be hanging by some thread. Our lives could all be hanging in the balance. We don’t know. I could walk outside and get hit by a car. Life isn’t guaranteed. That’s the thing I’ve spent my entire life fearing.
Watching loved ones die, or battle death, I’ve come to fear what lies on the other side. When I was a devout Christian, I held on to the fact that after this life was over, there waited something better. If I’m being completely honest, that never really comforted me. Spending eternity with Jesus instead of my family made me sad. Putting Jesus above real people never came easy for me. I loved those people because I was able to touch, talk to, and feel loved by them. Jesus was untouchable. You do the math.
I think I’m realizing that I can be OK with living in the moment, being present, and being all there. We spend so much time chasing after things, when was the last time you sat down and just embraced what was in front of you?
Simplicity is a Gift
There is something freeing about simplicity. Putting down your phone, looking your loved one in the eye, being present. How often I’ve failed to do that very thing! Now I’m seeing that it’s these moments that actually give me meaning and purpose. We can let them slip by and ignore the people in our lives, but to do so is like we never really lived. We just existed.
Even being home alone, in the stillness, I’m present. I am noticing the trees outside, the way the snow falls on the branches, how the snow seems to fly in several different directions. I look up in the sky and see it falling gracefully as if each flake was timed and set in motion. I wonder how it falls so perfectly and lands, collecting the rest of it’s kind together. Watching. Observing. I’m present in this very moment of life, not simply observing, but playing a part.
And I find a sense of comfort in this. I can’t predict what will happen later today, tomorrow, next year. All I know is that I have this moment. It’s a gift to realize that each moment is special. How will I use it?
With this realization comes a responsibility. I’ve talked before about where our energy goes, who it goes to, and treating our lives as precious and sacred. Not everyone deserves our time, energy, and effort. This is something I’m even more aware of in the moment. I am keenly open to the fact that I will not waste my energy on things that don’t matter, whether that is an online troll, a rude driver, or a crabby cashier. My life doesn’t need to sucked away by things that have no value.
Being Present in Beauty
I love beauty: art, nature, selflessness. These things can’t be bought or bribed. They just are. There is an honesty about it, not bound by visible rules and societal norms. There must be some sort of science behind it, of course, but people can’t ruin it or squash it. It follows no man made rules. The snow falls where it does, not because some human told it to, but because of some force of nature, or a Creator, that put it in its place. We cannot ruin this thing. It does what it is meant to do. And that is beautiful.
Life and death are beautiful too. Something new emerges; another dies. But there is sadness and heart ache just as their is joy and happiness. Those things each hold their beauty. Being present means I learn to live in each of those venues. There is no good or bad; no right or wrong when comes to human emotion. There is only acceptance of how things are.
I cannot control life, beauty, or nature. I can learn to be present, accept it for what it is, and be all in. In doing that, my life is never meaningless because I find what I was meant to find. And I can leave this earth with a full heart knowing I didn’t just exist, but I really lived.
I came to this earth and did what I was meant to do–not perfectly or without flaws. But isn’t that the beauty of life? Flawed, imperfect, sometimes dishonest–but still on a path that I did not set in motion. I let go and fall in my place.
I can’t control what happens to me–but I can control my fear of it. This moment is a gift. Make it a good one.